Sling TV Is More Confusing, Less Worth The Money Than EverBy Jeremy Evans / August 18, 2016 / Tags: Cut Cable
Sling TV made some changes recently. And now it’s even harder to tell what you will or won’t be able to watch.
Sling TV debuted with great hype and anticipation. Perhaps the world finally had a decent cable TV alternative, we hoped. Maybe Internet TV would, at last, get it right and cutting cable would be a real option, we dared to dream.
Sadly, Sling TV hasn’t panned out. Yes, the TV streaming service gives subscribers access to popular networks without a traditional cable or satellite package. True, the channel lineup actually includes networks people want to watch (unlike other services like Klowd TV) — AMC, FX, Disney, Cartoon Network, and lots more. And, a huge boon, Sling TV made it possible to watch ESPN without cable.
So it makes sense that hopes were high. But the reality is that Sling TV, owned by DISH Corp., has hung itself in a tangled web of confusing packages, inscrutable restrictions, and frustration limitations.
Confusing, Messy, Misleading Packages And Add-Ons
Recently, Sling TV doubled down on the complicated mess it calls its packages. There are now two base package options instead of one — Orange and Blue. Ok, easy enough. Orange gets you one set of channels, and Blue another. Or, you can get a combo of both packages for not-quite-double-the-money. There is a lot of channel overlap between Orange and Blue, so it’s a bit annoying, but not too big a deal.
In addition to base packages, there are a number of add-ons you can get for an additional monthly fee that give you access to more channels — the Sports Extra, News Extra, Hollywood Extra, etc. Here’s where things start to break down. The channels in each add-on depend on which base package you have.
Take ESPN, for example. You only get ESPN channels in the Sports Extra add-on if you have the Orange package. Blue customers, you’re out of luck. Another example, Golf Channel is only included in the Sports Extra for Blue subscribers.
Sling does not make it easy to figure all this out before you buy. The packages and add-ons seem strategically designed to make people pay for a bunch of channels they don’t want just to get the few they do want. Sound familiar? Yup — that’s one of the most annoying things about cable.
Things get worse with Sling TV’s on-demand options. You can watch movies and TV shows on demand on a few Sling TV channels. But you’re in for a world of frustration here, as there is no consistency whatsoever.
The episodes available vary wildly and unpredictably, making it completely unreliable. The only way Sling TV’s on-demand access is useful is if you don’t care which show, or which episode of that show, you watch on any given night.
That may work for some. But personally, I’m not happy settling for Season 9 Episode 10 of The Pioneer Women when I was hoping to catch the next episode in my Walking Dead binge. The frustration level is on the rise.
Hit-Or-Miss (And Mostly Miss) Show Replay
Some Sling TV channels come with a show replay feature. This is different than on-demand. It means you can replay a recently-aired episode within a certain time window after it’s original air date.
Within what time window? I’m still trying to figure that out. Some channels have a 3-day replay window. For some channels it’s 8 days. On others it’s 7 days. And on most it’s zero days.
Like on-demand, replay isn’t something you can count on. The frustration level is now at alarming levels.
Random Restrictions, Limitations, And Blackouts Galore
But wait — there’s more to dislike. Just to further confuse and annoy, Sling TV also has a bunch of other channel- and location-specific restrictions, limitations, fine print, and blackouts.
A&E and Lifetime withhold certain shows. Sports is very spotty (even with ESPN) due to rights issues, and available sports channels sometimes (which times? who knows) depend on your zip code. Only some of the over-the-air broadcast channels (NBC, Fox, etc.) are available, and in most locations you can only watch them on-demand — although even in the available locations it depends on which package you have. You’re very limited on the number of devices you can use at the same time — a huge problem if you don’t live alone.
I could go on, but I think you get the point.
But It’s Still A Good Option For Cord-Cutters… Right?
Am I too harsh? Sling TV does, after all, give people access to lots of the best TV networks, works on multiple devices, and is cheaper than what most people pay for cable. And yes, the first major Internet TV service will have some kinks to work out.
But if you can’t turn on your TV without a good idea of what you’ll be able to watch — the service is a major fail.
Enough time has passed since Sling TV launched, and the kinks are only getting worse. The service comes with more limitations and restrictions it frees one from under the monopoly of cable companies.
Plus, the cost savings are questionable. Once you buy a DVR, pay to boost your broadband speed so you can stream without maddening stops and starts, buy an antenna so you can get over-the-air channels, maybe get a VPN so your ISP doesn’t throttle your connection because you’re using too much bandwidth, and get a Sling TV package plus add-ons that gives you the channels you want, the savings are pretty slim.
To me, Sling TV just isn’t worth it. And I’m someone who really wanted it to be the answer to my cord-cutter prayers.
Some theorize that DISH has intentionally kept Sling TV down. That the satellite TV behemoth doesn’t actually want its offspring to do too well or suck too many customers away from its higher-priced packages.
Perhaps that’s true. I had hoped to see Sling TV get better after the launch of competitor service PlayStation Vue from Sony. But so far, it has gotten worse. Maybe when Hulu’s live streaming service, VIDGO, launches in the coming months Sling will be forced to pull itself together, or else pull the plug and stop wasting people’s time.
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