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Sling TV review: Television's future is still in development

Jared Newman | Feb. 2, 2015
Sling TV changed my TV-viewing habits in less than a week.

Sling TV changed my TV-viewing habits in less than a week.

Since my family ditched cable TV six years ago, the television has become less of a fixture in our house. We still use Netflix and a handful of other apps on occasion, but the process of finding something to watch often feels like more trouble than its worth, and many evenings go by where I turn to my phone or tablet for entertainment instead.

Dish Network's Sling TV, a $20-per-month service with live access to ESPN and 10 other cable channels, brought back the couch potato element that's been missing all these years. It's so easy to just turn on something--anything, really--that our overall TV usage has skyrocketed. Sling TV fills the gaps where on-demand seems, well, too demanding.

You might also be interested in reading this story: '10 tips and tricks to get the most out of your Netflix subscription'

This phenomenon may not be particularly interesting to cable-TV subscribers, but Dish Network hopes Sling TV will appeal to people who've abandoned pay TV service or never had it in the first place. Sling TV shows promise as a source of live TV for considerably less money Dish's satellite service, though it has lots of rough edges right now.

What you get

Before we dive into how the software works, let's go over what Sling TV's $20 per month subscription fee gets you. The base package includes 11 live channels: ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, TBS, Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel, Cartoon Network/Adult Swim, Disney Channel, ABC Family and CNN. A subscription also includes access to the WatchESPN app, which includes many more games than what you get through the main feed.

If those channels aren't enough, you can add more in bundles, each of which costs an additional $5 per month. "Kids Extra" adds Disney Junior, Disney XD, Boomerang, Baby TV and Duck TV, and "News & Info Extra" adds HLN, Cooking Channel, DIY and Bloomberg TV. Sling is working on a "Sports Extra" package as well, but this wasn't available for testing. Some on-demand movies are also available for rental, though you'll likely find a more comprehensive selection elsewhere.

For better or worse, Sling TV does not include basic networks like ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox, so you'll still have to get them the old-fashioned way: With an antenna. While that's less convenient than having a single app for everything, it does help keep the cost of Sling TV down.

There's no DVR service, but some channels include an impressive feature called "Replay," which lets you scroll back in time to any show from the past three days. These channels also include a selection of on-demand shows, and allow you to pause, rewind and fast forward whatever you're currently watching.

 

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