My family couldn’t stand the high prices of satellite TV. In 2004, we were paying about $90 per month for HBO, Showtime, and a full package. In 2012, to keep the same price, we had to cut out all premium services, downgrade our package, and listen to the sales rep tell us how much we were losing by doing so.
Then they raised our prices again on our basic package so that we were paying more than what we used to pay for everything – and we watched maybe a dozen channels at most. It was time to cut the cord.
Enter Sling TV. I received an invitation to try out the services 2 weeks ago. Here are the pros and cons of having cut the cord, but still having live TV over the internet when you want it.
Pro: It’s the Channels I Watch.
The other day, I got to watch Wisconsin play Nebraska live. It’s the first live sports I’ve watched not on networks named Fox, NBC, or CBS in two years at home. ESPN, ESPN2, and CNN help me stay productive during the day. The kids love Disney XD so they can watch Star Wars Rebels. It’s $20 + $5 for the kid add-on package, but no contracts, so I can cancel at any time.
Con: The App Has Some Bugs
I primarily use Sling TV on an iPad. As much as it would be nice to stream it through a Roku 3, I can’t justify the cost just to stream TV directly when my PS3 has every other streaming app. When a live program goes beyond its scheduled time, it’s next to impossible to finish watching it. In the basketball game I watched the other day, I had to switch channels about 40 times to watch the end of the game in 30 second increments.
If you watch more than one show in a row, you also have to choose the next show to watch from the menu to avoid getting an authorization error.
Pro: You Can Take It Anywhere
As long as you have a data connection, you can watch TV anywhere. I’ve taken the tablet on a road trip with the kids and had them watching live TV so I could drive without the “Are we there yet?” question happening every 5 seconds. Granted mobile live TV has low quality, but you can restrict the data stream to certain quality levels so that you can optimize the stream to whatever your needs happen to be.
Con: It Is a Data Hog
In 2 weeks of using Sling TV, we’ve noticed that without setting any restrictions on the data stream, it takes up about 450 MB of data to stream one 30 minute program. Although data isn’t an issue for our household since we have a truly unlimited plan with no 250GB cap on it, not everyone has that luxury. Some data plans are capped at 40 GB. Add in Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu Plus and you could hit that data cap pretty quickly over the course of a month.
Pro: Great Picture Quality
Sling TV is just as good a picture as any other cable or satellite stream. You get the picture in HD as well, which is nice when watching Sportscenter because you can actually read the entire ticker, something that SD streams don’t allow you to do very well. There are sometimes pixelation issues or catch-up problems that happen with the stream and some shows look like an old soap opera from the 1980’s, but the positives far outweigh the negatives here.
Pro: Limited Commercials
There are zero commercials that you have to watch on ESPN. Most other stations have limited commercials as well. Food Network offers a lot of promos for upcoming shows. When the live stream is on a commercial break, you get some calming on-hold music to tide you over. For those who are used to premium subscriptions, like the MLS Direct Kick package, then this is pretty standard. Takes some getting used to, however, if you’re used to 5 minutes of commercials and instead you get 5 minutes of the same 30 seconds of music on loop.
Con: Limited Availability
You can watch Sling TV through your browser, Roku 3, Android device, or iOS device. If you sign up for 3 months of Sling TV [by prepaying for it], then you can receive a $50 prepaid discount code on Amazon to get a free Fire stick for streaming. It isn’t available on PS3, PS4, or Xbox.
Other Roku products are compatible, but according to comments left on the Sling TV Facebook page, the streaming on the older Roku devices is slow.
My Verdict: Sold. Even without the promise of additional channels in the future, the value of Sling TV over the past 2 weeks has been better than expected. The main selling feature is access to ESPN/ESPN2, so the channel lineup isn’t for everyone. It is perfect, however, for me.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a father/daughter date to watch Doc McStuffins.