I haven’t had a cable or satellite TV subscription in years, and I’ve never missed it. I just don’t watch a lot of TV, and for the few things I want to catch up on—college football, mostly—I use Sling TV. I already love the service, and it’s about to get a little more interesting with the addition of support for virtual watch parties.
I believe this makes Sling TV the first “live TV” service that allows you to watch shows, sporting events, or whatever else is on alongside your friends directly via the service. As an added bonus, Sling TV’s is allowing hosts to send watch party invites to any guests they want—even those who don’t subscribe to the service—through the end of the month. Think of it as a free trial, or a carrot Sling TV is dangling in the hopes that your friends will convert to paying members, too.
To get started with a Sling TV watch party, pull up the Chrome browser and visit watch.sling.com. (Yes, you must use Chrome. I tried summoning a watch party in Edge Chromium, but the option simply wasn’t there. Chrome or bust.)
Second, make sure you’ve whitelisted the site in any browser-based adblockers you’re running. I didn’t do so at first, and was curious why I didn’t see the option to launch a watch party in any movie or TV show I selected. Adblockers will invariably mess up the process somehow, so whitelist the site and save yourself from potential frustration.
Third, you won’t be able to create a watch party for every piece of content on Sling TV. As the company notes in a FAQ:
Start or join a Watch Party to watch most live, On Demand or Lookback content. Watch Parties are not currently available with local channels (NBC and FOX), rentals, Pay-Per-View events, Premium or standalone channels, programming recorded on Cloud DVR, and standard regional blackouts apply.
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Assuming the content you want to watch supports the Watch Party feature, you’ll see a new option when you click on it:
Click on that, and you should fire up the show/movie in the new Watch Party interface. I never made it that far, as the site kept asking me to sign up for an account or log in as me—even though I was already logged in. This is a beta preview for the feature, though, so it’s possible something is screwing up on the back end and it will be fixed down the road.
Theoretically, were you to host a watch party, you’d be able to view the same content with up to three other friends (who would all need their own Sling TV accounts, even if they’re tuning in for free this month). You can all just sit there and watch, or you can snark to one another via a built-in text chat that appears on the left side of your screen. You can host as many watch parties as you want, but you can only run one at a time.
I’m going to reach out to Sling TV to see if they can advise me on problems with my setup that might be preventing me from hosting. Even if you suffer similar issues, I wouldn’t rule out the feature just yet. It’s free to use, provided you’re already paying for Sling TV’s Blue or Orange plan, and (in theory) offers a great way to catch most live TV content with your friends—especially useful if you love sports. Now, had we only a fall college football season to worry about…