Sling is the maker of the Slingbox device, which lets users relay television shows from their own living room TVs or digital video recorders to any Internet-connected computer, and some web-enabled cell phones.
Sling's "Clip+Sling" service, slated to launch later this summer, promises even more flexibility by letting Slingbox users grab short segments from live or recorded television shows and post them on Sling's Internet site for others to view.
Under the NHL deal, Slingbox owners would be able to record their favourite hockey moments and post the clips on Sling's website. The clips will be searchable by each club, and the NHL plans to offer its own long-and short-form programming.
The concept capitalizes on the hot trend of video-sharing, propelled by other companies like Google Inc.'s YouTube.
"Clip+Sling makes it extremely easy for fans to share a priceless moment with others, dramatically changing the way consumers socialize around TV," said Jason Hirschhorn, president of Sling's entertainment group. The service also lets content creators build new revenue and marketing opportunities, he said.
The technology has already unnerved media companies concerned about copyright issues and lost revenue. Major League Baseball has been one of the most vocal objectors to Sling, though it backed off threats to sue.
"We're hopeful that we'll be able to work with the baseball league as we would with other sports leagues," Hirschhorn said in an interview.
CBS Corp. signed on earlier this year with Sling's clip-sharing service, while the NHL deal announced Wednesday represents the first major sports league endorsement. Financial terms of both deals were not disclosed.
"This partnership expands the visibility of our NHL games online," said Keith Ritter, president of NHL Interactive CyberEnterprises. "We are excited and proud to be the first sports league to offer this service to our fans."
Foster City-based Sling, considered by some to be a pioneer of "place-shifting" television, contends its technology is on solid ground legally. TiVo Inc.'s digital video recorders helped pioneer the concept of letting viewers watch TV when and how they want, skipping commercials or even rewinding a live program.
Now devices and software from companies like Sling not only make it possible to watch TV anytime but anywhere.
"We don't want to antagonize media owners," said Hirschhorn, who led the digital media business at Viacom Inc.'s MTV Networks before joining Sling last fall. "I respect them, their paranoia and needs, but there's a way to embrace this thirst for access to content that the audience wants and make it work with business models at the same time."