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Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Slinging the Cash

I thought that Blake Krikorian was onto a great idea when I first saw his Slingbox several years ago, which he showed me at my house. Now, so does satellite giant EchoStar, to the tune of $380 million in cash and options.

EchoStar grabbed ownership of the start-up that makes devices and software that allow a user to move media to a variety of other locations. Hence, the Sling name.

I have always thought the concept of being able to take content and send it to any device at any time was a critically important one. As it turns out, it turned out to be the precursor to a lot of the moves toward the more distributed, widgetized Web model developing now.


In fact, Walt and I demoed Sling at D2 in 2004, pictured above, right after the device launched. Since then, Sling has morphed into much more than simply a hardware play to encompass software services related to media delivery in a number of ways.

But the basic concept remained the same: Media Must Move.

I hope the deal putting Sling into the hands of one particular part of that raging river of information and content does not hinder this important mission for Sling and Krikorian, its chairman and CEO.

That’s especially important in this critical time, when big media companies finally seem to be coming around to the notion that ubiquitous distribution is the only way to go.

That was not always the case. At the time Sling was launched, I got a call from a major network exec who asked me all about the company, which I had written about several times.

At first, I was pleased he had some savvy about a cutting-edge technology, but then realized he was only interested because the media giant was considering suing Sling out of existence.

Apparently, increasing the number of screens its content could be seen on exponentially took a backseat to unfounded fears of copyright infringement.

In this interview on the PaidContent site with Staci Kramer, Krikorian promised the company would remain operator-agnostic, noting, “We expect very little change to our business except that we have even deeper pockets, and access to other core technologies.”

The company struck the deal as it was looking for a new round of funding. It had already raised a pile of cash–introducing a new hardware concept does not come cheap–totaling almost $57 million.

That came from traditional VCs like Mobius Venture Capital (in a deal born at D2, in fact), as well as other power players like Liberty Media and Hearst Media. EchoStar has also been an investor.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik