October 16, 2006 5:40 PM PDT

Sling Media scores big with Cal football fans

Nobody from Sling Media scored a touchdown or picked off any passes for the California Golden Bears on Saturday, but more than 3,000 football fans were rooting for the company just the same.

A Slingbox helped turn Cal's scoreboard at Memorial Stadium into a large television set that allowed fans in Berkeley, Calif., to watch the Bears' 21-3 road victory over Washington State.

Not only did the Slingbox help Bears fans watch a game that wasn't televised in California or Washington, it dramatically demonstrated the company's technology to 3,000 potential new customers.

slingboxscreen

And explaining what a Slingbox does is a big hurdle for Sling Media, said Rich Buchanan, the company's vice president of marketing. "That's one of the things about this technology," Buchanan said. "It's so much easier to show people than it is to tell them."

The Slingbox is a set-top box that redirects cable and satellite feeds from a person's home to his or her laptop. For example, San Francisco Giants fans can get games delivered to their laptop or any other Web-enabled device while they're away from home, be it in Chicago or London.

Jason Krikorian, founder of San Mateo, Calif.-based Sling Media and a Cal alumnus, was miffed after learning last week that the game between the Bears and Cougars wasn't going to be televised. He jumped into action.

Sling Media pumped the in-house video feed from Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash., along with a local radio broadcast, into a Slingbox. From there the images and sound were transmitted to a laptop at Memorial Stadium that was connected to the scoreboard.

Initial concerns about bandwidth were quickly overcome. The images lacked any of the choppiness or stalling that can occur when pipes are too small to deliver hefty amounts of data, Buchanan said.

"We streamed basically at 2.5 megabits over a pipe from Washington to Cal and the images looked great," Buchanan said. Someone posted a video of the scoreboard images on YouTube.

So was this a publicity stunt? Could the game have been beamed to the scoreboard via another means?

"Maybe," said Buchanan, "but not with a technology you can buy for $189. Whatever it was would have cost much, much more."

Sling Media's impromptu sports stream will unlikely mark a trend. The reason that Sling Media didn't bump up against copyright issues was that the game was not being televised anywhere, so nobody owned the broadcast rights, Buchanan said.

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