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Anecdotal Feedback on Place Shifting – Slingbox Wins

I have been traveling for work almost continually for about 3 months. Now that I am in Tokyo, I have been experimenting to find a cost-effective way to watch US television (NFL and sports in particular) while overseas. Sadly, there is a relatively narrow range of options — I tried the following three and have strong thoughts as to which ones are worth the money and which ones require a lot more work.

-Yahoo! NFL GamePass: $249.99 for the season, $24.99 per week
-MLB Gameday Audio Package for the World Series: $9.95
-Slingbox PRO: $249.99

Yahoo! NFL GamePass
This was a total disaster. Even though my laptop computer exceeded the minimum specs required for use of the service, I was never able to get this service to work. After several email exchanges with Yahoo! customer service, I was not able to get the service working for even one minute. Given the $24.99 price tag I paid for the privilege of watching NFL football, I was hoping to get a refund or some kind of consideration. Alas it did not turn out that way. Chalk it up to the cost of being an early adopter.

MLB Gameday Audio Package
This service worked really well, even if I wasn’t happy with the outcome of the World Series. I had crystal clear audio the entire time and the real-time web scoring was a nice plus given that I couldn’t actually see what was going on live with the game. Given the low cost of this service, I would gladly pay for it again if I had to.

Slingbox PRO
In a lot of ways, getting a Slingbox is like getting a Tivo — all of your friends will tell you how cool it is but you won’t really have that “ah ha” moment until you own one yourself and start to play with it. There’s nothing quite like sitting in a hotel, airport, or other far-flung location and controlling your own television and TiVo over the web. Is the service flawless? Certainly not. I have been using it over a 300kbps Internet connection and I have periodic bouts of jitter and bad buffering. The latency associated with using TiVo fast forward and menu navigation is a bit annoying. However, it delivers on its core promise — you can watch your home TV at relatively decent resolution with few hassles. It certainly passes the “good enough” test for me — I am sold.

Having used all three of these services, I think that the Slingbox is going to really dampen the longer-term outlook for services like Yahoo!’s premium NFL service or anyone else who’s thinking about broadcasting “ultra-premium” content like sports over the NFL at a high price. At roughly $10, the MLB audio service is cheap enough to purchase without too much thought. For services like Yahoo!’s $24.99 package, I think that serious consumers will take pause and think whether other solutions (namely the Slingbox) are a better alternative.

I also remember sitting in the Connector Showcase awhile back and seeing back-to-back presentations by Sling and the team at MobiTV. I remember thinking that if the Sling mobile players really worked, phone-specific mobile television would become a lot less interesting. It will be fun to see how all of this place shifting plays out.

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