The announced intention of EchoStar, parent of Dish satellite-TV in the U.S., to buy the innovative and arguably disruptive Sling Media company is consistent with a pattern in video technology. Following a period of flowering and openness to new technology, there's a clampdown and the genie is contained back in the bottle. (See Dish TV operator EchoStar offers $380M for Sling Media.)
One need only look to the sad tale of ReplayTV, the once-rival to TiVo that was superior in several respects, and offered features you can't buy today on any DVR at any price. It's a story I've told in this space many times.
YouTube will probably provide another example, but the jury of course is still out. Just because Google bought YouTube for tons of money does not make it a viable business model, and their copyright violations are notorious. These few years -- 2006, 2007, perhaps 2008 and 2009 -- may well prove, historically, to be a golden age of YouTube that will be remembered long after the clampdown begins.
I hope that after EchoStar buys Sling, they'll continue to allow sales of independent Slingbox devices that will work with any cable-TV or satellite-TV set top box, and that anyone can buy regardless of whether they're a Dish customer or not. I hope it will continue to be a general purpose, free-over-Internet video relay device. And I especially hope that, after acquiring whatever patents Sling has pursued, EchoStar won't use this portfolio of intellectual property to prevent others from developing video remote-view/relaying technology.
Those are my hopes. But I also know better.