Will Apple TV Make Sling Better?

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 Courtesy Apple

Apple has partnered with Sling TV to bring Sling’s live television experience to the Apple TV set top box. Already available on Android, iOS, Mac, and Roku, Sling works like cable television without the impediments of a satellite dish or cable box; as long as you have an Internet connection, you have access to a few channels — ESPN, HGTV, CNN, and TBS — for $20 a month, and can buy “packs” of extras for $5 per month each, like the sports pack or the Lifestyle Extra package, which includes truTV, the Cooking Channel, and the DIY network. Alongside this, the Apple TV price tag gets a minor rewrite: When you prepay $60 for three months of Sling TV access, you can buy a new Apple TV for $89, down from its list price of $150.

Apple has adapted Sling’s live-television streaming software to elegantly fit within the Apple TV interface. That app got a facelift for its Apple-enabled debut — there’s no scrolling sea of channels to get lost in, but a personalized list of favorite channels and favorite shows that are playing at the moment you start it up. Sling TV’s new compatibility helps build the Apple TV into a cord-cutter’s dream machine, that is, if it works properly. But as it’s now associated with Apple, it needs to be great. It was just last year, during the NCAA Final Four that it became clear Sling has some bugs and kinks to work out — with service dropping a closed customer service department. 

That said, so far, so good. The new interface is built around convenience and usability; it looks great in its initial demonstrations. The only thing that remains to be seen is how well Sling TV service will hold up against what ought to be a significant influx of new users, stretching Sling server capacity and testing the company’s Internet infrastructure.

Ultimately it is up to Sling to maintain and improve its services such that it can support the necessary number of viewers during highlight events, like the Final Four or the Super Bowl. Sling TV’s software had to be reimagined in order to work more elegantly with the Apple TV in terms of appearance, and this could have also allowed for some under-the-hood improvements. If it goes south, then the company would appear to have found a high-profile way to embarrass itself. Even an Internet-connected live television set that drops its signal is still going to get smacked.

Sling TV will be easy and comfortable to use on the Apple TV, but it will not magically be made crash-proof by virtue of running on an Apple device. Such a task is firmly in the hands of Sling engineers.