Sling gets sued over Slingbox desktop ads

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The maker of Slingbox and SlingPlayer is facing a lawsuit after inserting advertisements into its desktop software.

The lawsuit accuses Sling Media of a “bait and switch,” as customers Mark Heskiaoff and Marc Langenohl purchased their Slingboxes under the impression that the software was ad-free. They're currently seeking class action status for the lawsuit, filed last week according to Zatz Not Funny.

Slingbox is a line of set-top boxes that let users stream a pay-TV signal to other devices, both at home and outside the house. The hardware ranges from $150 to $300, with no recurring charge for the actual service. And while Sling has always charged for access to its SlingPlayer mobile apps, the desktop app for Slingbox 500 and M1 users has always been free.

That changed in March, when ads started to appear in SlingPlayer's desktop software. Sling also started showing ads in its web client last fall, including pre-roll video ads. (A newer model, the $200 Slingbox M2, includes all free apps, but with advertising from the get-go. Users can then pay to remove ads from Sling's mobile apps with an in-app purchase.)

The plaintiffs are seeking an injunction against Sling to prevent any further advertising without users' permission, along with restitution and disgorgement of any profits from ads so far. Sling hasn't commented on the lawsuit, but previously told Multichannel News that the ads are necessary to defray the costs of engineering, testing, and updating its apps with new features. The company has also said the complaints come from a “vocal minority” of users.

Why this matters: Class-action lawsuits rarely bare much fruit for the actual users, and this lawsuit hasn't even achieved class-action status yet. Still, it's hard not to feel a pang of satisfaction at this move. Sling should have thought of a better way to handle the move to ad-supported apps that didn't impact its existing customers.

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