As more and more people look for alternatives to cable, services like Dish’s Sling TV are growing in popularity. Unveiled at CES 2015, Sling TV appeals to the new era of cord cutters who shun commitments to cable providers and dislike hardware, like cable boxes or satellite dishes. For $20 a month, Sling TV users have the ability to channel surf in real time and watch television shows and movies just as they would with cable. While there are some major channels missing from the Sling TV package, overall the service is a great alternative to those looking to save on cable costs.
Dish Sling TV Content Offerings
Users of the basic Sling TV plan have access to channels including ABC Family, AMC, A&E, Cartoon Network, CNN, Disney Channel, DIY Network, El Rey, ESPN, ESPN2, Food Network, Galavision, HGTV, History, H2, IFC, Lifetime, TBS, TNT, and Travel Channel. Combining features from the traditional cable experience and characteristics of online streaming, Sling TV allows users to watch what’s currently airing, including commercials, or select certain shows to play on demand.
On-demand content isn’t available on all channels however, including ESPN and TBS, which only air in real time. Channels that provide on-demand videos also allow users to restart, pause, rewind, or fast-forward shows, although these features are still buggy on certain devices.
Users can add packages to their plans to access more content, the most prominent and expensive being HBO. Sling TV recently announced that HBO will be available for an extra $15 a month, saying the channel would be accessible by the April 12 debut of “Game of Thrones.” If you’re a sports fanatic, you can pay $5 more each month for access to ESPNews and other sports channels, or if you are more of a news junkie, you can access Bloomberg and similar networks for $5 more as well.
While these additions help fill the gap of the basic Sling TV plan, the service is still lacking support for major networks, including Fox, NBC, ABC, and CBS. Cord cutters using Sling TV will need get an antenna if watching on a TV, or employ other services like Apple iTunes or Google Play Movies and TV to watch shows like “New Girl” or “The Blacklist.” The streaming service also houses a library of movies; however this catalog isn’t nearly as comprehensive as those offered by traditional cable providers or services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video.
Depending on your viewing preference, you can watch Sling TV on a computer via the Web, or on mobile devices. Users first create an account on the website, and access the service on their smartphones or tablets via the iOS and Android apps.
If cord cutters still yearn for the television-watching experience, they can use media streamers like Roku, Amazon Fire TV, and Amazon Fire TV Stick, or consoles like the Xbox One, to stream content. The service is not yet available for Chromecast and lacks a native app for Apple TV.
Ease of Use
Unlike Netflix and HBO Go, Sling TV doesn’t allow for simultaneous viewing, meaning two devices using the same account cannot watch shows at the same time. This can be a turn-off for households with more than one person using an account. Beyond this hindrance, navigating channels and accessing on demand content on Sling TV is easy to do on every device, thanks to the service’s sleek interface.
The Roku viewing experience is ideal people who prefer larger screens, but the tablet and smartphone experiences aren’t bad either. Users watching shows on the go via their phones are at the whim of their wireless connection, which can sometimes be problematic. Content doesn’t carry over from device to device, so viewers who start a show on their tablet will have to fast forward on their TVs in order to get back to their stopping point.
Cord cutters should definitely check out Dish’s Sling TV. ESPN is a huge inclusion, and is considered by many to be the Holy Grail for anyone who wants to get away from cable. The service still lacks major channels and has the burden of commercials, but overall it is an enjoyable experience. As of this writing, Sling TV is offering new subscribers 50% off a Roku 3 or Amazon Fire TV, or a free Amazon Fire TV Stick or Roku Streaming Stick.