Slingbox gadget redirects local cable TV through an internet connection – similar to Sony’s Location Free TV

Thursday, March 30th, 2006

Gillian Shaw

A little device that lets you watch your home TV programs from anywhere in the world is being launched across Canada today.

In B.C., London Drugs announced Wednesday it will be among the first retailers in western Canada to sell the Slingbox, a $299 box that redirects a cable or satellite TV feed through an Internet connection so users can watch their favourite programs on a computer or even a cellphone, wherever they are.

And Future Shop is offering the Slingbox for sale on its online site today, with the device expected on store shelves across Canada starting early next week.

It was first available in the U.S. last summer.

The brainchild of brothers Blake and Jason Krikorian and Bhupen Shah, the Slingbox had its start when the brothers were upset at missing games of their home team, the San Francisco Giants, in 2002 when it was in the midst of its hunt for the World Series championship.

The Slingbox, a sleek little device only 27-centimetres long and nine-centimetres wide and weighing less than a kilogram, grew out of that frustration.

Brian Jaquet, spokesman for Sling Media, the California company behind the device, said the Slingbox will be available for ordering across Canada starting today with stock already on some store shelves and others to follow next week.

“Wherever you can get a network connection, you can get the same control of your home TV as if you were at home,” said Jaquet, who said that since Slingbox is a one-to-one stream and not a broadcast and uses the same cable or satellite connection consumers have paid for, only in a different location, it has not raised concerns among cable and satellite providers.

Along with live television, the Slingbox also lets viewers tune into shows they have recorded on their personal video recorders (PVRs).

Since the Slingbox first emerged, Cedric Tetzel, merchandise manager for computers at London Drugs, said his company has been anxiously awaiting the opportunity to sell it here.

“We’re quite excited about it,” he said. “It was a technology we were keeping track of, but it needed Canadian certification, and that took a while.

“Now we can get our hands on it, it is really exciting.”

Tetzel, who has been trying out the Slingbox at home, said on a recent business trip to Germany he was able to watch the Canucks playing the Anaheim Mighty Ducks from his hotel room. On the WiFi-equipped plane ride back, he could watch his home channels on his laptop just as if he were sitting in his living room.

At home, when his children monopolized the family’s two television sets, Tetzel said the Slingbox allowed him to watch a Canucks game on his laptop.

“It is really great for people who travel and for people who don’t have enough televisions at home,” he said.

The U.S.-based makers of the device, Sling Media Inc., also recently announced the release of SlingPlayer Mobile, a new software package that lets Slingbox owners watch and control their television from any network-enabled mobile phone or handheld computer powered by Windows Mobile.

Anywhere you have a broadband Internet connection — whether wireless or wired — you’ll be able to tune into your home TV shows on computer or wireless device that has the Slingbox software loaded in it.

While London Drugs is listing the Slingbox at $299, Tetzel said it will be offered with a $50 rebate in an upcoming advertisement, dropping the price to $249.

© The Vancouver Sun 2006

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