SlingCatcher Brings Internet Video to TV
By Ken Kerschbaumer
Sling Media has rolled out its latest version of Slingbox, SlingCatcher, featuring software that offers such new features as the ability to sling video from the Internet to the TV or from one TV to another and to let users easily watch on a TV video and photos that are stored on an external hard drive or USB stick. “This allows users to watch online video in a more lean-back experience,” says Brian Jacquet, Slingbox director of public relations. “There is tremendous opportunity to deliver content from the laptop to the TV.”
To date, Sling Media has built its business around Slingbox, a device that is hooked up to a cable set-top box or TV and to the Internet. The user then uses software on a laptop or PC to control the set-top box and watch TV programming on the PC via an Internet browser. That product has been controversial because content owners see the system as an end-around sites like Hulu.com, ESPN360, or others that are believed to be an important future revenue source.
Not only is the next-generation Slingbox capable of ingesting an HD stream from a hi-def digital cable set-top box or satellite receiver, digital channels over-the-air from an antenna (ATSC tuner) or digital cable channels (Clear QAM tuner), but it is now also capable of streaming those hi-def sources to a laptop or desktop computer running Windows XP or Vista. Mac support is available but is still not HD-capable.
Users can also connect a standard USB hard drive or USB flash drive and have the SlingCatcher play back on the TV most personal media stored on the hard disk, including home movies, personal videos, Internet video downloads, etc. Today, the SlingCatcher supports a variety of native media formats, including WMV, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, H.264 and Xvid, as well as .avi, .vob, .ifo, .mpg, .mov, .wma file formats.
“Customers have been waiting with anticipation for this product since we announced it, and I’m very pleased to say to them that the SlingCatcher has arrived,” says Blake Krikorian, co-founder and CEO of Sling Media Inc. “Thousands of video programs are available for viewing online for free, but until now, there hasn’t been an easy way to watch them on a screen larger than your laptop computer. In addition, SlingCatcher will give Slingbox customers the ability to watch their home TV on another TV, something they have been asking for since we first introduced the original Slingbox in 2005.”
The new box continues an evolution that, eventually, could result in Slingbox’s becoming a major force in home networking. “We’re looking to eventually not need the laptop or PC as the initiator of the video stream playing to the TV,” says Jacquet. “Sling.com, for example, is a site we have put together with upwards of 80 partners that will allow users to build clips online and then project those clips onto the TV. There is an opportunity for more seamless integration.”