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Sling TV Could Be Cable-Cutter's Dream

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And here's some news for those looking for alternatives to cable TV. Dish Network is set to roll out a streaming video service called Sling TV. The service will charge $20 a month for a dozen cable channels including ESPN. NPR TV critic Eric Deggan's sampled the service and says it works like cable-cutter's dream.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "ESPN FIRST TAKE")

STEPHEN A. SMITH: How is it that it's five days later, and he hasn't even been interviewed?

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: It's always fun watching ESPN's Stephen A. Smith lose his cool, especially when he's slamming the NFL for not interviewing players at the heart of the deflated football controversy. But this moment is particularly interesting 'cause I'm not watching Smith on a TV connected to a cable box. I'm watching him on my iPad, thanks to Sling TV.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

JOE CLAYTON: All you need is a credit card and a broadband connection.

DEGGANS: That's Joe Clayton, CEO of Sling TV creator Dish Network, speaking at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month. He was almost giddy in describing Sling TV, an online service that doesn't require a Dish membership or cable subscription. You can watch it from mobile devices, laptops and some streaming TV gadgets, like the Roku. Dish gave critics early access to Sling TV, so I gave it a spin, downloading the app to my iPad and to a Roku 3 streaming device on my home TV. And the results were impressive.

(SOUNDBITE OF UNIDENTIFIED TV SHOW)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: An MRI taken Thursday showed Kobe Bryant has a tear in his rotator cuff. And sources...

DEGGANS: The basic service features 12 channels including ESPN, TNT, CNN and the Disney Channel. The app allows you to watch the channels live, see what's coming up and access a few movies on demand. Most are channels you previously had to buy a cable or satellite subscription to see. Most channels also stream their commercials, but ESPN and ESPN2 play this.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DEGGANS: Presumably because their advertisers haven't yet paid for Sling TV's viewers. Dish is careful to say that this service targets millennials who have broadband Internet connections but don't buy cable TV. That's probably to avoid upsetting cable companies, which have always insisted they can't offer smaller chunks of channels at a lower price. But Sling TV's channels seem more likely to appeal to cord-cutting TV fans of all ages looking to drop a hefty cable bill and already watching lots of television online.

Simple, effective and relatively cheap, Sling TV offers a small taste of cable TV for those who don't want to buy the whole smorgasbord. It might also help push a reluctant cable industry into letting people more closely choose which channels they pay for. I'm Eric Deggans. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.