Dish’s Air TV set-top box is half-baked at launch

At this year’s CES, Dish introduced a 4K-ready streaming media player called Air TV, which is designed to combine Sling TV’s internet television service with over-the-air channels pulled in through your digital antenna, along with Netflix. The promise of the box, then, is one of an integrated experience – where all your favorite cable channels from Sling are accessible along with those from the major broadcasters, like ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, PBS and others.

At CES, the company showed how this would all come together via new Sling TV software that included the over-the-air TV channels in the Sling TV programming guide.

But as the first Air TV customers have now discovered, the software demoed at CES is not what’s actually shipping on the device. Instead, users have to push the over-the-air icon in the Sling TV channel guide to view the local stations. This will launch Android TV’s Live Channels application, customers found.

Air TV users’ complaints were first spotted by Dave Zatz, who rounded up several examples of those unhappy with their purchase. One went so far as to say it “feels like a bait and switch,” referencing how the unit at CES did not function the same as the one they received.

Sling TV Roger Lynch responded to the complaints, explaining that the software shown at CES was a “beta” and the feature would be rolled out “soon” to Air TV customers. However, the company hasn’t yet offered an ETA on that release, or any other further details.

We’ve also reached out to Sling TV for comment, and the company confirmed that it is not shipping the fully integrated OTA experience it demoed at CES.

“AirTV’s upcoming software update, currently undergoing testing, will place available OTA channels directly in the Sling TV channel guide and in a separate Locals ribbon on the My TV tab,” a spokesperson said. “We expect this software to automatically roll out to all AirTV boxes in February.”

Sling TV also noted that it’s happy to issue refunds to those customers who aren’t satisfied with their purchase.

In response to the complaints, the Air TV website has been updated to communicate about the upcoming software update and the improvements it will bring.