First look: Dish's Sling TV Web-based television service

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 2015
Even as Apple is reportedly struggling to put together its own long-rumored web television initiative, satellite provider Dish Network has begun to roll out its competing Sling TV over-the-top offering to a select group of early adopters. AppleInsider was given access to the invite-only beta and brings some first impressions of the impressive service.




Sling TV brings together live streams from a variety of channels in its base $20-per-month package --?ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, TBS, Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel, El Rey, Maker, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, Galavision, CNN, and ABC Family. Those first four are vitally important for cord cutters, as they air a significant chunk of live sports broadcasts and can't be brought in via a digital antenna.

Once Sling launches, subscribers will also be able to choose from a variety of add-on packages that will each be available for an extra $5 per month. A News & Info tier will add HLN, Cooking Channel, DIY Network, and Bloomberg; the Kids Extra package will bring Disney Junior, Disney XD, Boomerang, BabyTV, and DuckTV; and the Sports Extra package will add some additional ESPN networks --?ESPNU, the SEC Network, ESPNEWS, ESPN Bases Loaded, ESN Buzzer Beater, and ESPN Goal Line --?along side beIN, Universal Sports, and Univision Sports.

Currently, the service is available to beta users on iOS and Android devices, desktop computers, and Roku's set-top boxes. Amazon's Fire TV, Microsoft's Xbox One, and Google's Nexus Player are set to follow soon, but the Apple TV is conspicuously absent --?earlier reports suggest that this is because Dish refuses to bend to Apple's design restrictions for Apple TV apps.

Regardless, we've found the service to work well so far. The user interface is the same across platforms; you can browse channels and see thumbnails of upcoming shows, but most of the content is live.




Sling does allow some limited DVR-like functionality as well, providing facilities for both rewinding and then skipping forward in streams. A few channels allow previously-aired shows to be replayed by scrolling back in the timeline.

Some channels --?like ESPN --?don't show commercials, instead inserting a generic slate during breaks. This could be down to the fact that ESPN has an existing web streaming infrastructure for its WatchESPN apps, while others are simply piping their broadcast stream into Dish's facilities.

Video quality is generally excellent. Streams begin with a low bitrate, but usually recover within a few seconds to high definition.




Aside from live television, Sling has a small catalog of movies available for streaming. At press time, titles included hits like Brad Pitt's Fury and Marvel superhero flick Guardians of the Galaxy alongside lesser-known offerings like Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig's The Skeleton Twins.

A minor nitpick: we wish we could stream from the Sling iOS app to our Apple TV, but that doesn't work just yet. Overall, though, we're impressed with Sling TV and will provide a more in-depth look at the service later on.


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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 37
    You can with some finagaling get it to airplay to apple TV but you need good solid Internet with low latency but it's via the mirrored screen option so the device gets really warm after about 15 to 20 min or so
  • Reply 2 of 37
    I've had it for a few days and really like it. This is how cable TV should work.

    I got the extra sports package, and consider the overall deal to be a bargain for $27/month out the door.

    Being able to watch TV on my tablet and phone are much more of a feature than expected, and so far are my primary way to use Sling.

    I've experienced the "black screen of death" (where the app displays a black screen sometime during the startup or channel stream beginning and never recovers) several times, but killing and restarting the app seems to fix the problem. Other than that, the service has been remarkably good.

    I look forward to Dish adding more channel packages. Like a football extra package (with NFL network and more regional college networks), and something with BBC America in it. If they could bring HBO on board, that would be icing on the cake.
  • Reply 3 of 37
    Neither the Disney Channel nor ABC Family come with the $20/month package. SlingTV works a lot better than Aereo (e.g., no buffering and a cleaner UI). I'm subscribed from Australia on a Roku 3. I'll probably dump the service after the seven-day trial. While $20 is cheap compared to what I used to pay for cable, I'm still forced to buy channels I don't want. I'd rather pay a higher per channel rate for just what I want. Half the channels are good. Half are crap in my opinion. Sounds like cable.
  • Reply 4 of 37
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,428member

    Way too expensive, they're still making the mistake of bundling crap channels, and nobody has mentioned the availability of replays.

  • Reply 5 of 37
    dachardachar Posts: 330member
    I have read a lot about the high cost and loads of not wanted channels on USA cable. So how much does a typical basic subscription to USA cable package cost and how many channels do you get?
  • Reply 6 of 37
    dugbugdugbug Posts: 283member
    Can you AirPlay from a Mac ok? Only downside to that is the Apple TV remote won't do anything but at least could watch football without cable
  • Reply 7 of 37
    realisticrealistic Posts: 1,121member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Cpsro View Post

     

    Way too expensive, they're still making the mistake of bundling crap channels, and nobody has mentioned the availability of replays.




    What would you consider the right price?

  • Reply 8 of 37
    How many streams? I have 4TVs and mobile devices.
  • Reply 9 of 37
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by dhawkins541 View Post



    You can with some finagaling get it to airplay to apple TV but you need good solid Internet with low latency but it's via the mirrored screen option so the device gets really warm after about 15 to 20 min or so



    AirPlay is a nice solution for the occasional "Have you seen this video?", but I wouldn't want to rely on it as my go to solution as it tends to be a frustrating experience.

  • Reply 10 of 37
    rgh71rgh71 Posts: 108member
    photosmike wrote: »
    How many streams? I have 4TVs and mobile devices.
    Only 1 stream
  • Reply 11 of 37
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by rgh71 View Post





    Only 1 stream



    That would definitely be an issue for a family with multiple TVs.

  • Reply 12 of 37
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Dachar View Post



    I have read a lot about the high cost and loads of not wanted channels on USA cable. So how much does a typical basic subscription to USA cable package cost and how many channels do you get?



    Not sure I can help you with the average basic subscription fee but I can tell you that it is not necessarily the bulk of the monthly utility bill.  American Cable TV providers are obsessed with leasing out low-quality and often out-dated Set Top Boxes (STB) for upwards of $15/mo depending on whether or not it has DVR functionality, some even lease the remote controls for $3-$5/mo.  They charge for maintenance packages and just about every other spin you can think of to take advantage of their customer base.

  • Reply 13 of 37

    Where did you get your Roku 3, if you don't mind me asking.  I haven't found anywhere to buy one in Australia.

  • Reply 14 of 37

    Most of these channels are part of the Disney empire, so they really don't have that many content providers on their side just yet.

  • Reply 15 of 37

    Can't watch on 2 TVs at the same time.

    It only allows 1 streaming session at a time.

    It's a start but it's not quite there yet.

  • Reply 16 of 37
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 12,972member
    gargravarr wrote: »
    Where did you get your Roku 3, if you don't mind me asking.  I haven't found anywhere to buy one in Australia.

    You wouldn't be able to watch anything even if you managed to get your hands on one.

    http://www.hydrapinion.com/index.php/play/2013/06/14/why-hasn-t-the-roku
  • Reply 17 of 37

    We just canceled our trial of Sling. $20 a month doesn't sound bad, but after scrolling through the channels, the only one we were interested in was Disney, and you have to pay $5 more a month to get the other Disney channel.  It just looked and felt like the beginning of just another version of cable.  

     

    Last year we cancelled cable and home phone. We doubled our internet speed and still save $80 a month.  The only channel we missed was Disney.  But in the year since canceling cable, my youngest has found a variety of more interesting (educational) things to watch online.  

     

    We broke down bought and kept an Apple TV (after trying and returning two previously) and got Netflix 4-user package.  For $12 a month we all found and binged on shows we would have never watched or bothered to DVR.  But even Netflix rarely gets used now and will likely be cancelled.  Apple TV gets used for sharing things from our phones and computers.

     

    I think the Sling idea was great, but it turned out to be just another bundle -- paying for things we aren't going to use.  Apple may be able to bring the content providers to Apple TV eventually, but I think the industry has largely missed the boat.  

     

    A lot of the people who might have been interested in true a la carte content have already left the living room and have found alternatives. Advertising is moving to the web.  On the rare occasion we watch network TV my brain hurts when the commercials come on.  I feel like I've been transported back in time for the cheesy cliche commercials.

  • Reply 18 of 37
    Again, a bunch of channels I'd be paying for that don't interest me. I have a feeling these "new" 'service' providers are failing to get this opportunity right and will just become a cheaper, reduced version of cable or satellite with THEM deciding the offerings of my package of entertainment for me! Jeez...
  • Reply 19 of 37
    pazuzupazuzu Posts: 1,728member

    Wen will I get Amazon Prime on my Apple TV? I have it already on my iPhone.

  • Reply 20 of 37
    airplay, frustrating? Not anymore. Seems like they've refined it. I watch shows this way from Amazon Prime and I connect it and forget it...actually forget it's connected through airplay...still able to surf on iPad and do everything while it's connected via airplay. Seems to be rock solid now.
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