So, after months of research, waffling, more research, and a little less waffling, my wife and I finally whipped out the scissors and unceremoniously did away with Xfinity’s television service. The primary reason was that our monthly bill reached $204, and we didn’t even have their top tier package. Yeah, fuck that.
I first tried YouTube TV, and it’s a great service that has most of the channels we typically watch, but I dislike that it requires a Chromecast. Don’t get me wrong, I like Chromecast and it’s perfect for the occasional YouTube video deserving of a big screen or Google Play Movies rental, but having to use your phone to navigate watching TV simply isn’t a great user experience. Another pain point with YouTube TV is that house guests and/or house sitters can’t just sit and watch TV. Sure, I could dedicate a device to watching TV, but that means leaving a unlocked device lying around that’s logged into my Google account. Yeah, no.
We considered Playstation Vue, but the channel lineup (for us) is lacking, and since I’m a gamer I don’t want to run down the Meantime Before Failure clock on my PS4 with TV watching.
At that point I realized we needed to consider not just a service, but also a delivery system. So many choices! I read about all of the important ones and ultimately settled on an Amazon Fire TV for delivery, and Sling TV for current programming.
So far Sling has proven to be a pretty good service featuring most of the channels we tend to watch, with CBS being the one that’s missing. I think Survivor is the only CBS show we watch, so the HDTV antenna I also got will cover that particular base.
Here’s where we get to the reason for this post. When I signed up for Sling, I got their middle package at $25 per month (the few extra channels on the top package don’t matter) and for additional $5 per month, I got their DVR service.
Once I got logged into our account, I started searching for the shows we tend to watch, and set them up to record. One week passed, I checked the DVR, and four shows recorded - American Ninja Warrior (NBC) , World of Dance (NBC), America’s Got Talent (NBC), and Face Off (SYFY). Man, summer TV is a drag. Anyway, I tried to watch American Ninja Warrior and got an error along the lines of: “Something went wrong! Unable to play at this time. (Error 10-402).” I tried World of Dance, same result. Face Off played just fine, so I tried America’s Got Talent, and it refused to play. Hmmm.
I went through the standard array of troubleshooting steps - tried turning it off and on again, log out of Sling and log back in, delete and reinstall the app - all to no avail. Then I searched for this particular error, and truth be told there isn’t much in the way of an official explanation about what the error is. Search results are all over the place, and Sling’s results are pure garbage.
If you search for “sling tv error 10-402" Sling’s organic result takes you to a page with a super long list of possibilities, and the worst part is that no matter which error you click, you’re taken to Sling’s “Choose Your Own Adventure” menu structure - What type of device are you watching on, What device are you using, What device version are you using - etc. These all lead to a list of troubleshooting steps much like the ones I’d already tried.
At this point I decided to test drive Sling’s support. I sent them an email about the error I was getting, and the troubleshooting steps I tried in an effort to resolve the issue before reaching out for help. I received a reply that confirmed a sneaking suspicion I had...
Sling’s licensing agreement with NBC doesn’t allow users to record NBC’s content, on-demand should be used instead. In the grand scheme of things, that’s not really a big deal because I get it; Big TV tends to be a raging dick so licensing agreements are tricky. Here’s what I don’t get: why the hell would Sling TV design their backend to even allow the illusion of being able to record shows from a network that doesn’t allow it? Seriously, when I searched for and found these shows I was able to select Record, and confirm whether or not I wanted only new or all episodes. Why does the system allow that if the expected result cannot be achieved? Why does it throw out some nebulous error code that has no meaning to the average user? Sling TV knows exactly why those shows won’t play from DVR, so why not just say so in plain English?
Speaking of expected results, any logical person reading this is probably saying, “Okay, so if they allow you to add shows to the DVR that you can’t watch due to licensing, why don’t they just redirect you to the on-demand instance of the show when you click Watch?” That’s exactly where I went, but nope. The entry in your DVR just sits there, unwatchable, with no direct way to get to the on-demand instance at all. You have to back all the way out, search for the show, then you can watch it on-demand. A genuine head-scratcher.
So there you have it - a very important piece of information about Sling TV that you likely won’t get anywhere else. Information is power, so consider yourself armed and dangerous.
Cutting the cord isn’t as easy as it should be, and I have a feeling that’s by design. It’s unfortunate that Big TV can’t see the big picture. They should offer their content to all the services, and just let us choose. The easier they make it, the more people will buy in, the more money they’ll make. I’ve always said that it’s far easier to sell a million people something for a dollar than it is to sell one person something for a million dollars. Big TV should subscribe to that no brainer of a philosophy.