Sling TV springs forward with AMC, IFC, Epix movies and Sundance channels (hands-on)

Sling TV brings its $20 per month base package up to 16 live channels with the addition of AMC and IFC today. For an extra $5/month, a new "Hollywood Extra" add-on includes four VOD-capable Epix movie channels and Sundance TV.

David Katzmaier Editorial Director -- Personal Tech
David reviews TVs and leads the Personal Tech team at CNET, covering mobile, software, computing, streaming and home entertainment. We provide helpful, expert reviews, advice and videos on what gadget or service to buy and how to get the most out of it.
Expertise A 20-year CNET veteran, David has been reviewing TVs since the days of CRT, rear-projection and plasma. Prior to CNET he worked at Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com. He is known to two people on Twitter as the Cormac McCarthy of consumer electronics. Credentials
  • Although still awaiting his Oscar for Best Picture Reviewer, David does hold certifications from the Imaging Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology on display calibration and evaluation.
David Katzmaier
3 min read

Better call Comcast: AMC and IFC are now a part of Sling TV's basic $20 package. David Katzmaier/CNET

The bad news is Sling TV probably still lacks a few channels you really want. The good news is that it's not done adding new ones.

With plenty of time to spare before the "Mad Men" premiere April 5, the bundle-busting Internet TV service just added AMC and IFC to its base package, bringing the total up to 16 channels for $20/month.

Also available today is a new $5/month add-on pack called "Hollywood Extra" that includes five movie-centric channels: Epix, Epix2, Epix3, Epix Drive-In and Sundance TV.

AMC and Epix were announced previously, but the IFC channel (an AMC property) appearing in the base package is a pleasant surprise, especially for people who enjoy tumblrs about people who put birds on things.

Also included in Sling TV's announcement is mention of video-on-demand content "coming soon" for all of those channels (and others in Sling's portfolio). We still don't know to what extent, however, so whether you'll be able to binge watch the entire series of "The Walking Dead" up till the present -- and whether that will require watching all the commercials -- remain open questions.

Movies on the Epix channels live longer (7 days after airing), allowing you to prosper. David Katzmaier/CNET

Hands-on first impressions

As of press time all of the channels were live on my reviewer account and working fine on Roku 3 and Android. I didn't test the apps on other platforms for these new channels, but judging from past experience they should work as well.

Like most Sling TV channels, AMC, IFC and Sundance TV do not offer pause, rewind or other DVR functions, nor the service's "3 Day Replay" limited video-on-demand feature.

Happily, however, all four Epix channels are commercial-free and offer pause, rewind and fast-forward up to live time, so you can go to the bathroom without having to wait for a boring exposition bit.

The Epix channels also do have what amounts to a 7-day replay, providing instant access to numerous movies--basically any that have aired in the past week. Sure many tend to repeat but there were still plenty of A-list titles like "Star Trek: Into Darkness," "Nebraska," "Hugo," "The Guilt Trip" and "Skyfall."

As I mentioned in the original Sling TV review, browsing back in time can be a pain since you have to scroll until you find the movie or show you want. They do come up in Sling TV's search window, however, so if you know what you're looking for (for example, from browsing the Epix website), you can watch the Epix movies that way.

Sling TV's search hits Epix movies. Now if only it would incorporate into Roku's universal search. David Katzmaier/CNET

Unfortunately the "Movies" section still doesn't seem to include any of the EPIX offerings; it's the same hodgepodge of mostly-pay rentals I complained about earlier. A few are free but since there's no "stuff I get for free" filter, finding them is a pain. Better to just switch over to your Netflix or Amazon Prime Video app.

Video quality on the new channels was again softer than my FIOS TV connection and while still "good enough" for most viewers, especially on a small screen, they all seemed a bit worse than ESPN on Sling TV. I watched a few minutes of "Skyfall," "The Guilt Trip," "Scent of a Woman," "Dark Blue" and "School of Rock" across the various channels and all seemed softer than I expected, with quality that veered closer to standard-def DVD than high-def.

That said, the addition of AMC and IFC is the real story here, and makes Sling TV that much more compelling without raising the price. And the Hollywood Pack offers pretty solid bang for your five bucks with its full DVR functionality, commercial-free movie channels and Sundance TV thrown in.

Do the new additions make you more likely to ditch cable TV and/or try Sling TV? Let me know with a comment.