Most of us started cutting the cords on our computers years ago. Not literally of course, but laptops and tablets are causing us to ditch our desktops and opt for wireless solutions. That trend may soon transfer to our televisions, and you may find yourself taking the scissors to your cable connection.
Netflix and Hulu have established themselves by offering people the freedom of watching their favourite shows and movies wherever they want thanks to new cloud computing technology. The downside though is customers often have to wait months after an initial release before they can enjoy the content they're looking for. Dish Network is looking to solve that with the introduction of its own streaming service. Called Sling TV, it's meant to replace cable and satellite subscriptions. For $20 a month, users can stream some of their favorite networks live via their favourite portables, like smartphones and tablets. This presents a welcome change for those tired of spending a small fortune on their current television providers or waiting for Netflix to upload the latest season of New Girl.
There's no doubt about it, Sling TV is a step in the right direction, but it's still far from perfect. It would be best described as an evolution in television, rather than a revolution. For example, there's still a large selection of popular channels not available through Sling. There's no FX or Nickelodeon, and HBO is also excluded. With so many of these networks planning to release their own streaming services, it's unlikely one service will contain all of the content people are looking for right away.
Sling TV is also missing one of the most popular advancements in modern television, a Digital Video Recorder (DVR). The ability to record shows, rewind and skip commercials is a feature loved by many. Without it, we're forced to watch programs as they air, which is the opposite of what you'd expect from a true steaming experience.
However, it's not fair to say it's all bad. There are a number of impressive features Dish sought to include. They do allow users the ability to start certain programs over (sorry sports lovers, not for you) if they tune in mid-way through. This isn't quite at the level of DVR, but it's close. There are also 30 second skip buttons for ads and the ability to rewind 10 seconds if you missed something you want to see again.
While not every channel is available, there's a pretty good mix for the average person. Subscribers have access to Disney-ABC cable, Turner and Scripps Networks Interactive, which have a good variety of programs. There's also an option to rent and stream movies, with prices comparable to Amazon and iTunes.
It'll be interesting to see how Dish further improves Sling TV and how other providers will respond. Consumers are demanding the ability to access content on the go or whenever is most convenient for them. The days of watching our favourite shows on the family TV are quickly disappearing. Our busy lives instead force us to watch what we want while taking the bus to work, or waiting in line at the grocery store. Even if we do watch our favourite shows at home, we're rarely available when they're on. It probably won't be long before these services make use of cloud storage and allow users to record and store shows on the cloud, answering the DVR problem.
It'll also be interesting to see how constant access to television will disrupt our schedules. For example, CNN and ESPN are already among the top distractors at work. If suddenly these programs are more widely available on employee machines thanks to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies, it could lead to even more wasted time and lost productivity in the office. After all, social media usage at work grew exponentially with apps and mobile devices. Could the same happen with Sling? Whatever the consequences and future prospects, this marks an important step in the evolution of television. Dish is just one example, so expect others to soon offer similar services.