Keep on Slingin' in the Free World

The Slingbox, an innovative device that takes a viewer's home-television signal and streams it to the Internet to allow remote viewing on a PC, has come under fire from some broadcasters and programmers for enabling out-of-market viewing of their shows.

“Those devices scare the hell out of me,” said ESPN VP Bryan Burns, speaking at a Washington tech conference last week. But Sling Media CEO Blake Krikorian dismisses such criticism as “mostly sabre-rattling.”

Krikorian isn't afraid to choose his own path. He recalls that when he was seeking funding, venture capitalists advised him not to build a box, but instead partner with a large cable operator to test Slingbox's functionality.

Krikorian thought just the opposite. If he made a deal with a cable operator, he suspected, the cable company would require Sling Media to do extensive field trials that would drain it financially. So he forged on with his plan to build his own retail device.

Krikorian said he did meet with Comcast executives CEO Brian Roberts and COO Steve Burke just before the Slingbox's launch. They questioned the wisdom of going retail and wondered why he wouldn't partner with them instead. Krikorian replied that Comcast would expect him to do 24 months of field trials, which would bankrupt him.

Burke's tongue-in-cheek response: “That's absolutely not true. We can make it quick—we'll do it in 18 months.”