Sling Media’s efforts to position its new product, the SlingCatcher, as one of the hot products of the Consumers Electronics Show are in full swing. The company has been offering pre-show demos and interviews to the media and bloggers – and, not surprisingly, landed itself on the top of TechMeme.
So what is the SlingCatcher and why does everyone seem so stoked about its prospects? Unlike the Slingbox, which sends video from a TV to a PC or laptop, the SlingCatcher does the reverse by letting people send videos from their PCs to their TVs. (It reminds of the Seinfeld episode in which George decides to do everything the opposite way.) Given the fascination with YouTube videos, user-generated content and video downloads, the SlingCatcher will probably resonate with consumers, although I suspect not to the same extent as the Slingbox.
That said, the question that continues to puzzle me about Sling Media is how it intends to get an ROI from the more than $40-million of venture capital it has raised so far. If it’s just about selling $200 hardware, that’s an awful lot of Slingboxes and SlingCatchers that need to be sold (200,000 to be exact). In an ideal world, I expect Sling Media to get into the video delivery business by itself and/or with partners to create another source of revenue beyond hardware. At the very least, it could be a premium service where Sling Media offers its users access to special content such as Major League Baseball’s package, which would play perfectly into the Slingbox demographic.
Maybe Sling Media has more tricks up its sleeves. Maybe the Slingbox and SlingCatcher are just tools to seed the market (at $200, it’s hard to go wrong. Trust me, I love my Slingbox!) before Sling Media starts to introduce premium video services. Then, it could embrace the razor-razor blade business model, and show how its investors (which include EchoStar, Liberty Media and Hearst Corp.) are going to make a return on their money.

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