Sling-ing pucks to the Web
A deal announced today by Sling Media and the National Hockey League shows off not only an intriguing TV-PC convergence app, but also a content provider recognizing the opportunity to make it work for them.
Sling Media is the company behind the Slingbox, a set-top box that lets people beam the cable or satellite TV channels they receive at home to their computer (think: laptop) via the Internet (e.g., to a hotel room or airport many miles from home). Under its deal with Sling, the NHL will be able to cash in on fans' enthusiasm for sharing highlights from the games they watch, rather than trying to stop them from uploading those clips.
At the heart of the deal is "Clip+Sling," a feature the company plans to add this year to its Slingbox and Sling Player software. Here's how it works. Suppose you're on the road, watching a hockey game beamed from your Slingbox at home to your laptop's Sling Player software. (I confess, I'd rather read a phone book than watch hockey, but that's just me. And I make an exception for the playoffs. Go Ducks!) After a slick bit of puck-handling, your team scores. You click a button on the screen, and up pops an editing window that lets you roll back a minute or so of game time. You create a 30-second clip that shows the last couple of passes and the goal. You then upload the video to Sling and send links to some pals.
Why would the NHL want to encourage viewers to do this? For starters, they're doing it anyway. What Sling is creating is a way for the NHL (and other copyright owners) to move the action to a new video site where the league can control the advertising inventory associated with the hockey clips. And because Sling recognizes the metadata associated with the programming, any clips taken from an NHL broadcast can be identified as such and monetized on the site by the NHL.
In other words, this new activity -- interactively watching and sharing a TV show -- is generating a new revenue stream. What's not to like? OK, the fact that the videos will be posted on a new Sling site means the audience will be minuscule compared to YouTube's. But at least the revenue splits are likely to be better for content owners. And to think some sports leagues don't like Slingbox....