On Sling TV, the addition of HBO stands to attract more people to the fledgling 20-channel service, aimed at price-sensitive consumers who don’t want to pay for a full-blown cable TV package. The launch is being timed to happen before season five of “Game of Thrones” — HBO’s highest-profile original series — premieres Sunday.
[UPDATE, 4/9, 7:15 a.m. PT: Dish said HBO is available as of Thursday to Sling TV customers, earlier than expected.]
Will Sling TV be able to handle the audience that shows up to watch “Thrones” live? Over this past weekend, some users of the service experienced errors when they tried to watch the Final Four games of the NCAA March Madness men’s basketball tournament on Turner networks. “We’re sorry some basketball fans saw errors tonight due to extreme sign-ups and streaming,” Sling’s tech support team tweeted Saturday.
Now, with HBO coming on board, Sling TV says it’s upgrading its applications to “reduce overhead and load on our servers.”
“This will allow us to provide a more seamless experience to all customers during periods of heavy viewership,” the company said. Sling TV has not disclosed how many customers it has signed up to date, but it reportedly drew more than 100,000 within its first month after launching in February.
It’s worth noting that HBO itself has had trouble meeting peak streaming demand for high-profile programming with HBO Go: Many users had trouble accessing the service during the “Game of Thrones” season 4 debut last April, as well as for the finale of “True Detective” one month earlier.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, HBO Now — the premium cabler’s standalone broadband service, which doesn’t require a pay-TV package — launched with Apple and Cablevision Systems. That’s also priced at $15 per month.
Other Sling TV feature enhancements set to roll out include the addition of parental controls across all channels to manage TV shows by rating; and mini-guide updates that make it easier for customers to find shows by subject/genre on the following devices: Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Roku players, Roku TV models and Xbox One.
The Sling TV pact for HBO was part of a larger, multiyear agreement between Dish and Time Warner’s Turner Broadcasting and HBO. On Sling TV, HBO will include one live channel and the same on-demand library that HBO provides on its other platforms, including HBO Go, with access to every original series from the network.
Sling TV provides 20 networks in its core $20-per-month lineup — a slimmed-down bundle aimed as price-sensitive, younger consumers who are averse to full-blown pay-TV. The key property here is ESPN: It’s the priciest cable net in the biz at around $6 per month per sub on a wholesale basis. Others include AMC, TNT, TBS, Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel, Disney Channel, CNN, A&E, History and Lifetime. Sling TV also offers optional $5-per-month add-on tiers.