January 31, 2006 9:04 AM PST

Sling Media rakes in more funding

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Sling Media, one of Silicon Valley's hottest start-ups, announced Tuesday that it has raised another $46.6 million in funding.

The company, which has developed a device that allows people to watch cable and satellite TV on their laptops or cell phones while away from home, received funding from two major media companies: Liberty Media, which owns the Starz movie and the QVC home-shopping channels, and EchoStar Communications, a satellite TV operator. Goldman Sachs and Allen & Co. also contributed to the round.

Sling Media's first product, the Slingbox, is a consumer electronics device that turns existing cable and satellite TV feeds into packets and then sends them across the Internet. Slingbox allows consumers to select regular TV programming they see at home and see it on any Internet-connected Windows-based laptop, smart phone or PDA.

The product is popular among business travelers, who, for example, can watch their hometown sports team while on the road. The device costs about $250, and there is no ongoing subscription fee to use the service. Slingbox is already sold in more than 3,000 retail locations.

Companies developing home entertainment gadgets and consumer electronics are getting a lot of attention lately as larger players such as Cisco Systems make a play for the market. Cisco last year said it would spend $6.9 billion to buy cable set-top box maker Scientific-Atlanta.

The common denominator between Cisco and Sling Media is broadband. High-speed Internet access in the home is what is making home networking and Internet-enabled entertainment possible. As even more homes get broadband connections, the possibilities for these companies to reach a wider audience with their products also increase.

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I See Another TiVo in the Making ...
from a financial perspective. A $250 box that only streams TV over broadband is never going to be a mainstream (pun fully intended) product. They are never going to sell enough to get the volume up to where the cost gets down to the $10 price that it needs to be before my brother-in-Law, Joe Six-Pack, or old Aunt Josephine will think that this is worthwhile. These companies keep banking on 18 - 34 year olds as being the source of all disposable cash in the consumer electronics marketplace, and ignoring the fact that, as the Baby Boomers are getting grayer, they're still calling the shots, financially, and they are not going to keep buying every $250 gadget that comes down the pike each week, especially something like this that can be easily subsumed into an all-in-one media center box that itself doesn't need to cost $200 (e.g., a PVR/music-collection/music-streamer/music-player-loader-ala-iPod-iTunes/photo-streamer/video-streamer/tuner/preamp/amplifier/etc. device). They've already started investing what they inherited from their parents in homes in golf or waterfront resorts, hybrid vehicles that get over 50 mpg in anticipation of $10 a gallon gas, and stock in Exxon-Mobil as their cash cow for their Golden Years.

This company is going to burn through cash trying to "pump up the volume" down in the short grass, in an increasingly weedy patch of thousands of overlapping/redundant/expensive consumer electronics products. This is where TiVo and similar companies have been scraping along, and they've yet to have anything even approaching a profitable year since they started shipping products almost seven years ago, and nearly a billion dollars of investment capital later (little, if any, of which will ever be recovered).

Dear Wall Street, please write me a check for $46 million, I have a wonderful idea for a $250 box that shows the valuation of companies like Sling going down the tubes in real time as they slog along in obscurity following their 15 femtoseconds of marketing fame ...

All the Best,
Joe Blow
Posted by Joe Blow (175 comments )
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Joe may have just missed out on the next killer app........ The box is only a smart carrier..... but couple the box with licensed hex codes for any channel on the planet, provide for HD and remote record when away from home.....and if you live in Spain, eliminate every 1.9 and 2.4 meter satellite dish in the country...plus the final major benefit eliminate the geostationary problems with BBC 1 dropping out at 10.00 pm.......Oh yes that means that our baby boomers retired in Spain can watch their free to air Sy channels plus their subscription channels 24/7.... The grennies are going to love it theNIMBY's are going to love every dish now being obselete. But can the SP.s keep up the bandwidth demand....watch this product go exponential.
Posted by nicholasjlord (3 comments )
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