Saturday, February 7, 2015

"$20 a month for ESPN? OMG."

"$20 a month for ESPN? OMG" was the subject line in the email I received yesterday from Sling TV. I signed up for an account as soon as it was first revealed that the service would be made available "soon". I installed it immediately.

We "cut the cord" at our house sometime last year. We got tired of the price gamesmanship from Charter and AT&T U-Verse. That is, we tired of the 12 month teaser prices that jumped by 50% or more when the promotional period is up. Also, having to pay by the TV didn't make sense either. We had to have four set top boxes and additional cables which were ugly and we had the privilege of paying for each one to boot.

Despite what some people told us, and the fact that we live 55+ miles from the tower of the ABC affiliate, we were able to get all the TV we needed with an antenna we purchased from Amazon and installed in our attic. We used the existing cable to distribute the signal to each of our TV's. We immediately saved $110 per month.  Charter, by the way, reacted to our leaving by offering us deals that were better than those offered by their customer retention department to simply stay. By this time, we were more annoyed than tempted.

The only thing we missed was ESPN. I figured that with so many "millenials" going without cable, ESPN would eventually have to offer some direct-to-consumer option similar to what Netflix does. That didn't happen, at least not yet, but they did strike a deal to offer ESPN via an Internet connection over a new service called Sling TV, which is a subsidiary of DISH. You need not be a DISH TV customer to get Sling TV. The service is $20 a month and most importantly, has NO contract. It's month-to-month. The first 7 days are free. Payment is by monthly credit card draft so there's no credit check.

The only reason we signed up was for ESPN, but also included are: ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, TBS, Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, ABC Family, CNN, El Rey, and Galavision. Additional channels are available for $5 per month.

As a new service, it's a bit spare. You can only watch on a PC, Mac, iOS device, Android or Roku devices. We can't yet watch on the WatchESPN app, but according to Sling, it's coming soon. Sling also promises to be supported on other devices including Amazon Fire and XBox in the near future. I am using it primarily on my Nexus 10 tablet.

The question that everyone asks is: Can it run on different devices at the same time? At first, I thought the answer was yes as I was able to install and run it on another device at the same time, but after a short time, perhaps when the buffer ran out, it stopped on the first device that was streaming it.

I'm mildly disappointed we can't watch two shows at the same time on diferent devices but I didn't really expect that we would be able to. It's not cable after all. And it's only $20 a month.

This is a gamble for ESPN in that they don't want to risk cannibalizing customers from their cable TV partners. For that reason, it's been said they may limit signups. That may be hype or it may be real. Edit: For now, you can go to to sign up for an invitation... and wait.
An invitation is no longer required.

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