This weekend, I signed up for my invitation-only subscription to Sling TV, the standalone service from Dish designed to give cord-cutters and cord-nevers access to some of the best cable TV channels through their favorite streaming device, such as a Roku, laptop, or mobile device. The service is $20 a month (click here to request an invitation), and it includes an app through which you can watch a live stream of a narrow slate of cable channels, including ESPN, ESPN2, HGTV, Food Network, Disney, TBS, and TNT.
Here’s my initial thoughts:
The Channels …
They nailed this. This is the answer to the dilemma of “hundreds of channels and nothing on.” Essentially, Dish is acknowledging the fact that while cable brags about their channel selection, most people maintain a much smaller repertoire of regular channels (here’s a study that reinforces this idea). Dish is giving you a set of channels that you actually want. What has my family missed the most since we cut the cord? HGTV, ESPN, and Conan on TBS. Dish has given them back to us. Amen.
Cord cutters don’t need a repertoire of a hundred channels when we have virtually unlimited options through Netflix and Amazon. Give us the best, original content we actually want. I think Sling TV got this right.
The Features …
Um. Good? Yes. Good.
So that’s not an overwhelming endorsement. It feels a bit like cable TV, in the sense that what you get is a bunch of live TV streams, versus the ability to search for and select content as you would expect through a more traditional app interface, a la Netflix. However, for a few of the channels, you have the ability to search or “reverse” the timeline up to three days to see content you may have missed. You can also pause and rewind live TV on these channels. This feature only works for a few channels, though, not including ESPN. But it does include HGTV and Food, so I’m not complaining.
Ideally, you would be able to access complete seasons of your favorite shows, but it’s understandable that Dish is walking a licensing and price tightrope with the content providers (who would prefer you purchase their shows on iTunes, I’m sure). Perhaps they can add a pseudo-DVR feature, where you have the ability to “record” a limited catalog of shows to watch past the three-day period?
The Cost …
Is good. $20 is still cheaper than adding a cable subscription to our internet service that includes the same channel slate. Is it too much for cord-cutters, many of whom left cable for cost concerns? Time will tell. My hope is that other cable providers will step up to the plate and provide some competition. Maybe we are getting closer to a la carte, app based channel selection.