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Sling TV: Dish Network’s Mobile Platform

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The multichannel TV market is getting steadily more complicated. New recording and time-shifting technologies, the 4K resolution standard, High Dynamic Range color standards,  the streaming of video to mobile devices, and other advances offer more choices to consumers, and more competitive challenges to incumbent players in the industry.

Dish Network, which has long led the industry in technical innovation, has raised the stakes once again. In, January, Dish unveiled Sling TV, an independent internet video streaming service. With the new platform, you can download Dish video content directly to your mobile devices, without needing the standard satellite dish or receivers. You won’t have to buy equipment nor sign a long-term contract.  If you decide to drop the service, you won’t have to pay a penalty for early termination.

Though it is under the Dish Network umbrella, Sling TV is an entirely separate service.

HBO and CBS have already offered independent streaming services, and several cable systems are planning to do the same. Sling TV, though,may be the first truly practical one. The big difference is the low price for this broad a channel package. With the basic tier of Sling TV service, for which you’ll pay just $20 per month, you get a wide range of Turner and Disney channels, including ESPN and ESPN 2, the Disney Channel, TNT, TBS, ABC Family, Food Network, CNN, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, the Travel Channel, and even “the latest in internet video” from Maker Studios. For $5.00 per month more, you can add any of several custom channel packages, including news and children’s channels. Sling TV is compatible with Netflix and Hulu.  If you add these services to the basic package, your total bill will still be less than $55.00 per month, about half of the average cable TV bill.

Until now, one of the biggest shortcomings in stand-alone video streaming services has been the absence of live sports programming. Sling TV, though, offers ESPN and ESPN 2. For millions of Americans, this eliminates the biggest objection to  ‘cord-cutting’.

An ‘a la carte’  TV service, with the consumer picking each channel in his custom lineup separately, has long been a dream of consumer advocates. Sling TV isn’t quite there, but it it is the first major step in that direction. If you watch only a few favorite channels, it can save you hundreds of dollars per year compared to what you’d pay for a standard cable or satellite TV package.

Should you get Sling TV?  If you’re dissatisfied with your present TV service, you may want to try it. Since Dish Network doesn’t require a long term commitment or the purchase of equipment, you don’t stand to lose much. If you don’t like Sling TV, you can drop it without penalty. If you want only a few channels, you don’t want to pay for a massive package which includes many channels you never watch, or if most of your TV viewing will be away from home, then Sling TV may be what you need. If you want full DVR functions, though, or if you want hundreds of channels to choose from, then a standard cable or satellite TV service will work better for you.

Even if it is not the right TV service for all viewers, Sling TV is bound to shake up the industry, forcing all cable and satellite TV providers to offer similar services. As a result, all TV services may be fully customizable within a few years.

(Editor’s note:   For Sling TV, or for any other satellite or cable TV service, shop with Bundle Deals. Compare all providers, equipment, and channel packages available in your neighborhood, and order any service with just one phone call.)