They're Taking Sling Shots


Sling Media, which now defines itself as a “digital-lifestyle products company,” plans to begin building applications and services that allow users of its hardware to interact with the TV shows and Internet content they throw from TV to personal computer to mobile phone.

To get that effort started, the San Mateo, Calif., maker of the Slingbox has hired two former MTV Networks executives, Jason Hirschhorn and Ben White.

Sling co-founder Blake Krikorian said he expected the pair to deliver “new, wickedly cool experiences for consumers,” but gave no hint as to what they would be. The company makes a box that sits between a television set and a high-speed Internet connection, and is used to shuttle content to other devices.

The services are likely to attempt to “unify” the experience of watching video, whether on a TV, handheld device or computer, said Hirschorn. Viewers “don't distinguish where they watched Laguna Beach. They just watched it,” he said.

On Friday, consumers in the United Kingdom got the first chance to buy cellular telephones that can receive their home TV channels using Sling's technology. Sling's partner is 3 Group, a division of Hong Kong's Hutchison Whampoa communications company. The 3 Group is building broadband mobile networks in 11 markets worldwide, reaching about 175 million people.

“Usage is changing, revenue models are changing and we want to be an innovator in that space, a catalyst in that space and a partner,” Hirschhorn said.

He would not discuss what applications might be in the works for marrying TV content that moves over the Internet to computers and mobile phones, using the Slingbox; or, from the Internet to the TV, using the Slingbox.

But the first results of Sling's newly formed Entertainment Group could be announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in January in Las Vegas.

Hirschhorn, who was chief digital officer at MTVN, and White, who was its vice president of digital media, are the heads of that new group.

Among likely first steps in making Sling's services interactive could be giving users the ability to bookmark and annotate the shows, movies, news and video clips they watch; and to share what they saw and thought with friends.

But Hirschhorn declined to say whether such interactive features were in the works.

More than 100,000 Slingboxes have been sold, but the company has not updated that figure since January. Among Sling Media's investors are the Hearst Corp., Liberty Media and EchoStar Communications, parent of the Dish Network satellite-TV service.