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Sling TV app comes to Android TV, adds ESPN Deportes (hands-on)

The $20/month live TV service is now available on Android TV devices like the Google Nexus Player and some 2015 smart TVs from Sony and Sharp. Sling is also offering a discount on a Nexus Player, and announced ESPN Deportes as part of a $5/month add-on pack.

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David Katzmaier/CNET

Just in time for the Google I/O developer conference next week, the Android TV streaming platform is getting live TV.

The Sling TV app is now available on Android TV devices, namely the $100 Google Nexus Player streaming box and a few 2015 Sony and Sharp smart TVs. Owners of those devices can download the free app and stream Sling's selection of live TV channels for as little as $20 per month, the price of Sling TV's base package.

Sling TV also announced that its "Deportes Extra" add-on pack would get ESPN Deportes. Currently that $5/month add-on offers Univision, UniMás, Univision Deportes, and beIN Sports en Español.

Android TV joins Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Xbox One among large-screen TV platforms that have a Sling TV app. Still missing in action is support for Google's Chromecast streaming stick, although Sling still says that's coming soon. Sling TV is also available on Windows and Mac PCs as well as Android and iOS tablets and phones.

To sweeten the deal Sling is offering a 50 percent discount on the Nexus Player for people who prepay for three months of Sling TV. As always, new customers can get a 7-day free trial.

Compared with the other streaming devices and platforms, the Nexus Player and Android TV isn't our favorite. My review cited its relative lack of native apps and a tendency for its interface to favor Google's own content, including Google Play Movies and TV and YouTube, over providers like Netflix. Its voice search is very good, however.

The addition of Sling TV strengthens Android TV's native app support, but it still has a ways to go before it catches Roku, Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV.

Perhaps we'll hear more about how Google plans to close the gap next week at Google I/O. CNET will have full live coverage.

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On the Nexus Player, Sling TV's catalog is searchable by voice. David Katzmaier/CNET

Hands-on impressions

I installed the Sling TV app on the Nexus Player and a Sony XBR-X850C TV in our lab to see how it performed, and the results were as good as I expected.

The interface is identical to the other big-screen Sling TV apps I tested from Roku and Amazon Fire TV. Response times on the Nexus Player were excellent, as fast as on any device I've tested, which made navigating Sling TV's thumbnail-heavy channel browsing menus a breeze. The Sony was a bit tardier in responding to button presses, but it still wasn't bad.

Pressing the voice search button from within the Sling app was different (and better) on the Nexus Player than on any other devices I've tested so far. It allowed me to search Sling TV's own catalog, as if I was performing a text search, so it only showed results Sling's TV listings, channels and VOD options.

On the other hand, hitting the voice search button on the Roku 3, Amazon Fire TV or Sony TV remote while within the Sling app bounced me back out of the app to perform a cross-platform search. I prefer the in-app search when I'm actually in an app, and cross-platform when I'm in the main menu system.

It's notable that Android TV is the first smart TV platform to get a Sling TV app, so box-averse cable cord cutters who subscribe to Sling might want to look hard at Sony and Sharp's 2015 TV offerings. At launch Sling said it was working on apps for Samsung and LG smart TVs, but those have yet to appear.

For more on my overall impressions of Sling TV, check out the full review.