Sling.com Isn’t Really A Hulu Competitor, But Does Offer Compelling Reasons To Make It Your Go-To Web Portal

Last week SlingMedia officially launched the beta version of Sling.com, a video portal similar to Hulu.com but with a few extra benefits.  Several people have called Sling.com a Hulu competitor, but a close look at the Web site reveals that the NBC and Fox content is actually served from Hulu.  Sling and Hulu partnered up to bring that content to Sling users, so you’ll still see the Hulu logo and see the Hulu commercials. What sets Sling.com apart is the extra video content not found on Hulu.  Users will find full length shows from CBS, Discovery Channel, A&E, the AP and Reuters, allowing them to stay in one place to watch their favorite shows available online.  Plus, Slingbox owners can access their Live TV feed from the site. The site also has a strong social networking element that is similar to but more involved than Hulu’s.  Users can create a profile, subscribe to shows, channels/networks, and categories, and leave comments on every level, including individual episodes.  There are also blogs written by Sling editors who also create playlists, highlight clips, and interact with the video content in (hopefully) interesting ways.  This aspect probably has the most potential to keep users on the site and foster community. I’ve been using Sling for the past week and so far I’ve encountered a few intermittent problems playing video; but when it works it’s just as smooth as Hulu or CBS.com video (my usual hang out for CSI and NUMB3RS).  As the site is still in beta, I suspect things will smooth out soon.  There’s a handy Feedback tab on the right side of the screen for reporting issues and making suggestions, something every good beta site should have.  I’m also enjoying the blogs so far and the ability to add network channels to my favorites alongside broader categories like Comedy and Sci-Fi. As part of the SlingMedia system, Sling.com will probably hold a lot of appeal for Slingbox and SlingCatcher users.  With the former you can access your Live TV through the site, with the latter you can watch video content available on the site on your television — a step toward making the DVR unnecessary. I asked the SlingMedia rep if there were any plans to create the ultimate SlingBox — one that will allow you to watch Live TV anywhere and push Web video to television — since Sling.com gathers together so much content in one place.  They feel that “the market is still segmented” and “cramming everything into one might be a little ahead of itself” but aren’t ruling it out completely.  In fact, they plan to talk about this type of integration at CES next month. Even if you aren’t a Slingbox owner, there’s still plenty to make Sling.com compelling.

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