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Sling TV Handles Record-Breaking Warriors-Thunder Game 7 Cable Broadcast

31 May, 2016 By: Erik Gruenwedel

The Golden State Warriors’ May 30 comeback from a 3-1 series deficit to top the Oklahoma City Thunder, 96-88, in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals was the most-watched NBA game in cable history as well as on Time Warner-owned TNT.

It was also another test for Dish Network’s online TV service Sling TV, which affords subscription-streaming access to TNT, among other pay-TV channels, for $20 a month. The no frills broadband service is the industry’s first so-called “skinny bundle.”

Unlike TV Everywhere platforms, Sling TV (and Sony’s PlayStation Vue and Charter’s Spectrum TV Plus) doesn’t require a standard pay-TV subscription; yet includes access to benchmark pay-TV channels such as ESPN, CNN, HGTV, History AMC, SyFy, Disney Channel and Fox, among others.

As an industry pioneer, Sling TV has had its share of issues, notably technical problems such as pixelated, frozen screen images and dropped coverage during major televised events.

A year ago during the most-viewed men’s college basketball Final Four game in 22 years between Wisconsin and Kentucky, technical glitches made streaming the live event an exercise in frustration. Ditto for the premiere episode of AMC’s “Fear the Walking Dead,” or just about any other must-see live TV event.

Issues included authentication, transcoding and or sudden influx of streaming viewers — many taking advantage of Sling’s free seven-day trial -- that overwhelmed the CDN, or content delivery network, delivering the video streams via broadband channel, according to experts.  

Indeed, Sling CEO Roger Lynch cited all of the above in a blog post apologizing for the technical snafus — shortcomings MoffettNathanson analyst Michal Nathanson believes have led to tepid consumer interest in the service.

Regardless, Sling TV seemingly passed the test Monday night, streaming the seesaw game with only minor glitches. To be sure, pixelated images occurred, but just as quickly vanished into HD clarity. So too for blank screens. It wasn’t perfect, but for the (free trial) price, still a bargain.

Sling spokesperson Lacretia Taylor said the service has worked hard to improve the end product since launching in early 2015. Indeed, it recently sent out mailers to former subscribers offering a free Roku 2 media player if they return and prepay three months of service. It also now enables subs to watch live and on-demand content on up to three separate devices. Previously, subs could stream content only on one device at a time.

“Our operations team has dedicated countless hours in a continuing effort to refine not just the reliability of our service, but also the overall quality of the customer experience. It's a remarkable technical challenge to deliver TV in a live environment across the multiple platforms we support,” Taylor said in an email.

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