Placeshifting making a comeback?

Placeshifting. If you know what it is at all it conjures up images of mid-2000s tech like the original Slingbox shown above. That silver brick connected to your home theater equipment and streamed it… to a PC somewhere. Streaming to a mobile device was a pipe dream at the time: screens were small, internet was slow. But placeshifting as an idea was novel.

Placeshifting is a simple concept: connect a device at your home, watch the video anywhere. You might already be doing something with a home security camera. The tech has been built into Hopper DVRs since 2014, too. It’s never been incredibly popular, though. As mobile internet matured, the provide app has largely taken over where the placeshifting box used to live.

Here’s what I mean. If you went to a hotel in 2010 and you wanted to watch something from your home DVR, you could use a placeshifting box. Today, you’d fire up your trusty DIRECTV, DISH Anywhere, or other cable TV app and watch it that way. Almost all programming is available that way, even live programming.

Almost all programming.

What if you want to watch the local news? Usually you have to go to the station’s web site and that can be difficult on a mobile device. What if it’s a local program you always watch like “Eye on Detroit?”That’s where I see a huge upside potential for placeshifting. Personally I never stopped doing it and I’m actually getting more and more into it.

Isn’t that illegal?

Actually, it isn’t. Back in 2011, the US courts held that if you streamed your local programming for your personal use, it wasn’t illegal. If you streamed it to try to make money, that’s illegal.

In fact, around the same time a company called Aereo tried to do just that: set up antennas, charge people to use them, and stream them to people’s phones. The Supreme Court said that was illegal because Aereo was a business, making money and not paying royalties.

This opens up the door for you to send the content from your cable or satellite box to your phone, legally.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 9,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.