There were many things announced at CES 2015 in January, but one of the most buzz-worthy things unveiled wasn't a virtual-reality headset or an expensive television or a even wearable gadget that could read every function in your body.
It was an over-the-top television service from Dish, called Sling TV. It's winning awards across the board, grabbing all the headlines, and making everyone wonder why another video service is generating such excitement. Part of the reason is cost, but another is content. Sling TV is competitively priced, and it'll have both live and premium channels.
That's right. With Sling TV, you'll have access to coveted shows and films and content from the likes of ESPN, AMC, and even HBO. We bet that piques your interest too, right?
What is Sling TV?
Dish Network is a popular satellite TV provider in the US with a subsidiary called Sling TV LLC. Sling TV announced in January that it would launch a live, over-the-top television service in February 2015. It's also called Sling TV.
What is an over-the-top service?
An over-the-top service refers to the delivery of audio, video, and other media over the internet.
There is no multiple-system operator (such as a telecommunications company or an internet service provider) involved with the control and distribution of said content.
Why is Dish offering Sling TV?
Dish is offering Sling TV in order to attract cord-cutters. They are people who like to watch video but don't subscribe to paid television. They prefer to watch their video content online at no cost or through on-demand services like Netflix.
Most cord-cutters have trouble accessing live or even premium content like ESPN or HBO. While HBO has its own video service, called HBO Go, it is currently only available as a complementary service to existing HBO television subscribers. Still, many cord-cutters don't mind the absence of content and continue getting their video online at no cost.
That last bit is key. Cord-cutters are a fast-growing segment of television watchers, and so traditional pay-TV companies, including Dish, are hastily exploring different ways to keep them tuned in and watching their live and premium content. Sling TV might just be the trick for Dish, or at least that's what it is hoping.
When will Sling TV launch - and for how much?
Sling TV officially launched in the US on 9 February.
Pricing starts at $20 a month, though you can sign up for a week-long free trial.
Sling TV will not require a commitment, contract, credit check, or hardware installation, according to Sling TV. Unfortunately, however, it will be limited to US customers and can only be streamed on one device at a time.
Which channels can you watch with Sling TV?
$20 core package
As a paid subscriber to Sling TV, you will get access to a core package called The Best of Live TV. It includes Video-On-Demand content and channels like ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, TBS, Food Network, HGTV, Travel, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, ABC Family, Ely, Ray, Galavision, Maker Network, and CNN.
When Sling TV launched in the US, the Sling TV team confirmed it would also add AMC to the core channel package. You'll be able to watch original AMC series like The Walking Dead, Better Call Saul, and Mad Men. The AMC Networks deal also includes BBC America, BBC World News, IFC, Sundance TV, and We TV.
These new AMC-portfolio channels are expected to be available "soon."
$5 add-on packages
You can also buy three add-on packages, called Sports Extra, Kids Extra, and News & Info Extra (each priced at $5 a month). The sports package includes ESPN News, ESPN U, SEC ESPN Network, ESPN Buzzer Beater, ESPN Bases Loaded, ESPN Goal Line, Universal Sports, and Bein Sports.
As for the kids package, it has channels like Disney Junior, Disney XD, Boomerang, Baby TV, and Duck TV, while the news package includes HLN, Cooking Channel, DIY, and Bloomberg.
What about HBO?
Dish entered into a new deal with Turner Broadcasting on 1 April. The deal includes the rights to offer HBO - the actual channel - for $15 per month through Sling TV, according to The Verge and Wall Street Journal. Both HBO's channel and video-on-demand content will be included in the fee, which is separate from Sling's $20 price.
Does Sling TV plan to add more channels?
Sling TV said it would soon launch another add-on package called Sports Extra. It also plans to expand its $20-a-month core package, Video-On-Demand content, and add-on packages throughout 2015.
Is the ESPN channel a major thing?
Yes. That's partly why everyone is talking about Sling TV.
The Wall Street Journal claimed cable providers, such as Time Warner Cable and Dish, generally pay ESPN more than any other top networks (including TNT, Disney, TBS, etc). ESPN earned $6.04 per subscriber for each month during 2014, where as TBS earned $0.72 per subscriber.
ESPN demands a higher premium because live sports is one of the biggest draws for paid television watchers. When they purchase a cable bundle, they usually want ESPN or some other sports channel included. But now, with Sling TV, non-cable subscribers will be able to watch live sports.
So, what does this all mean? People who subscribe to paid television might now become cord-cutters, simply because Sling TV is about to offer the live and premium content they so desire (aka sports coverage through ESPN) at a cheaper price (the average US household cable bill is $64.41).
UPDATE: Sling TV told Pocket-lint that Sling TV customers will also have access to Monday Night Football, but not if they are watching on mobile smartphones due to licensing agreements between NFL and Verizon.
How can you watch Sling TV?
You will need either a wired, Wi-Fi, or mobile broadband connection to watch Sling TV. You therefore must buy and/or have access to the internet. Secondly, you will need a device for watching Sling TV.
You can download the Sling TV app on your iOS or Android device, for instance, or visit the Sling website from Macs and PCs. You can also use the Sling TV app on Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Google Nexus Player, Roku players/TV models, select Samsung Smart TVs, select LG Smart TVs, and Xbox One.
Sling TV will add support for more streaming devices and smart TVs in the coming months. It also promised to deliver a consistent user interface across all its mobile apps, desktop website, and streaming device apps, thus making it easy for consumers to both navigate and use the service.
Are there any special features for live channels?
According to Sling TV, you will be able to pause, rewind, and fast-forward most live channels and Video-On-Demand content. Some channels will offer something called "3-Day Replay" though, which will let you watch shows that have aired during the past three days (no DVR is needed).