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What is a Slingplayer™?

By Anurag Ghosh
Updated May 17, 2024
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Slingplayer™ is a software program that allows cable television users to watch programming from their home TVs on a range of mobile devices that are connected to a piece of hardware known as a Slingbox®. The box streams cable programs, saved shows, and other visual content onto the Internet over a secure connection such that it can be accessed more or less anywhere. Users typically have to both connect the box to their televisions and download the software on all devices that are going to be receiving the transmissions. Transmissions are almost always made in real time, and do usually control the television at the cable connection. This means that someone can’t be watching one show on a mobile device with the player while someone else is simultaneously watching another on the actual television. An exception to this pertains to stored programs: saved or previously recorded shows usually can be watched simultaneously. The Slingbox® and its related software and app programs have faced some criticism from copyright owners and broadcast stakeholders, but is generally an accepted form of media usage in most countries today.

How it Works

The basic premise of this technology is to allow television to travel with a viewer, and to be universally accessible. In a standard cable TV situation, users pay for one or more cable connections into their homes, which are then connected to individual television sets. Shows and programming can only be watched on the sets that are physically attached. Slingbox® changes this by allowing users to transfer, or “sling,” broadcast content over the Internet to a range of connected devices.

The player is primarily marketed to people who spend time away from home but who want to keep up with the shows and programs they have grown accustomed to watching. It is often particularly popular with sports enthusiasts, who can use the technology to watch locally broadcasted games and matches anywhere in the world. It also allows portability, such that users can watch their own channels and saved shows wherever they are, be it in a hotel room or just out in the backyard.

Viewership Limitations

The basic premise of the player — bringing cable broadcasts to the user wherever in the world he or she is — is different from services that offer on-demand programming and show archives. As such, it isn’t usually possible for different users or members of a family to use the technology to watch multiple shows simultaneously. The Slingbox® usually has to attach directly to the cable connection on a television, and it is that signal that is transmitted. As such, if a family is watching a baseball game at home, one member who is traveling and using a Slingplayer™ can either watch that show or saved programming — if he changes the channel, the channel will change for the viewers at home, too.

In general, the only way multiple shows can be watched simultaneously is if they are on separate televisions with unique cable attachments. A TV in a teenager’s room, for instance, can sling content to his or her dorm room in college or apartment across town without impacting the rest of the family’s viewing in the same was as that student could be watching a separate program in his or her room without regard to what was being watched in the den.

Software Installation

Installing the required software is rather straightforward. There are some minimum requirements, but computers and devices with a Microsoft Windows® Operating System or Mac OS® shouldn't have any problems so long as they have been properly updated. The software can also be installed in many other devices including selected mobile phone models. The software is not usually compatible with most open source systems, including BSD® (Berkeley Software Distribution) and Linux®.

Basic Modes and Functionalities

Slingplayer™ software includes an integrated program and channel guide for users, a live video buffer, a 3D virtual remote control, and multiple viewing modes. The live video buffer feature has functions similar to a digital video recorder (DVR). It allows users to pause, rewind or fast-forward up to one hour of video on the computer. The virtual remote functions much like the standard television remote control and includes various remote-control codes to ensure easy adjustments, channel changes and easy DVR settings. With the help of multiple viewing modes, the software allows users to enjoy their television programs and surf the web simultaneously.

Any Slingplayer™ application typically includes a web-based account to help users locate and connect devices to the device through the Internet. Users can watch and control their televisions from any computer or connection through which they can access the Sling website.

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