Sling Media Attacked Over Ads

The consumer backlash that Sling Media got after it began to run advertising in select free apps has morphed into a lawsuit.

Two Slingbox customers – Mark Heskiaoff and Marc Langenohl – are seeking class action status in a lawsuit filed last week with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York arguing that they were subject to a “bait and switch,” as they began to receive ads without their consent starting in March, noting that they were also under the impression when they bought their Slingboxes that the place-shifting video platform would not be saddled with ads.  All of the paid SlingPlayer apps are advertising-free.

“Sling Media failed to disclose that the use of the product would be contingent upon and subject the purchaser to unrequested advertising from Defendant,” they alleged in the lawsuit, according to the Top Class Actions web site (hat tip: ZatzNotFunny). “Since approximately March 17, 2015, Sling Media suddenly began broadcasting such unrequested spam advertisements to users of its Slingboxes.”

They are seeking an injunction against Sling Media to produce and stream future original advertising through Slingbox without prior consent from purchasers. Per Top Class Actions, they’re also seeking restitution and disgorgement of all profits garnered from ads delivered via Sling Media as well as interest and attorneys’ fees.

An official with Sling Media and parent company EchoStar said it’s their policy not to comment on pending litigation.

Sling Media started to apply advertising to its free browser-based app last October, and on March 17, 2015, began doing the same with its more recently-launched (and also free) stand-alone app for PCs and Macs to users of the Slingbox M1, a model launched last summer.

Sling Media has since launched the M2, a $199 flagship model that uses free ad-supported PC and mobile apps, but does let users purchase apps separately if they don’t want ads). Those who do see ads are presented with a pre-roll ad when they launch the apps, and ads will also appear in the app viewing window. However, no ads are placed on top of the video itself, and display ads disappear completely when M2 customers use the apps in full-screen mode.

Following its introduction of ads in its Web and PC/Mac stand-alone apps for the M1, Sling Media, in its defense, reasoned that the decision was necessary in order to offset the costs of ongoing engineering and technology testing requirements.