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Taking Web video to the TV

Everyone from Microsoft to Apple to Sling Media wants to help consumers stream downloaded video to their TV screens.

If there was ever any doubt that people would continue watching video on television sets, there shouldn't be anymore as companies large and small introduce new products this year that take video downloaded from the Web and stream it to TV screens.

Sling Media is one of the latest to jump on Internet video bandwagon with its new SlingCatcher product, which it introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show on Monday. Sling Media came on the scene a couple of years ago with the Slingbox, a product that takes television content from satellite or cable feeds, turns it into Internet Protocol packets and then streams the data to computers, allowing people to watch on laptops or PCs television shows that are currently playing on their living room TV.

Now the new SlingCatcher does the opposite. The set-top box takes video content from a PC or notebook, which can be downloaded from the Internet, and displays it on a television screen. It's also able to stream video from a remote Slingbox and display it on another TV. The remote Slingbox is connected to the SlingCatcher via an Ethernet or Wi-Fi connection. Navigation can be done with either the included remote or through a PC.

Sling Media isn't the only company with a device to stream video from the Internet or PC to TV screens. Everyone from Microsoft to Apple Computer to Netgear wants a piece of the action. On Sunday, during a keynote speech at CES, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates talked about new features coming to the Xbox 360 that will turn the device, typically used to play games and to download television programs and movies, into an IPTV receiver that will allow people to watch video from the Internet on their TV screens. The service would likely work through a telephone company, such as AT&T, that is already offering IPTV to consumers.

Also at CES, home networking gear maker Netgear introduced its Digital Entertainer HD, which connects to a home theater system so that digital media can be streamed from computers, network storage devices and USB media players. The receiver discovers, organizes and plays movies, TV shows, music files and personal photos. It also plays Internet-based video, news feeds, weather reports and radio programs on TV screens.

And on Tuesday at the Macworld showcase in San Francisco, Apple CEO Steve Jobs , a new device that will wirelessly stream content, such as movies, music or other videos that are downloaded from the iTunes store, onto TVs and other devices in the home.