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New CE Device Pioneers ”Placeshifting”

Sling Media, Inc. this week unveils the Slingbox(TM) Personal Broadcaster, a breakthrough consumer electronics device that transforms today’s television viewing experience. The Slingbox enables a consumer to watch their live TV programming from wherever they are by turning virtually any laptop or Internet-connected device into a personal TV.

The Slingbox redirects, or “placeshifts,” the TV signal from any cable box, satellite receiver, or personal video recorder (PVR) to a viewer’s location and device of choice, whether in another room in the home or anywhere in the world with a high-speed Internet connection. An elegantly designed compact box that fits neatly into a user’s existing TV setup, the Slingbox will retail for $249 with no additional monthly service fees. The product is due to ship in the first half of 2005.

“Sling Media is taking the television viewing experience to the next level by placeshifting your TV. The Slingbox picks up where timeshifting technologies leave off,” said Sling Media CEO and cofounder Blake Krikorian. “Best of all, the Slingbox is designed to embrace, not replace, the consumer’s existing infrastructure.”

At launch, the Slingbox is capable of placeshifting a single, live TV stream to the owner’s laptop or desktop PC of choice. The company also plans to provide downloadable software for PDAs and smart cellphones, as faster wireless networks become available to support a high-quality, TV-like viewing experience.

“The idea of placeshifting TV is the next logical evolution after timeshifting — the last notable advancement in TV, popularized first by VCRs, and now by TiVo and other PVRs,” said IDC analyst Randy Giusto. “Placeshifting, however, has the potential to create even more value for the TV industry by increasing viewers and boosting advertising reach.”

Embracing and Innovating on Industry Standards

Blake Krikorian, a veteran technologist, first envisioned the Slingbox while frustrated by being unable to view his subscription TV programming and services when away from home. “Like many business and mobile professionals, as well as sports fans, I love TV, but spend a good chunk of my time in locations other than my living room. I looked into subscribing to additional Internet-based video services, but nothing met my needs since they only provide a subset of the TV experience I already received at home. Also, the idea of paying multiple times for the same programming didn’t make sense,” Krikorian said. This inspired the creation of Slingbox.

Krikorian, along with his brother Jason Krikorian and a third founder, Bhupen Shah, established Sling Media in 2004 as a new kind of consumer electronics company. Together, the founders have more than 45 years of experience defining and developing media “convergence” products for companies such as General Magic, Philips Electronics, Microsoft, Samsung, Toshiba, Hitachi and Dazzle Multimedia (now a part of Pinnacle Systems).

“Convergence should mean the stuff I have works together better than when separated. That’s the path we’re following, starting with TV, the most important medium in popular culture,” Krikorian said. “Our main goal at Sling Media is to enhance today’s digital lifestyle with products that bridge the gap between what technology makes possible and what consumers want or need.”

Early in its existence, Sling Media struck strategic relationships with Microsoft and Texas Instruments, enabling the company to build a low-cost, high-quality, and versatile product. Under the hood, the Slingbox is powered by a high-performance digital signal processor from Texas Instruments. The live TV streaming system leverages Microsoft’s latest Windows Media technologies. In addition, Sling Media implemented its proprietary stream optimization technology, code-named “Lebowski,” to enhance the consumer viewing experience over a wide range of networks and devices.

Iconic Design

Additionally, Sling Media partnered with award-winning industrial designer Yves Behar to create the Slingbox design. During 2004, Behar was recognized with Business Week and Fortune Magazine awards, and received the prestigious Smithsonian National Design Award from the Cooper Hewitt Museum.

“The Slingbox design is ‘sweet like chocolate’ because it speaks to the simple pleasure of satisfying a universal craving, much like enjoying television. Chocolate evokes feelings of pure enjoyment of an indulgence, as does our playful and friendly design,” said Behar.

Sling Media and the Slingbox are already earning industry accolades. The company was selected as a finalist in Red Herring Magazine’s 100 Most Innovative Companies. The Slingbox earned “Best Product” and “Best New Technology” awards at the Fall 2004 RetailVision event in San Diego. The Best of RetailVision Awards are selected by key decision makers from the top 100-level retailers internationally. Also, the device is being recognized with a CES 2005 Innovations Design and Engineering award, and is among products chosen to participate in PC Magazine’s The Last Gadget Standing event.

In conjunction with the Innovations award, Sling Media is showcasing the Slingbox at this year’s International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas from January 6th through 9th in the Innovations Plus exhibit area at booth IP514. CEO Blake Krikorian is joining Texas Instruments CEO Rich Templeton for his CES Keynote on Friday, January 7 at 3:30 p.m., where Krikorian is giving a live demonstration of the Slingbox.

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