Sling™, Slang, Slung

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A few months ago I began a new phase of my life. I gave up something I had relied on to get through each and every day, my rock, my DirecTV. I wanted to try a streaming service for my television content and to save a few bucks in the process.

Why Did I Go With Sling?

  1. The channel line-up:
    • The channels I had decided I couldn’t live without were on the Sling Blue package. There is also and Orange lineup and you can combing the two… for me Blue was just fine.
      • Channels with MMA and Boxing: AXS, Fox Sports and NBC Sports (also home for the Dan Patrick Show)
      • News: BBC World, CNN, MSNBC (very very rarely)
        • It is missing Fox News which seems peculiar until you think of the demo that must be using a streaming service for their TV.
          (let’s be honest, most young folks either don’t watch the news or have been shamed from ever watching FNC.)
      • Edu-tainment: History Channel, Travel, Food Network, etc
  2. Supported Devices: (that I care about)
    • For my two big TVs I use an XBox One and Xbox One S
    • If I am in bed I with the TV on I am using my Amazon FireStick (to watch TV)
    • The app for the MacOS is handy too if you need a bigger screen but not the full on TV thing
    • iPad/iPhone: for when I am out and about
  3. Customization of your Channel line-up
    • I’ll get to this… it needs work

With that being said, here is where I am at after three months.

Issues:

  1.  Search Feature: It can’t find simple things
    • You would think the first thing your search feature should do is to find the name of shows. This isn’t me trying to find names of shows from 10 years ago. You can search for show names that are active on the guide and they don’t show up.
  2. Favoriting Shows: Only certain ones
    • Some programs don’t give you the option of favoriting them.
  3. Starting, Stopping, Resuming, Yelling, Weeping
    • So I started watching a Fox on Demand show on my laptop one evening. I started to fall out and decided to watch the rest the following day.
    • When I went to resume it the my Xbox One and I didn’t have the option to resume. Since this is a on-demand video from Fox you cannot fast forward to where you left off because they don’t want you skipping the same three promos for other Fox shows that air on each break.
  4. The “Cloud DVR” is where exactly?
    • I added the cloud DVR to my package. I would love to tell you how it is working but it doesn’t appear to have been rolled out (at least to me) yet.
  5. Fox Sports Regionals – Almost nailed.
    • Although I’m in New Orleans it defaults to the wrong Fox Sports Regional channel. Specifically my default FSR channel is Dallas which means I need to grind through a million other things to get to my Pelicans.

Things to Consider

If you are planning on making this kind of move or assembling a cable-free/sat-free life here are some key points to consider.

  1. How Consistent Is Your Connection?
    • Just because you feel like your connection is fast doesn’t mean it is consistently so. High demand times are also around primetime viewing. There seems to be service-side issues during these times and it can be compounded by congestion on your local part of the Internet.
  2. Get Some Rabbit Ears or a Hand Fan (antenna)
    • For the overwhelming majority of users you will need to get your local programming from an over the air signal. While most local news stations allow you to stream their news casts off their own website, anything else you watch will need to be viewed from a digital TV broadcast.
      • HDTV antennas are fairly inexpensive and not terribly intrusive. However, remember digital signals are all there or not there at all. In the good old days of analog broadcast you could have a weak but usable signal. These days its a light switch for your reception, not a dimmer.
      • This also means you will not be DVR’ing those over the air broadcasts unless you have a Tivo or the like setup to do so.
  3. Pick the Channels You Want: Kinda
    • If you are walking into this concept thinking you can select each channel you want and go on your merry way like it is a salad bar, you will be disappointed.
      • Sling is much like the other streaming providers out there. You figure out what you normally watch and decide between base packages and then choose add-on bundles of additional channels to hopefully fill in the blanks. (sounds a lot cable/dbs/etc doesn’t it?)
      • You have to remember that in order to get approved to carry channels they require not only licensing fees from providers, but often times placements. For example NBC owned channels with a high draw will only be available if the provider also carries their less popular channels too.

Is It There Yet?

In a word, no. At least if you are used to a high-end cable or sat package. There are plenty of channels, but the interface has some wonky issues. Then there is the mythical “Cloud DVR.” Having a ‘guide’ and ‘my channels’ is a bit of a clumsy thing. But there is also the pixelation and buffering that happens more often that the occasional DirecTV weather outages. And what about switching back and forth between your TV’s OTA receiver and then back to the device that you are using to stream the rest of your television programming world. Oh and as if the annoyance of signal breakup from streaming isn’t bad enough, remember that the over the air broadcast is likely to do the same on a few channels.

Did I mention you can also rent movies to watch? I didn’t? That’s because I’ve never used it. The selection doesn’t really seem to be worth the money or potential headaches. Getting them from other dedicated services is less likely to have the on-demand buffering problems I mentioned.

So I am going to stick with it through this billing cycle and hopefully get a chance to see the cloud-dvr-unicorn. However I already have my eyes on Playstation Vue… but that won’t work on the Xboxes. Maybe this becomes the final push to get me to get a Playstation?

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