Sling TV has room for improvement, but the price and service are on point


Impressions from a few months of use

Sling TV has been out for a few months, and I've had the opportunity to test it out for myself on iOS, the Xbox One, and my Roku 3. As a method to cut the cord on cable, the price is the most enticing entry-point -- a mere $20 gets you the base package with a ton of channels.

While it lacks on-demand and other quality of life features, even at this early stage it's a legitimate contender for your ever-increasing monthly subscription wallet.

In theory, cutting the cord and getting legitimate TV content is a great idea. But once you add up Internet, HBO Go, Hulu, and other optional services like WWE Network, it rivals, or in some cases even tops what you pay for cable anyways. That's what makes the $20 prospect of Sling TV so amazing over another competitor like PlayStation's Vue service, which is currently operating at $50 per month.

The channel lineup is impressive, as Sling TV has expanded its initial offering of ESPN, ESPN 2, TBS, TNT, HGTV, Food Network, the Travel Channel, CNN, the Disney Channel, Cartoon Network, and ABC Family to also include AMC, IFC, A&E, History, H2, and Lifetime over the past few months. The UI is fantastic, as the channel choices are far clearer than any cable service's menus, and everything runs much faster in general -- once the app connects, it's basically instant with nary a drop in signal or quality. The Xbox One is probably the best way to use Sling TV, as it can snap on your screen just like the TV app can, but every platform has been stress-free.

The on-demand movie service is convenient, but sadly not competitive when compared to existing options on other set-top boxes or devices. I ended up finding out after a few weeks that it's actually operated by Blockbuster On Demand, which is a competent service with a few annoying holes. The big strikes against it are the pricing (usually $1 or $2 higher than Amazon Instant Video) and inconsistencies for big releases.

What I mean by inconsistent is that I usually find when three big movies are released in one week's time (say, Unbroken, Into the Woods, or The Hobbit 3), Blockbuster will usually only have two of them -- in this case, it lacked the latter. I don't know if Dish has an exclusive agreement with Blockbuster, but ideally more video options will arrive in the future. That, or Blockbuster ups its game.

So here's the bad news. Sling TV really needs some form of DVR functionality, pronto. It's really tough to sit down and watch a number of primetime shows throughout the week, and some nights, like AMC or HBO's Sundays, are marathon-esque, full of hit programs that are inevitably going to be water-cooler fodder the next day. Dish promises on-demand support in the future, but it needs it sooner than later.

It also isn't fully supported by Dish as a cable substitute. What do I mean by that? Well, Sling TV walks, talks, and acts like TV, but it isn't exactly the same. For some networks, it'll require you to input your ISP or cable service ID into its system to authenticate access -- for instance adding your provider into FX Now will let you watch most of their programming on-demand, including The Simpsons if you have FXX.

Sling TV doesn't do this. It's a surefire example of the old ways of cable clinging on for dear life in the information age and it may soon be a forgotten relic, but for now it's a reality. With Sling TV, you'll probably have to resort to buying shows on Blu-ray or on-demand piecemeal on a site like Amazon Instant Video. When you add that up with all of the aforementioned subscriptions it can get pricey.

Still, if you're the kind of person who can wait for shows to arrive on Netflix or the free version of Hulu, Sling TV is a great way to watch live TV at a fraction of the cost. I know a ton of people who only own cable for ESPN or CNN, and in fewer cases, AMC, so they'll be thrilled to chop their TV costs down to $20 a month. With all that in mind, I wish the service the best, because with a few more additions and behind-the-table deals, it could really blow up cable as we know it. Here's hoping.

You are logged out. Login | Sign up



Chris Carter
Chris CarterReviews Director, Co-EIC   gamer profile

Chris has been enjoying Destructoid avidly since 2008. He finally decided to take the next step, make an account, and start blogging in January of 2009. Now, he's staff! ------------------- T... more + disclosures



Filed under... #Television #Xbox One



You're not expected to always agree, but do please keep cool and never make it personal. Report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community team. Also, on the right side of a comment you can flag nasty comments anonymously (we ban users dishing bad karma). For everything else, contact us!