TV Everywhere: Slingbox played by cable's rules

Dan O'Shea, FierceCableTV Everywhere began as a neatly-branded, but vaguely-defined concept for extending TV content to the Web and to new mobile devices. But it wasn't a new idea.

I was reminded last week that much of what TV Everywhere was intended to do, the Slingbox and similar products already did.

So, why hasn't the cable TV industry embraced the Slingbox--at least for interim period until cable operators and programmers can agree on what TV Everywhere should be and how programmers should be compensated?

Last week's story suggested that it could have something to do with competition, and the fact that the Slingbox owner, EchoStar (Nasdaq: SATS), is affiliated with satellite TV company Dish Network (Nasdaq: DISH). I have wondered if long-standing service provider-vendor relationships also have effectively blocked out the Slingbox, as cable operators have perhaps allowed their more trusted supply sources more time to develop TV Everywhere-flavored Slingbox alternatives.

But, the more I think about it, there could be a third powerful issue at play here--control. Slingbox arrived long before the cable TV industry was ready for it, a disruptive technology in the truest sense. The Slingbox alone did not inspire the industry to create TV Everywhere--that pot did not begin to boil until consumers began to seek out online TV destinations like Hulu--but it showed how distribution and viewing practices could potentially change.

That early disruption may still be at the heart of why major cable TV companies aren't embracing the Slingbox. Big cable and big programmers want to develop their own disruptive technology, one that they not only can brand as they wish, but whose rollout, availability, pricing and limitations they can completely control. It's all about control.--Dan