OTT skinny bundles – services that offer small live TV packages delivered over the internet – are multiplying. It wasn’t that long ago that Sling TV was the only service in the space, and now competition is flourishing. The latest entrant is Southern Fibernet, a Southern U.S.-based provider that has launched its own OTT skinny bundle, SFN TV Now. So how does the new kid on the block measure up to Sling TV and PlayStation Vue? Here’s our full review.
From the moment you go to sign up, you get the feeling that SFN TV Now isn’t quite ready for its close-up. It’s the little things. There are typos on the service’s website. If you mess up your credit card information (like I did), you’ll have to clear everything and start over. There are no links to download the relevant apps. The frustration builds as you sign up: rather than allowing you to create your own username and password, SFN TV Now will send you one via email when you sign up. Then you have to download the Roku channel, which is a private channel and must be added manually. The code comes in the login information email. That’s the only place it exists – for some reason, SFN didn’t see fit to include it on their site (it’s “sfntv,” by the way).
Then the login process begins. I had to enter your username and password (two codes, basically, since I didn’t create them myself), plus a device name (I got to pick that). Then I had to hit the back button, because they just left me floating there on the login screen even after you successfully log in.
Thankfully, the little annoyances that define the signup and login process mostly fade away once you’re actually using the Roku channel. The interface is exceptionally simple, and it’s a bit limited because of that. The TV guide only shows what is on right now – you can examine ucoming programs on individual channels by tapping left or right on your remote, but you can’t view them all at once as time blocks like you can with cable or PlayStation Vue.
You can record shows and series by hitting the * button (once you figure that out – that button functionality isn’t indicated in any way). The recording function works well and is a nice touch.
You’ll notice, though, that I’m only talking about the Roku app. I also tried the Android app, and it simply didn’t work. After I logged in and registered my device, the app crashed. It crashed again every time I re-opened it.
The channel lineup is SFN TV Now’s strongest department. You’ll get FOX and Disney properties in the same package, and a few of the included channels aren’t available on either Sling TV or PlayStation Vue. The usual suspects are here, of course – TBS, AMC, CNN, and all of the other channels that seem to be in every OTT skinny bundle package.
You can choose from four packages of different sizes and prices. There’s “Popular” (70+ channels) and “Max” (90+ channels), plus a “Faith” package of 15+ religious channels and an “ATL Local” package of 15+ channels available to Atlanta area residents only.
On Roku, streaming quality on SFN TV Now isn’t great. The picture frequently falls out of HD and is replaced with standard def or – worse – pixelated low-quality streaming. Occasionally, the stream stops entirely and forces you to watch a blue bar load for a second or two.
It’s not unwatchable by any means, but it’s not great, and it lags behind Sling TV and PlayStation Vue (the latter of which counts streaming quality as one of its strongest features).
That’s on Roku – as I mentioned in the first section of this review, I couldn’t even get the stream to start on Android before the app crashed repeatedly.
Sometimes newer OTT services debut with limited platform support – that was one of my complaints about PlayStation Vue, actually. But even for a new service, SFN TV Now has really poor platform support.
According to the “Platforms” section on SFN’s website, you have the choice of two Roku devices (3 and 4 only), iOS, and Android. Elsewhere on the site, the service claims Apple TV support – but that isn’t currently true, as the first email they sent when I signed up promised Apple TV support in the future. I’m also skeptical of the iOS support because, try as I might, I could not turn up the promised app in Apple’s app store. Searching for “SNF TV Now,” “SFN,” and “Southern Fibernet” in the app store doesn’t turn up anything relevant, and there is no link to the iOS app (or any of the other apps, for that matter) on SFN’s website.
The Android app does exist, but as I mentioned previously, it didn’t work for me.
If you’re keeping score at home, that leaves the private Roku channel as the only platform that this service works on at all.
Price-wise, there’s a lot to like about SFN TV Now. Their $36 for 70+ channels “Popular” package is similarly prices to PlayStation Vue’s middle package ($35 for 70+). There are different tiers, and the package that caters to Atlanta locals is the slimmest skinny bundle in the game.
Everything about SFN TV Now feels rushed to market. Most platforms aren’t supported yet, and those that (allegedly) are feature broken and missing apps. Only Roku really works at all, and that’s via a private channel. We’re talking about a product that is on the market now, but I felt like a beta tester the whole time.
With SFN TV Now, the frustration begins with signing up and continues throughout the experience. There may be a future for this service – there’s certainly room for another competitor in this space – but right now, that future seems a long way off. Skip this one and sign up for Sling TV or PlayStation Vue instead.
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