Slingbox, Now Covered In Ads


Late last fall, Sling Media began experimenting placing ads within the Slingbox web client – both obtrusively placed banner ads and pre-roll video ads.

Well, as a follow-on, I’ve got some good news and some bad news. Ha, just kidding, it’s all bad news… as those who accepted the prompt to download the latest desktop Slingplayer client in time for March Madness are now treated to an interface overrun with ads, as shown above. Going full screen or shrinking the window does reduce the chrome and ads; However, it’s still a startling spammy intrusion. If that wasn’t disappointing enough, Sling has seriously overstepped when it comes to their Slingbox 500 owners who shelled out $300 for the benefit of video pass-thru and television output now sullied by banner advertisement overlays. Initially, Sling is promoting new features. But we can guess where this is going. And not only do they drop the ad unit on top of your video, their implementation is flawed in that both sound and video are briefly interrupted as it clears. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with the mobile apps – at some point will they too receive ads and, if so, would that result in dropping the $15 iPhone and Android fee?

(Update: Sling Media PR informs me that the Slingbox 500 overlay will not be used for third party ads and paid mobile apps will not receive ads. Further, they’d like to direct folks to this Multichannel article which covers their web and desktop player ad-serving position.)

Look, given the sudden glut of compelling TV everywhere solutions and (Sling TV) branding confusion combined with the Slingbox hardware expense and required technical know-how, I assume sales are poor. Indeed, I suspect ad-serving existing customers is a last-ditch effort to justify continuing this Echostar initiative. All I can say is, good thing I bought a TiVo Roamio just yesterday, with integrated streaming, as Slingbox is significantly less compelling this week.

(Thanks Robert, Andy, Jeff!)

36 thoughts on “Slingbox, Now Covered In Ads”

  1. Glad to hear you got the Roamio. Did you get the 10-year deal? Any chance the 10-year deal is also good for the Roamio Pro? I’m still a year away from qualifying, but not really interested in cutting my current storage in half when I do upgrade to Roamio.

  2. Yah, I think the 10-year deal is available on all Roamio models. I went with the 1TB Plus for $500 versus the Pro at $700. If I need more storage, I can get a 3TB drive for less than that $200 differential and end up with an extra 1TB drive out of it. Also, with less linear recording and perhaps soon having Plex to offload/stream back, it may not matter.

    The phone person was super friendly and low key about it all. So even tho you’re a year out, it may be asking if they can qualify you?

  3. Wow. Are you ever ungrateful, Dave. Sling put serious engineering effort into helpfully trying to show you valuable offers to improve your life, and this is your reaction?

    It’s kind of an un-American attitude, y’know…

  4. “If I need more storage, I can get a 3TB drive for less than that $200 differential and end up with an extra 1TB drive out of it. Also, with less linear recording and perhaps soon having Plex to offload/stream back, it may not matter.”

    You need more storage. It matters.

    It’s an absolute no-brainer on the cost/benefit scale, especially with the S5 easy-install.

    (And even though you want the 3TB just in general, also don’t forget that those linear recordings come with noticeably better PQ, and a more pleasant playback UX.)

  5. Yeah, probably… I can figure that out later tho. My more immediate need is tuners and streaming/offloading.

    Regarding Sling’s ads, at least one exec I knew back in the day was kicking himself that they hadn’t launched with a subscription fee. That ongoing, recurring revenue is huge for companies. Doubt it’d ever happen, but how much could they charge folks to remove these new ads? An interesting thought exercise.

  6. Funny, but I think AdBlockPlus blocked your picture of the slingbox ads. I was going to post that I wonder if AdBlockPlus would do a good job of blocking their web ads and discovered I couldn’t even see your pic :).

  7. If I still used a slingbox, I would be absolutely enraged by this. As is, I’m just shaking my head.

  8. I just bought a Roamio Plus as well (it’s arriving today). I did get the 10-year deal ($400 + $100/lifetime), which is phenomenal. Also ordered a 6-tb hard drive from Weaknees so I can get 960 hours of hi-def storage out of it.

    Was waiting for the Tivo Mega, but with seemingly no end in sight to Moore’s Law, the 24-tb capacity will essentially be out-dated by the time it’s released. Would love the redundancy and swappable drives but not sure that functionality is worth the $5,000.

  9. Michael, please remit 20 cents to my PayPal account for every post read. Although you’re entitled to a 5 cent reduction in fees for every comment contributed. ;)

    Yeah, I did wonder about AdBlock too – at least for the banners. Especially since the initial release of the new Slingplayer Desktop client was based on Chrome, I believe. For Slingbox 500 and whatever might come to mobile, you’d need router level blocking.

  10. I blocked ads on my roku for awhile at the router, but then they wised up and started using the same external hosts for all content, and blocking that host essentially turned my roku into a paperweight. But Roku ads really aren’t bad; just on the main screen, never overlaying or certainly interrupting content, so I could deal.

    Ads on an actual computer can always be blocked, because you have superuser privileges. Only questions are the amount of obfuscation in front of them and the amount of effort technically adept people will contribute to block the ads. If the web slingplayer is HTML5, ads can certainly be blocked with something like ublock or adblock+. If it uses native client, much more complex.

    All of that really doesn’t address the point, though. These people paid hundreds of dollars for a product that didn’t show ads. Slingplayers were never really mass-market devices, they were cool gadgets purchased largely by technophiles. They aren’t fools. They’re being screwed right up against the wall, and they damn well know it.

  11. Also video ads may be injected in such a way to avoid blockage… Agree on the Roku, for such a large and prominent ad unit – it’s never really been a bother. And for all you ad blockers, like DISH/Echo’s Charlie Ergen, I’ve got expensive tastes and the bills won’t pay themselves. So here’s a deal for you – get a 5-10% bonus on top of any federal refund if you go TurboTax thru Amazon and are OK having it all applied to a gift card. ;)

  12. I haven’t updated the client in forever and still have ads. They were working on this for months and it has been in the product for a while but just not activated. Ad free time makes them render as black boxes. I would almost rather have ads. I haven’t seen any videos come up yet though.

    BTW I do see a Tablo ad on the top right even with ad free time. I didn’t buy ad free time for the ad blocking but so I could watch american sports from american companies in america that otherwise aren’t allowed to be used by americans like NFL Gamepass.

  13. Brian, the Tablo ad unit towards the upper right here isn’t served via a typical ad hosting company. It was a direct deal we worked out of mutual respect. Also, being ad sensitive myself, I try to walk that fine line in presenting the blog the way I would like to read a blog – with minimal clutter.

    For VPN, I use Cloak, which is an Apple-centric service. It’s relatively inexpensive ($2.99/mo for 5GB) and seems more polished than a lot of these things. I primarily use it to secure my laptop connection when on public WiFi, but it does have endpoints in other countries for those with a need as you describe.

  14. It doesn’t work with AdBlock+ enabled – at least not on Chrome because the obnoxious video ad gets played before I can start watching. I’m trying to figure out how it determines when to show the ad. It showed it when I first connected but my mobile app doesn’t show it, nor does it appear when I reconnect, even after restarting my browser.

  15. Thanks for the heads up. I shall avoid updating my browser plugin. I would be willing to tolerate ads on my Siling, but if they were implemented like on TiVo or Roku: highly visable, bit easy to ignore if I don’t want the product, on thoe rare occasions I have selected the ad. The problem is so many of the ads do not relate to any product or service I would care to purchase. Clearly Sling wants a stream of revenue. Well, LastPass charges $1.00 per month annually. I suppose that price might be acceptable for Sling per account if it meant keeping Slingbox alive for us all because Cheap Charlie just might be willing to give Slingbox the Roman “thumbs down” if he don’t like the Slinbox Excel spreadsheets. Ergan has just resumed as CEO at Dish. Let’s hope Charles is too busy at Dish to “whack” the Slingbox, using piano wire, no doubt. Slingbox has gone down a notch in my estimation, but it is still the highest quality with lowest bandwidth product withou wacky restricions and FULL acess and capabilty (unlike the Hopper with Sling that does not see nor access the external HDD) product of its kind.

  16. I have seen lots of complaints about the new ads on my site and Slingbox forum.
    To me this looks like a last ditch effort to monetize a dieing product.

  17. Wow. That’s just really scummy. I was seriously thinking about cancelling TV to go with Sling TV, but if this is the kind of unethical company we’re dealing with here, then F them.

  18. Brandon: That’s how I see it too. Like varun pointed out, they’re using the Sling name for their streaming SlingTV service too, so even assuming they don’t give a fig about the Slingbox customers (which is a /very/ safe assumption), strategically this is a bad move– they could poison the brand.

    If slingboxes aren’t a profitable business, simply stop making them. Don’t kill your brand.

    I’ve always thought that slingboxes didn’t make sense as a separate product. They should port their functionality to android and partner with one of the chinese manufacturers to release androidTV boxes with integrated HDMI-in and IR blasters.

  19. I have no,idea why you would need so much storage. I record a show, watch it and delete it. Once i have seen it i do not need to keep it. I also have no idea how anyone unless theynhave a lot of kids and one tv needs 4 tuners or more. There is barely anything worth watching on tv anymore.

    They are even speeding up shows to add more comericals.
    It seems it is getting to be more ads than show.

    I remember when there used to be over 30 episodes of a sjow a year. Now we are down to 13. So,less shows, more ads, less need for tv.

  20. We store up seasons or half seasons to binge. Plus HBO or SHO movies for eventual viewing. And award shows my wife doesn’t like to delete. The tuners are for more than recording, they also feed the Minis and iPad. With four, we’d periodically have conflicts. Only once or twice a week, and sometimes cleared by flipping one of the TVs no longer in use to TiVo Central (via app) as we moved rooms, but I won’t miss them.

  21. “Maybe I’ll have enough energy tomorrow to move these comments to the right post. Maybe.”

    Given that “There is barely anything worth watching on tv anymore”, you should have a couple of extra hours a day to do work for lazy and careless commenters…

  22. Looks like this is the death rattle for Sling Media. The web is chock-a-block full of complaints…except on the sling forum, where the admins are burning the midnight oil trying to delete new complaint threads as soon as they pop up. Way to go, Sling Media – you’ve got the same customer satisfaction philosophy as Kim Jong Un!

  23. I just noticed the ads too. If you put the player in “full window” you only see one ad.

    I also couldn’t see your screenshot because of AdBlock.

    I guess I’m just annoyed at Sling, not totally ticked off, because it is, after all, a free monthly service (after paying for the box, of course).

  24. I did like the desktop player but am incensed about the ads, so now have gone back to using slingfront so as to get rid of these very annoying ads. So sling have completely lost contact with me in this respect as I am no longer using their browser at all. Smart move sling…not…

    Make sure if you try slingfront that you do a custom install to avoid the adware.

    BTW, ad block plus removes the ads from the web browser sling interface.

  25. Sling Media says no ads coming to mobile but defends their web and desktop player ad strategy.

    “The world has come to realize that digital ads are a way of life … if it’s free, somebody has to pay for it, somehow,” Michael Hawkey, Sling Media’s senior vice president and general manager, added. “I don’t have a monthly fee. Never have. Never will. Yet I must have ongoing, sustaining engineering work to keep the customer happy.”

  26. Now that I know you’re officially influential, Dave, that changes everything.

    Can you please use your superpowers to get us a TiVo S5 Glo remote, and a Roku remote without adware buttons?

    (Use your weekends to solve climate change.)

  27. Added a little blurb to the center of the article after an email exchange with Sling PR. Knowing paid apps and Slingbox 500 overlay are off limits should provide some reassurance. Will be interested to see if they introduce new *free* mobile apps… with ads. New customers, who would presumably be aware of what they’re getting into, might not mind pre-roll ads versus $15. Better yet, something like Amazon Kindle. Get it with ads and then pay to remove, if you so choose. I did that for the Accuweather app.

  28. Woah! Sling, responding to the criticism, has removed all ads. Their statement called the pre-roll ads “especially abhorrent” and “contrary to all our values as a company.”

    (And thus ends my lone April Fool’s day prank.)

  29. I updated the host file on my computer and it blocks all the ads. Just leaves black boxes, better the ads.

    I almost went for the Tivo Roamio, but no computer app for watching live TV. Plus there is that $500 change for subscription… left me on the fence.

  30. I’m using Slingbox for over 10 years, this will very likely drive me away to use other online TV sources that are now available.
    No one will watch a channel on his TV where 25% of the screens constantly occupied with an add, this is not a web page.
    This will kill the Sling business especially for people like me who paid $250 for 500 model to have HD quality

  31. I forgot to mention in my previous reply that You can also use the SlingPlayer Embedded Access which works very similarly to the Facebook App mentioned above.

  32. This is no different than if you had a new car that you take back for an oil change and they update the firmware on your ECU to force you to watch ads on your navigation system before you can start the engine. People would be so outraged they just wouldn’t stand for it. And here we go – Slingplayer is DOING THIS.

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