Sling TV Review: A Big St(r)eaming Pile of “MEH”

sling-television-by-dish

When I decided it was time to cut the cord and cancel cable, there was still a tiny part of me wondering if I’d regret it.  Sure, I really didn’t care about 90% of the channels in my U-verse lineup, but the handful of channels my wife and I DID watch (ESPN, HGTV, & TBS, to name a few) were certainly going to be missed.  If only there were a way to watch them without having to pay for all the other useless crap…

Enter Sling TV.

Sling TV bills itself as a company that lets you enjoy live TV without having to sign up for a cable subscription.  ESPN, ESPN2, HGTV, TBS, TNT, and the list goes on.  Quite impressive.  For $20 / month, it was worth the gamble.  Lots of big talk on their website.  Specifically:

Watch instantly. There’s no eight-hour window where you’re stuck waiting at home. There’s no cable guy. There’s no cable installation. Just the live TV you want.

That looked pretty good.  So I decided to give it a go, especially after reading that the Sling TV app was supported on the Xbox One.  Big plus for our living room, and for anyone wanting to use the Xbox One as a home media console.

On top of that, if you pay for 3 months in advance ($60 + taxes with the basic package), you’ll be given a free Roku Streaming Stick.  Considering that the stick itself goes for $46.99 on Amazon, that’s a great value.

Initial impression?  Pretty good.  Preeeetty darn good.

The Good: Sling TV on the Roku Streaming Stick

Really, not many complaints.  Sling TV runs well on the Roku Stick, though there are some hiccups here and there.  Pretty common issues as with any streaming service: quality drop or slight lag when initially loading a channel.  However, it recovers quickly, and you’re back to HD or near-HD quality in no time.  The interface is straightforward, though could be much better.  I’m sure that’s something that will be tweaked in the future.

Still, working ESPN, working TBS, working HGTV!  Overall, pretty awesome to be able to watch live TV without paying a cable company.

Somewhat tangential, but the fact that you actually get the Roku Stick for free from Sling TV is nothing to sneeze at.  We probably use it more for Netflix, but hey, thanks guys.  Still a cool promotion.

Roku App Grade: B+

The Okay: Login Credentials

Something I hadn’t thought much of is that Sling TV is considered an “official” provider on a lot of website portals.  You can access content directly from the channel websites.  For example, you can use your Sling TV login on WatchESPN and just use that app rather than the Sling TV app.  Which can be useful on certain platforms (more on that next).

Grade: B

The Ugly (REALLY, REALLY, REALLY UGLY): Sling TV on the Xbox One

The Xbox One app is trash.  It stinks.  It’s terrible.  Plain and simple, it’s a 1 out of 5 stars product.  And that’s being generous and giving it a star for even trying.  It’s so bad that it almost ruins the entire service.

The app is sloppy, and was likely a project given to the IT-intern in between coffee runs.  As a company, there’s no way they can defend it.  The app crashes.  Tons of lag.  Channels outright won’t load.  Get used to this:

 

As more and more people cut the cord, there will absolutely be heavy reliance on these apps and services, and Sling TV has shown they’re really just not ready for prime time.  It’s almost as though the app is simply proof of concept for them.  “Yes, we can get an app on the Xbox One system.  It’s terrible, completely unreliable, and you’ll never use it — but it’s on the system.”

I tried watching the Ohio State v Virginia Tech opener on Sling TV, and was able to put up with it for all of 5 minutes.  The stream would freeze, and if I tried resetting the channel, I’d be taken back to a point 10 minutes prior to live TV, with no way of pulling the live feed.  Just terrible.

Eventually, I ended up opening the WatchESPN app on the Xbox One and using my Sling TV credentials to get that going.  And (gasp) it worked.  Obviously, the shitty intern isn’t developing the WatchESPN app.

Xbox One App Grade: F-

Final Thoughts

I’m going to keep using Sling TV (and not just because I pre-paid for 3 months).  I’m a fan of where they’re going with this service, but it’s clear that it’s just not that great right now.  Do I regret cutting the cord?  No, and that at least says something.  But Sling TV has to do more than just present a proof of concept.  They need to actually provide a stable, usable product to the customer, something that they’re very much unable to do at the moment.

As the blog title says, Sling TV is a lot of “meh”.  Customers won’t leave big cable companies in droves when the alternative is … well, paying for something that doesn’t work.

Until Sling TV is able to address that, don’t expect them to put a dent in big cable’s customer base.

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cainsbrain

I like to watch sports, drink beer and draw things, often at the same time.

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3 Responses

  1. Walker says:

    I also foolishly prepaid for 3 months. I’m so angry about how unreliable the service is – which to me is the same as no service at all – i’m contacting support each and every day until i get my money back. I’ve also issued a chargeback as well. It’s not the money; it’s that support just constantly says, “Yeah, i know there are problems, but just watch it on your phone.” This company needs to be punished for offering a truly terrible product.

  2. lee parks says:

    On my 7th trial day only had a few slow loads (roku stick & roku 1) I think this is a great alternative to cable/sat. however I do have an antenna for local channels & also have amazon prime saving $60/mo from directv , since it’s month to month I’ll keep it for now, like having CNN & wife likes cooking channel, this is the wave of the future, no contracts!!!

  3. David says:

    Agree that Sling on Xbone should be a free service, because it is worthless for all but live news (CNN), where constant streaming issues don’t necessarily prevent you from learning a fact or two … with constant interruptions, video lag/freezing.

    Apparently, the major issues are related to the Xbox One service, and other services mediums are ‘adequate’. Agree the ‘intern’ must be a homeless12-year old with ADHD and a serious and persisting drug problem.

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