Sling TV springs forward with AMC, IFC, EPIX movies and Sundance channels (hands-on)
By David Katzmaier, CNET.com
- Mar. 4, 2015
The bad news is Sling TV probably still lacks a few channels you really want. The good news is that it's not done adding new ones.
With plenty of time to spare before the Mad Men premiere April 5, the bundle-busting Internet TV service just added AMC and IFC to its base package, bringing the total up to 16 channels for $20/month.
Also available today is a new $5/month add-on pack called "Hollywood Extra" that includes five movie-centric channels: EPIX, EPIX2, EPIX3, EPIX Drive-In and Sundance TV.
AMC and EPIX were announced previously, but the IFC channel (an AMC property) appearing in the base package is a pleasant surprise, especially for people who enjoy tumblrs about people who put birds on things.
Also included in Sling TV's announcement is mention of video-on-demand content "coming soon" for all of those channels (and others in Sling's portfolio). We still don't know to what extent, however, so whether you'll be able to binge watch the entire series of Walking Dead up till the present--and whether that will require watching all the commercials--remain open questions.
Hands-on first impressions
As of press time all of the channels were live on my reviewer account and working fine on Roku 3 and Android. I didn't test the apps on other platforms for these new channels, but judging from past experience they should work as well.
Like most Sling TV channels, AMC, IFC and Sundance TV do not offer pause, rewind or other DVR functions, nor the service's "3 Day Replay" limited video-on-demand feature.
Happily, however, all four EPIX channels are commercial-free and offer pause, rewind and fast-forward up to live time, so you can go to the bathroom without having to wait for a boring exposition bit.
They also have 3-day replay, giving me access to numerous movies. Sure many tend to repeat but there were still plenty of A-list titles like Star Trek: Into Darkness, Nebraska, Hugo, The Guilt Trip and Skyfall.
As I mentioned in the original Sling TV review, browsing via 3-day replay can be a pain since you have to scroll "back in time" until you find the movie or show you want. They do come up in Sling TV's search window, however, so if you know what you're looking for (for example, from browsing the EPIX web site), you can watch the EPIX movies that way.
Unfortunately the "Movies" section still doesn't seem to include any of the EPIX offerings; it's the same hodgepodge of mostly-pay rentals I complained about earlier. A few are free but since there's no "stuff I get for free" filter, finding them is a pain. Better to just switch over to your Netflix or Amazon Prime Video app.
Video quality on the new channels was again softer than my FIOS TV connection and while still "good enough" for most viewers, especially on a small screen, they all seemed a bit worse than ESPN on Sling TV. I watched a few minutes of Skyfall, The Guilt Trip, Scent of a Woman, Dark Blue and School of Rock across the various channelsand all seemed softer than I expected, with quality that veered closer to standard-def DVD than high-def.
That said, the addition of AMC and IFC is the real story here, and makes Sling TV that much more compelling without raising the price. And the Hollywood Pack offers pretty solid bang for your five bucks with its full DVR functionality, commercial-free movie channels and Sundance TV thrown in.
Do the new additions make you more likely to ditch cable TV and/or try Sling TV? Let me know with a comment.