Major League Baseball (MLB) says watching out-of-market baseball games is potentially illegal, and that could mean trouble for SlingMedia. The company's SlingPlayer allows users to place-shift their set-top box-powered television services from their home to their PC or smartphone via the Internet. MLB's content licensing deals with most service providers include the broadcasting of local teams' games, and in order to watch an out-of-market game a subscriber usually has to upgrade to an expensive "sports package." MLB also has its own Internet TV service, MLB.TV, which allows subscribers to watch any out-of-market game live from their PCs--just like a SlingBox. MLB.TV, however, costs $14.95 per month or $59.95 per year. No wonder MLB is taking on Sling now.
SlingMedia said allowing anyone besides the owner of a given SlingBox to access the device is against the product's user agreement, and if anything, the ability to watch a home team play when out of town or in the office simply "creates a much tighter bond" between the fan and his or her team.
The Consumer Electronics Association president Gary Shapiro came to SlingMedia's defense too: "This is a classic instance of copyright owners trying to suppress innovation purely because it empowers consumers."