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The Sling TV is a Next-Level “F— You” to Cable

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DISH network is launching a new service called Sling TV, which allows subscribers to stream live TV to their television sets for $20/month. Really, this just the next step in the evolution of DISH’s “Hopper”, which allowed DISH subscribers to stream from their home DVR to other devices, and (if connected to broadband) those devices could be anywhere.

Sling TV takes that same idea, but distills it for people who don’t have a TV subscription at all. With 29.2 million Netflix and 4 million Hulu subscribers out there and 16.5 million Apple TVs sold, there’s definitely a market available to be cornered. As more and more people are opting to “cut the cord” and move away from typical cable subscriptions, DISH is trying to lure them in with a different proposition: get the live channels you want at an affordable rate without a contract.

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Live Channels

Apple TV, Fire TV, Roku and all of the other streaming options are great for watching your favorite scheduled TV shows. Just log in with Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, or your preferred streaming service, and your content is right at your fingertips. But all of the shows you can watch on these devices are prerecorded. That’s where the Sling TV has the upper hand.

The Sling TV has the advantage of letting you watch your favorite channels live. This is especially useful for sports fans, but can also be good for people who don’t like waiting to watch their TV shows. The stars here are probably ESPN and ESPN 2, with their round-the-clock sports content, but the Sling TV also includes the Disney Channel, ABC Family, Food Network, HGTV, the Travel Channel, TBS, TNT, CNN, and Cartoon Network.

Additionally, you can add extra channels in packs, like the Kids Extra or the News & Info Extra packs. Which sounds a lot like how regular cable works…(shhh!)

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No Contract

The other half of the deal is that Sling TV is a no-contract subscription, so you can cancel it at any time. This is, of course, in direct contrast to cable (and satellite) companies that lock you in with a juicy introductory rate, then jack up the price for the rest of your two-year contract. And if you’ve ever tried to cancel your service, you know how much of a pain that can be.

The Pitfalls

The system isn’t perfect, mind you. After all, you’re stuck tacking on an extra $20/month to use Sling TV, and I say extra, because it’s not really meant to replace your other streaming services, just augment them. This is especially clear when you consider that channels like AMC and FX aren’t available on Sling TV (perhaps they’ll be added later), and over-the-air broadcast networks like FOX, CBS, NBC, and ABC are nowhere to be found either. Sure, you could pick up an HD antenna, but that’s yet another cost you’re adding to the process.

Final Word

Sling TV seems like a good business idea: go after people who have resisted getting cable for one reason or another, and offer them an opportunity to fill in a gap in their TV-watching experience. Given that DISH has the infrastructure in place already to achieve this, it shouldn’t cost that much on their end to roll it out. The real question is how much of a value proposition this is for consumers, who have to add yet another subscription fee, and don’t even get their local channels in the package. Maybe over time, more channels will be added to the base subscription, and it’ll become a better deal, or DISH will really change the game by offering a truly à la carte way to choose your channels. It’s pretty clear that Sling TV has the potential to squeeze out big cable entirely, but it’s more concept than practice right now. Until the dust settles, I’ll be waiting it out, but with a watchful eye, because this could get really interesting.

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