All you need to know about Dish’s new Sling TV service

25 Comments

Credit: Janko Roettgers / Gigaom

Dish’s Sling TV online streaming service, which the company plans to launch in the coming weeks, made waves at CES earlier this month, but a few questions were left unanswered. Sling TV CEO Roger Lynch took to Reddit this week to answer some of them in the form of an AMA-style crowdsourced interview.

Here are some of the highlights of the AMA, as well as other previously announced details that potential Sling TV customers may be interested in:

  • Base package content: For $20, Sling TV will get you access to live feeds from ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, TBS, Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, ABC Family and CNN.
  • Kids’ package content: An optional $5 kids’ package gets you access to live feeds from Disney Junior, Disney XD, Boomerang, Baby TV and Duck TV.
  • News package content: Sling TV’s optional $5 news and information package includes access to live feeds from HLN, Cooking Channel, DIY and Bloomberg TV.
  • Sports package content: There will eventually be a sports add-on package as well, but details are still scarce. Said Lynch: “We’re not ready to announce specific channels for the ‘Sports Extra’ add-on pack, but you can expect to see more great channels from ESPN, as well as other popular sports networks.”
  • WatchESPN: Access to WatchESPN is included, said Lynch. But the devil is in the details: Sling TV base package subscribers only have access to ESPN1, ESPN2 and ESPN3 via WatchESPN, according to an ESPN spokesperson.
  • Number of devices: “You can have Sling TV on as many devices as you want, however at launch, Sling TV will be a single-stream service,” said Lynch.
  • Resolution and bandwidth: Sling TV will be available in 720p and 1080p, and users will be able to tweak their streaming settings: “Through settings, we give you tools to limit the bandwidth for your streaming if you’re worried about your data cap,” Lynch said.
  • Speaking of bandwidth caps: Sling TV’s CEO seems to be aware of last-mile issues, especially since he’s competing with ISPs and their TV services. “We do have concerns about net-neutrality and the effect the proposed Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger could have on the broadband market,” he said.
  • Surround sound: Sling TV supports Dolby surround sound where available. “We support DD 5.1 and it will be available on most channels and most VOD content,” Lynch told Reddit readers.
  • 4K: Won’t be available at launch, in part because TV networks aren’t quite ready. “No live channels are offering 4K content yet,” he said.
  • Device availability: Sling TV will be available on Android TV, Fire TV, Roku, Xbox One, iOS, Android and desktops. The iOS app will support Airplay. There won’t be any Chromecast support at launch, but it’s coming: Lynch said, “We plan to launch on many more devices throughout the year, and Chromecast is on our list!” He was notably less enthusiastic about bringing Sling TV to the Playstation, saying: “Not at launch but we’re always open to new device partnerships.” That might be because Sony is about to launch its own TV service on the Playstation.
  • How to get access: Sling TV will officially launch in the coming weeks, but Lynch shared a trick for everyone who wants first dibs: “Just go to Sling.com to get your invite. We’re rolling these out later this month before the general public.”

25 Comments

Paul

Just received a free month of Sling TV with my Xbox Live account and was really excited to try this out and see how it works. I’m already a cord cutter and don’t have a cable provider and would gladly pay the $20 a month for a few of these channels that I enjoy watching.

After about a week of using Sling TV, I’m underwhelmed by it. There are far too many technical issues that plague the service. I’m on a 20mb internet connection and have never had any issues with other streaming services, however Sling TV has quite a few pauses and delays in it. I’m not sure how the underlying technology works and maybe they are already doing so, but it seems like they need to delay the broadcasts a minute or two or more to provide a better quality and get rid of pauses and delays. There have been very few 30 min programs that we’ve been able to sit through without some sort of delay or pause. Quite often the stream will just stop and show the loading symbol and sit there for an indefinite amount of time until you change channels or exit the application and come back. Other times the application just crashes with obscure error messages. Not sure if this is an XBL client issue, or if this is something on the server side. I’ve tried a few times on our Roku player and seemed to had similar issues however most of the playback has been on the XB1. Another annoying issue which I mostly notice on HGTV and might have something to do with the fact that you can replay some older shows, but I’ll think I’m going to live TV as I’m going through the channel list, but somehow I end up on a previous show, and then if the show pauses or won’t stream and I have to exit out and come back, it won’t allow me to fast forward to where I left off and have to start from the beginning again. Commercials are particularly frustrating with Sling TV and it seems like they are on separate/different streams from the actual show or movie you’re watching because they always start out pixelated very poor until they buffer enough to get a high quality signal. Then when the show starts back up you have the same issue as well. On a HDTV, this really gets annoying to me pretty quick.

All that being said, I’m hoping they can overcome the technical issues that are plaguing Sling TV right now. I’ll probably stick it out for a month of paying for the service to see if it improves, but if they can’t resolve some of these issues I’ll have to pass on it. I’m optimistic though and love the idea here.

Frank

This is a great step forward. There are only two channels I really want though, a certain cable news channel, and certain sport-specific channel. I don’t see those channels mentioned yet, but am hopeful they will be available someday. I’m already completely set up with a wifi Roku system at home so am ready to go.

Wisdombody

I just started my trial and the answer is 1, which is a near deal-breaker for me. We had tennis playing upstairs and as soon as we turned on cartoons downstairs, tennis stopped playing. Looking up their FAQ, they state devices are unlimited but streams are limited to only 1 at a time. Not a good business move and hopefully it changes.

Doug

So for $30 a month I can watch an OK selection of HDTV without locals or DVR capability on one phone/tablet/laptop maybe cast it to my TV while being dependant on my ISP’s service and or mobile data caps?

I don’t see the draw.

Scott

This is a great selection of channels. The sports package add-on should have TWC Sports channel, Pac-12 Network, Fox Sports 1, and NFL Network.

VacuumTube

Could someone clarify whether the major network broadcast channels are going to be available on this service? Nobody’s mentioned CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, etc.

Lisa Venezia Giannotti

But it seems the major networks are missing (CBS, nbc, fox, abc) and that is the only reason I keep cable (football and nbc nationally broadcast hockey, Olympics etc).

patti

It doesn’t work. I live in NJ 19 miles from NYC City, and bought a flat antenna, and I couldn’t get anything by 8 spanish channels.

You have to buy a stronger, $110-$200 antenna for roof installation.

BB

Yep, you might need a better antennae. You shouldn’t need to spend more than $130 and you can put it in an attic or on a rooftop… But it is a one time cost vs ongoing cable payments. Cable where I live is about $70/month for basic. So an antennae pays for itself in two months time.

BB

Ever hear of an antennae? Almost every TV you can buy here in the US includes an ATSC tuner. Plug in an antennae and get local and broadcast channels for free— that’s why they are called “broadcast” channels. Funny that a couple of generations of people don’t understand that TV traditionally has been free. Cable only came about from the promise of paying the provider to eliminate commercials/ads and provide premium content— those same providers now “double dip”—you pay them AND they get revenue from commercials— even entire channels of nothing BUT commercials.

Karen

Pair it with Tablo and you’ve got “record, pause, FF,” etc. Might be worth $20.

Cyberslush

Very tempted. Now go partner with Tivo so that I can DVR shows like I can cable. Seems like that would be a no brainer, adds the DVR capability while not having to integrate that into the core service itself.

To me that is the perfect cord cutter solution. OTA + SlingTV + DVR via Tivo. Everything via one device with a single DVR solution.

Kevin

My 65 yo mother keeps HGTV on all day until it’s time to watch The Big Bang Theory. This thing is perfect as it’s got some of the few channels it was still necessary to have cable for.

bwillys

Can you clarify some of the above detail, specifically… “Sling TV base package subscribers only have access to ESPN1, ESPN2 and ESPN3 via WatchESPN”.

Does that mean I must have a cable ‘WatchESPN’ subscript in order to access ESPN through SlingTV? I do not have a cable subscript but I am interested in the SlingTV offering of ESPN, using Roku. What will be my method of access?

Thanx muchos…

Ivan Alcantara Peña

You will not need a Cable or Sat Subscription, it will be a stand alone service offered in the US, and only ESPN1 and 2 will be available for now, not ESPN3 or any other ESPN Network Channel apart from 1 and 2.

Glen Barrington

I note it is all third tier channels mentioned, none of the stuff I WANT. Just the stuff I ignore now

mike

It’s only interesting because some networks which have been cable only have agreed to an over-the-top deal.
However with no DVR capability and limited on-demand capability this is both a step forward (due to the point I started wtih) and a step back to circa 1980.
I love me some House Hunters. But you know what – I don’t love it enough to make it a thing I have to do at just that time and then run to the bathroom or to get a sandwich during commercials. And try explaining to anyone who happens to phone you that you can’t talk right now because you can’t just pause the TV.
All in all it seems like these networks have the idea that they will march into over-the-top land much like many networks march into ‘On-Demand’ land on cable set top boxes, eliminating features along the way. I’ve given up on On-Demand almost completely. I’ve watched the last show I can’t fast-forward through thanks very much.

Survival Scientist

Everything I have read indicates you CAN pause TV…. the caveat is that some channels don’t have the 3 day replay and some do, so channels without the replay, you can only go back as far as when you started watching the channel… its not a perfect DVR.. but it isn’t bad either….and keep in mind.. it will only get better…

ZuD

I am excited, then I am not, then I read something that gets me excited. Needless to say, it’s exhausting.

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