The Historical Significance of Slingbox

Word came down last week that Dish was going to discontinue Slingbox, the great technology created to watch your home TV while away from your home. Slingbox was the brainchild of Blake and Jason Krikorian, real visionaries who saw the streaming media future 13 years before it became mainstream.

Slingbox, like all great ideas, was born out of a pain point. It came about because Blake and Jason were avid SF Giant fans who were frustrated because they could not watch their beloved Giants when on the road. They decided that they should solve this problem and began in 2002 to try and figure out how to “sling” the Giants TV from their local TV station and make it available in a Web Browser or dedicated app.

Ben and I were very privileged to be able to witness the birth of Slingbox from the beginning. Very early in the Slingbox project, Blake, who I had known from his days at Microsoft, contacted us and shared his vision for what became Slingbox.

I, too, am a big SF Giants fan and loved their idea and was glad to give them advice on the project. While we never actually worked with them, we were brought into many early discussions and saw a seed of an idea grow into a successful technology launch that made Slingbox a big hit with techies and a broader consumer audience alike.

Slingbox came to market in 2005, and I was an early beta tester. That summer, I was in Beijing for meetings with a client and Chinese commerce officials. While back at my hotel, I decided to check out the score of the Giant’s game that was on back home at the time. I was not sure it would work given the restrictions on Chinese broadband networks, but to my surprise, I logged into my Slingbox app and began watching the Giants game in real-time. It was at that moment I realized that Slingbox was a game-changer and began to see that Blake and Jason had fundamentally invented the concept of TV anywhere.

I know that by 2005, we had seen early versions of user-created content given YouTube’s launch at about the same time. However, Slingbox introduced the world to the big promise of streaming commercial content that had much broader appeal. Slingbox was quite successful on their own but needed help for greater distribution. So in 2007, Dish Network purchased Sling Media, the company behind the Slingbox, for $380 million. This gave Dish the underlying technology they needed to build their more advanced streaming media platform they have today.

It was not a surprise to me that Dish has decided to, over time, discontinue Slingbox. There are still hundreds of thousands of users that use Slingbox, so their move to eventually close Slingbox servers will be gradually phased out over the next 24 months. Given our long association with Slingbox, Dish’s decision to kill Slingbox felt like a gut-punch to me.

One of their founders, Blake Krikorian, sadly passed away in 2016 at the young age of 49. However, his legacy as an industry pioneer will forever show that Blake and his brother Jason saw the future of streaming media and had a hand in shaping the streaming media market we all enjoy today.

Published by

Tim Bajarin

Tim Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc. He is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin has been with Creative Strategies since 1981 and has served as a consultant to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry including IBM, Apple, Xerox, Compaq, Dell, AT&T, Microsoft, Polaroid, Lotus, Epson, Toshiba and numerous others.

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