Like watching your favorite show on Sling TV, but want to record it and watch it later? You now have a virtual DVR – or, at least, some of you will. Sling TV announced today it is beta-testing a “Cloud DVR,” a way for subscribers to record shows and save them remotely instead of on a clunky box at home. Not all channels will have the DVR capability, however, which is something of a letdown.
The company says the cloud DVR will be available first to Roku streaming players and Roku TVs. If you subscribe to the Sling Orange ($20/month) or Sling Blue ($25/month) program, and you use Roku, you can ask for an invitation by going to sling.com/dvr (which is, interestingly, powered by Survey Monkey).
What are the benefits? Here’s what the company’s website says:
• Entertainment on your time – Record movies, episodes, full series and more and watch the TV you want whenever is best for you. You’ll also be able to pause, rewind or fast-forward your recorded content. DVR functionality not available on all channels.
• Conflict-free recording – Users may record multiple programs simultaneously, with no recording conflicts.
• Easy access – Your DVR content will be integrated directly into your “My TV” screen, so you can get to your recordings easily and quickly.
• Simple space management – Just sit back and relax! We’ll automatically manage your DVR space to make room for new recordings by deleting the oldest ‘watched’ recording when capacity is full, so you don’t have to!
Right now, that capacity is 100 hours of cloud DVR storage. Sling TV says customers will soon have the ability to upgrade their storage, which sounds like a pay-for-storage upsell. (Not an inherently bad thing, as long as they are transparent about it.)
Sling TV plans to roll out this feature to all its users, regardless of platform. Cloud storage makes a lot of sense. It facilitates the ability for users to watch their recorded programs on any device, wherever they are. It’s really a wonder that we still have to record cable shows on our cable box and can only watch those shows on that cable box.
(Yes, there are some services that let you watch your recorded shows in other rooms and even on digital devices, but your home box is still the storage unit.)
Sling TV (Not to be confused with Slingbox) is kind of a mini-cable service for cord-cutters. It has partnered with some of the channels you get on cable including some (but not all) of the broadcast networks. It pitches itself as an economical solution to cable TV subscriptions.
UPDATE (5:52 PM) Sling TV has competition on the horizon: AT&T’s DirecTV Now is coming out with its own offering, launching November 30. DirecTV Now will have four tiers, the smallest of which has 60 channels. Here’s how the company breaks down the tiers:
Live a Little: $35/month (60+ channels)
Just Right: $50/month (80+ channels)
Go Big: $60/month (100+ channels)
Gotta Have it: $70/month (120+ channels)
The “Go Big” tier will be just $35 at launch to entice more people to buy it. The company doesn’t say how long that promotional price is good for.
And if you want premium channels like HBO and Cinemax, that’s another $5 a month. As we found out when we ran the numbers for Sling TV, cord cutting may not be that much of a deal after all.
UPDATE (10:53pm): Here’s a chart showing the tiered channel lineup. Note: Networks will only be available in cities where the network is an “O&O” – that is to say, the channel is owned and operated by the network itself. That’s going to be a big limitation. NBC, ABC and Fox will be available, but AT&T says it is still in discussions with CBS and the CW.
AT&T DirecTV Now will be immediately available on Apple platforms, Android, FireTV, Chromecast and on most browsers. Support for Roku will come next year.