Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Slingbox: Miracle in the Sin City (Part I)


 A few years before the end of the 20th Century I founded a company called First Convergent Communications Worldwide, Inc. (FCCW). It was basically an IT company that focused on the convergence of technologies that involved Text, Audio, Video, and Communications or what we now call Multi-Media.

We set-up offices in Manila, Philippines and introduced and virtually pioneered some new technologies in the Philippines. Most noted among them were: the eBook technology which was eventually adapted by Amazon’s Kindle; the wireless communications technologies of QUALCOMM and International Mobile Communications; the first email system (SYSCOM) for Radio Communications of the Philippine Islands (RCPI); the Cable TV set-top boxes of Jerrold and General Instrument and some choice contents; Bell Canada’s smart telephone system; an Irish Virtual Router technology; the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle or Drone technology; and a few more.

I attribute the discovery of these new technologies to attending the International CES shows in Las Vegas over the years, and some US Government-sponsored technology conferences in Washington, DC.

I always looked for new products and technologies that could be described by ordinary mortals as “Miracle, Magic, Mind-Boggling, and/or Mystery”.

When I found out about the Slingbox, I thought that it was unbelievably amazing! It satisfied my need to access my favorite Cable TV shows while traveling to Asia almost every other month. It was a product I needed to have.

From the Sling Media Website

This was about ten years ago.

I traced the founding inventors who were living in San Francisco, California at the time. I got Jason Krikorian who was also a lawyer and an alumnus of the University of Virginia. He called my phone in Virginia. I told him about my interest in introducing the technology in the Philippines as I have done for others in previous years. I said that there was also a built-in market targeting the Filipino Americans here in the US. I remember mentioning my direct connections with the top executives of the largest TV and Cable companies (ABS-CBN and Sky Cable) as well as the pioneer of the Cable TV industry, Senator Ramon Magsaysay, Jr.

We also discussed the Betamax Case involving the “Time-Shifting” doctrine and the viability, validity, and defensibility of Slingbox’s “Place-Shifting” principle.

In the case of the VCR, you are allowed to record via Betamax the videos that you subscribed to watch because you are just “shifting” the “time” to watch them. In the Slingbox, you are allowed to “shift” the “place” which is usually home to any place you want to. After all, you are paying for the subscription of all the shows 24 hours a day.

In fact, I tested this while I was in South Korea, Philippines, and some other places. I even demoed it before a group of Cable TV operators in a Starbucks Café in Manila watching some shows on my TV in McLean, VA. I also left a Slingbox in the Philippines so I would be able watch local shows there including some fights of Pacquiao which were shown for free. Of course, later on, some in Manila were able watch an HBO Pacquiao fight that I subscribed to watch at home.

I failed to follow up my telephone conversation with Slingbox founder Krikorian. My health problems (stroke) forced me to retire and close my operations in the Philippines. With my mental faculties unaffected, I worked on my physical recovery tirelessly. I never missed an International CES event since. But I now attend the event no longer as an IT Executive, but as a credentialed Member of the Press. Somehow, the latter has given me more and better access to the new technologies and the CEOs that launched them.

The feasibility of my business model for the Slingbox continues to be as good as ever. The targeted markets in the U.S. and in the Philippines are very ripe for a product like Slingbox and for the entertainment services that it could generate. The same model is applicable to other ethnic groups as well.

Since I was no longer traveling, I disconnected all my old sling boxes here in the U.S. and the Philippines. My experience in obtaining service support online has been bad and expensive. I heard that the technology has been sold to either Dish or EchoStar and my interest waned.

But when I attended the CES Unveiling in New York City, I saw the new Slingbox 500 being unveiled. Due to time limitations, I failed to talk to any person there that mattered. But my interest again perked up. So, I checked Sling Media’s website to find out if there was anything new. Indeed there was, but I wanted more details.

I registered to attend the International CES 2015 as a Member of the Press again. As such, I had invitations from PR Agencies of technology companies launching new products. One of them was from Carl DiOrio of Bob Gold & Associates PR Agency, representing Sling Media.

I responded to his invitation stating when I intended to visit the Sling Media booth. Agreed on the time and date, I was actually looking forward to meeting any senior officer of the company.

Carl DiOrio outdid himself. He got me a meeting with Michael Hawkey - Sling Media's Senior Vice President and General Manager; and Mark Vena who is currently Vice President of Worldwide Marketing at Sling Media, a division of EchoStar Corporation.

A sample product (Slingbox 500) for review was also sent to me a few days later. My review on the product is in my other column, “Tech IT From My Barber”. ( 

No comments:

Post a Comment