MLB Swings At Sling — And Misses

For more than a year, we’ve been hearing threats to sue Sling Media over its place-shifting technology — and we’ve been hearing execs in sports and entertainment rave about their own Slings. So far no lawsuits and even the threats had died down. At the start of the ’06-’07 season, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman even told us about using an office-mobile combo to track games he would otherwise missed but he wasn’t ready to discuss the intersection of Sling and rights. MLBAM general counsel Michael Mellis hasn’t been reticent though — recently calling the device illegal at a conference and saying that a lawsuit hadn’t been ruled out, according to theHollywood Reporter, Esq. (sub. req.) . (Actually, in some respects, his biggest error may have been dismissing Sling as a start-up as in “there’s no guarantee that Slingbox will be around next year.”)

But Bob Bowman, CEO of MLBAM, is trying a different approach since his general counsel’s remarks went public. He told CNET MLBAM is still in observation mode. He explained, “We think the issue is not place-shifting; we think the issue is transmission-shifting.” He told the WSJ (sub. req.) the service is illegal but pulled back from the lawsuit threat: “The way to win this is with good content and good technology, not with lawyers.” Sling Media CEO Blake Krikorian told the Journal he was relieved to hear that. But Krikorian has maintained all along that the service Sling provides is legal and would win in court.

Meanwhile, Sling continues to look for ways to work directly with the leagues through its various services.