This week on TechHive: My Sling TV re-review

Sling TV home screen

A lot’s changed since Sling TV first shook up the cord-cutting scene seven years ago.

Sling’s channel lineup has grown and fractured into two base packages, and its starting price has ballooned from $20 per month in 2015 to $35 per month in 2022. (Of course, cable’s become more expensive as well.) It’s also a much more polished service, with built-in DVR service and an excellent live channel guide.

But because Sling TV lacks local channels in most markets, it’s a drastically different service than major competitors such as YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV. Its DVR is also more restrictive and can be frustrating to manage.

Sling TV can certainly save you money over those other streaming TV packages. But whether it’s the best bundle for you will depend on whether you can live with its limitations. Read my full review, updated for 2022, over at TechHive.

Also on TechHive this week: I wrote about Plex’s new home theater PC software and why it’s a big missed opportunity in its current form.

Weekly rewind

NESN unbundles: NESN has become the first regional sports channel to launch its own streaming service. Dubbed NESN 360, the service offers live feeds of NESN’s cable channels—including in-market Red Sox and Bruins games—for $30 per month or $330 per year. The annual option also includes eight tickets to any Red Sox home game during the 2022 season.

While the Yankee fan in me couldn’t care less about this development (sorry), it is nonetheless a major milestone in the decline of cable TV. In the past, TV distributors have threatened to drop regional sports networks that launch their own streaming services, but apparently that’s a risk NESN is willing to take as its traditional TV audience slips away.

CNBC does report that the high price of NESN 360 is partly a way of appeasing those TV distributors. And if you’re already getting NESN in a regular TV package, you’ll be able to log into the expanded NESN 360 app for game replays, classic coverage, and original programming. Still, this is a big step forward for the unbundling of sports, and a valuable option for folks who don’t want an entire pay TV package just to watch in-market hockey and baseball.

Google TV’s new iPhone app: The app formerly known as Google Play Movies & TV has received a major overhaul on iOS. It’s now called Google TV, and it serves primarily as a way to keep track of your shows and find new things to watch across services like Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, and Disney+. (The Android version of the app received a similar overhaul last year.)

This is mainly useful if you have a smart TV or streaming player that runs either Google TV or Android TV. Items you add to the watchlist on iOS will appear on your TV as well, and you’ll be able to use the app as a virtual remote. You can also select a program to watch, then use Chromecast in the corresponding streaming app to send the video to your television. A helpful companion app (akin to what Roku offers) has long been missing from Google’s streaming platforms, so the relaunch helps rectify that.

Tablo kills auto ad skipping: If you own a Tablo over-the-air DVR and want to automatically skip through commercials, you’ve got until August 23 to start paying for it. At that point, Tablo will no longer sell “Premium Service” subscriptions, which enable automatic ad-skipping for an extra $2 per month or $20 per year. (That’s on top of the $5 per month, $50 per year, or $180 lifetime fee Tablo charges for TV guide data and other enhanced DVR features.)

Ad-skipping will still work for those who sign up now, and Tablo DVRs will still support manually jumping through commercial breaks without an extra subscription. But Nuvyyo, the company behind Tablo, says automatic ad skipping cost too much to provide, and not enough people were using it.

It’s too bad, given that Plex DVR, Channels DVR, and TiVo can automatically skip through ads at no extra charge. Perhaps someday Nuvyyo can revive the feature in a way that doesn’t involve ongoing cloud computing costs.

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Tablo Quad DVR

Speaking of Tablo, a couple of its over-the-air DVRs with built-in storage are currently on sale, including the dual-tuner model with 128 GB for $140 (reg. $170) and the quad-tuner model with 1 TB for $220 (reg. $240). Plugging an antenna into either box effectively gives you a whole-home DVR for local channels, letting you stream over-the-air broadcasts to the Tablo app over Wi-Fi. The software is pretty simple to use, and I like that it works with practically every streaming device and smart TV platform.

Other notable deals:

  • The Roku Express 4K+ is on sale for $29, down from $40.
  • The Apple TV 4K drops back to $150, down from $180.
  • In case you missed it, the latest promo code for a free month of Paramount+ is PICKETT. Get instructions on redeeming it here.

Thanks for reading!

Got cord-cutting questions for me? I’m always on the hunt for new story ideas, especially in the slow summer months. Let me know what to write about next by replying to this email!

Until next week,

Previously: How to pick a Roku

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