Time Warner Cable will be offering Slingbox streaming for free to its wideband Internet customers, a potential landmark decision in the ongoing tension between content providers, cable companies, and Internet TV solutions.
On Tuesday, Time Warner announced that it planned to subsidize the cost of a Slingbox, about $300, to Time Warner customers who opt for the company's Wideband Internet plan (at $99 per month), according to the New York Times.
Slingbox is a technology that allows streaming media from a cable or satellite service to be sent to any compatible Internet-equipped device -- from a desktop or HTPC running SlingPlayer software to a range of mobile devices compatible with the company's SlingPlayer Mobile (including several versions of iPhones, iPads, BlackBerrys and Android OS devices).
Many cable and content providers have been resisting Slingboxes specifically and Internet TV solutions in general, chiefly due to the potential lack of control and loss of revenue versus traditional television programming and distribution models. Many service providers have previously collected additional fees for additional devices, for instance, and content providers have been known to consider alternate means of viewing tantamount to unauthorized distribution of their property.
Time Warner is emphasizing the Wideband Internet service portion of the promotion, perhaps to downplay the more controversial aspects of the Slingbox capabilities.
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An issue arose over Time Warner's iPad app, which allows a similar method of viewing the company's cable programming. As observed in Ars Technica, objections from content providers such as Viacom were countered by Time Warner, who pointed out that its contract with customers provided cable programming for all the screens in a subscriber's home.
However, the Slingbox technology has been touted for its ability to let users watch cable programming from mobile devices and other locations outside of the home. By promoting the devices, Time Warner may have forfeited the argument that it used to defend its iPad app -- but considering that Viacom's channels are still omitted from Time Warner's app, the argument may ultimately be of limited use anyway.
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