Why I’m Not Subscribing to Sling TV


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Sling TV

Sling TV continues to make headlines. The latest news: cable stalwarts AMC and IFC have joined the roster of channels included in the company’s $20-per-month streaming-TV package.

That’s kinda huge, as it makes available popular shows like “Mad Men,” “Portlandia,” and “The Walking Dead” (all of them personal favorites). And it brings the total channel count to 16, a number that’s sure to continue to grow.

As someone who’s been eagerly awaiting the day he can cut the costly cable-TV cord, I can only say this: Nope. Still not biting.

Wait, what? All that TV goodness for just $20 and it’s not enough? Sorry, Sling, but it’s too little, too late. Much as I like your channel lineup, which consists of almost exactly the cable networks I like to watch, the reality is I don’t watch live TV anymore. (Well, okay, I watch some sports, but not much, and mostly local teams not likely to appear on ESPN.) And that’s what Sling TV slings: live TV.

Hey, guys: 1998 called and they want their business model back. (See, because DVRs didn’t appear until 1999, and — oh, just go Wikipedia it for yourself.)

Here in 2015, most of us are spoiled by our DVRs and Netflixes and Hulus — the tools and services that let us watch TV on-demand, at our convenience. Live TV is about as far from convenient as you can get. And while I do appreciate that sometimes it’s nice to have it on in the background, is it $20/month nice?

Make no mistake: I hate my cable TV bill as much as the next guy. But do the math: Any earnest cord-cutting efforts are likely to cost you nearly as much each month, at the same time saddling you with hassles and limitations. Cable, for all its rotten customer service and obnoxious fees, offers a huge selection and considerable convenience. (Just try traditional channel-flipping with Sling TV. Changing channels is frustratingly slow.) People tend to forget that.

To effectively replace cable, you need the likes of Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Sling TV, HBO Go (when it arrives a-la-carte later this year), a Roku box, and maybe even an antenna-based DVR for your local channels. That still won’t give you everything cable offers, but it will force you create a spreadsheet just to keep track of where you can watch, say, “Downton Abbey” and “The Daily Show.”

Oh, and there’s another consideration: the more people rush to abandon cable for data-driven TV, the greater the likelihood of increased ISP rates to handle the heavier load. You may be able to shave $20-30 off your monthly TV bill, but it’s a safe bet you’ll end up paying more for Internet. The cable companies aren’t about to just let customers pay less.

And that brings us to the meat of the issue. People don’t want to cut the cable-TV cord; they want lower cable bills. They want a-la-carte options. They want competition that forces companies like Comcast to improve customer service (and reduce rates).

Sling TV, which has no DVR option and limited on-demand content, is not the answer. It’s certainly nowhere near enough to lure me away from cable. I may be paying Comcast a bit more than I’d like, but I’m also liking what I’m getting.

Photo credit: Sling TV LLC

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