Thursday, May 31, 2007

MLB Goes After Slingbox

Here we go again. In the ever-continuing copyright debate, MLB is now frowning upon a nifty little device called the Slingbox, which allows users to “place-shift” video content from a connected source (like a set-top box) to their PC anywhere in the world where there’s a high-speed Internet connection. The organization is saying the Slingbox constitutes the “redistribution of content without MLB’s express written consent.”

So let me get this straight: providers of content fight for ways to increase the consumption of said content. In the case of sports, it might be via ticket sales to games, or through fans watching at home on TV. Enter the Slingbox. Here’s a way to provide your faithful fans with access to the World Series games while they’re stuck in Japan on business. And this is a bad thing?

Coincidentally, I was chatting with a few industry members about the Slingbox earlier today. We’re in New York City for a conference, and a few die-hard hockey fans raced to their hotel rooms after dinner to catch the play-off game (some routing for Anaheim, but many faithful Canucks crossing their fingers for Ottawa!) There's no access on the hotel’s cable. Darn. OK, let’s stream it online. Ironically, up comes a mocking notification that the streaming broadcast is only available in Canada. Argh. If I had only connected my Slingbox at home…

Imagine the horror: there likely would have been a group of Canadian guys hovered around my notebook in the hotel lobby actually (*gulp*) enjoying the game that they ended up not being able to watch at all.

I feel passionate about the fact that consumers need to access content when they want, and how they want. It’s completely understood that revenue is the essential part in any business model, whether it’s a broadcast network or a hot dog stand. It’s not time to stop the progression of technology; it’s time to change the business model.

No legal action has been taken by MLB, and, for the sake of continuing technological innovation, I hope it remains that way.

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