Owned by EchoStar
Incisive review. Slingboxes are set-top boxes, with all that implies: primarily designed around the aspirations of broadcasters and content providers, not the punter. The company is owned by set-top box manufacturer EchoStar -- check them out.
I smelt a rat back in 2006, when I discovered that Sling Media had begun encrypting the data the Slingbox streams across your network. Up to then a third party had been providing software that enabled Slingbox users to record the stream to a hard drive -- a function notably missing from the official Slingbox client software.
I argued the point with Brian Jaquet, at the time their head of PR worldwide. It was evident to me that the encryption had been introduced to shake off the third party recording feature -- probably so SlingMedia could sell its own recording solution. But his response astonished me.
The reason for no recording, and for defeating third party recording, Jaquet told me, was to preserve the rights of the content providers, and to ensure that only one client was able to watch a stream at any one time. I pointed out that the Slingbox was taking unencrypted input receivable by anybody with a digital TV tuner and funnelling it into a proprietary encrypted stream for single viewing, and that this was completely inappropriate for a Freeview broadcast. Jaquet was adamant that the content was sacrosanct and told me categorically that here in the UK a household would require a separate licence for each TV set it owned, a fee structure it would be illegal for Slingmedia to disrupt with its technology.
I pointed out that his premise was incorrect -- here in the UK a single TV licence covers an entire household, and in point of law the reception of a Slingbox stream on a remote Internet connected laptop would also be covered by that same licence as long as the laptop were not plugged into the mains at the time (bizarre, but true -- I'd recently researched this, although it may be different now). Jaquet insisted that I was wrong, and the conversation terminated shortly afterwards.
Slingbox? The name tells you what to do with it. :-)