Back before just about every major TV network built a streaming app of their own, watching live TV on your smartphone was tricky.
One of the first relatively simple options was the Slingbox. You’d set it up between your cable box and your TV, plug it into your network, and bam: you’re streaming live TV, from your TV, wherever you might be. You could even control it as if you were actually there, thanks to a spiderweb of IR transmitters you’d wire up in your entertainment center to act as your extra-remote remote control.
In the mid-2000s, it seemed like magic. In 2020… it’s not quite as broadly useful. As a result, the company behind the Slingbox has announced that all Slingbox products are now discontinued, and will become less and less functional leading up to a full shutdown two years from today.
Writes the company in an announcement FAQ:
Slingbox servers will be permanently taken offline 24 months after the discontinued announcement date (November 9, 2020), at which point ALL Slingbox devices and services will become inoperable.
Until then, most Slingbox models will continue to work normally, but the number of supported devices for viewing will steadily decrease as versions of the SlingPlayer apps become outdated and/or lose compatibility.
As for anyone who wants to keep using their Slingbox until the servers are shuttered? That’s a bit trickier.
The company says that (for now) they’ll continue to offer the required SlingPlayer app for iPhones, iPads, older versions of macOS, Windows and Amazon Fire TV and tablets — but don’t expect any updates, and even those apps could vanish suddenly. The free Android app seems to still be available, whereas the paid version is gone, as are the Roku and Windows Phone (RIP) apps.
Of course, the writing has been on the wall here for years now. Slingbox was acquired by EchoStar for $380 million in 2007; by 2017, they’d stopped manufacturing new hardware and were mostly focusing on integrating the technology directly into Dish Network boxes. Hell, they haven’t even tweeted in nearly two years. If you’ve still got a Slingbox setup that seems to be working, you’ve got a little less than two years (max) to figure out something else.