Sling TV adds personalized recommendations, launching first on Apple TV

Sling TV, Dish’s live TV streaming service, will now make personalized suggestions of what to watch. The company this week introduced a new recommendations feature that will highlight the shows, movies, sports and news content it believes you’ll like, based on your viewing history.

The feature is initially available on Apple TV, but will roll out to other platforms in the future, the company says.

To access recommendations, Apple TV users can visit a new “Recommended for You” ribbon in the “My TV” section, which will feature its suggestions of both live and on-demand content. The recommendations will also respect any parental control settings you’ve set up, so younger users won’t be able to watch the adult-themed content you’ve restricted.

Unfortunately, Sling TV doesn’t support user profiles, which means recommendations may be hit or miss.

It’s a little surprising that Sling TV hasn’t included recommended content like this, until now. Recommendations, and more broadly, personalization technology, have become table stakes in the streaming business — and beyond. Music services, podcast apps, news aggregators and even our voice assistants are becoming services we customize to our own liking. Or they leverage AI to put together unique suggestions for their individual users. Or both.

Sling TV, launched four years ago, was one of the first services to offer live TV over the internet. That means it’s had more time than newer rivals — like DirecTV Now, Hulu with Live TV or YouTube TV, for example — to develop its own recommendation system.

The company says that recommendations are the first of more personalization updates still to come.

In the months ahead, it also notes it will improve the content recommendations and will make the browsing experience easier.

That’s much needed because the way Sling TV has implemented recommendations — a ribbon of content — is fairly basic in comparison with others. Netflix, for instance, finds numerous ways to suggest content — “top picks” based on viewing history along with other suggestions based on specific shows you’ve been watching, for starters. And this is mixed in with editorial and categorized suggestions (e.g. “binge-worthy shows), new releases and popular and trending content, among other things.

Meanwhile, Hulu recently rolled out features that let users explicitly inform the service’s recommendation engine — like a “stop suggesting” button that tells Hulu you dislike a show. YouTube TV is capitalizing on its larger video network’s recommendation technology to make its own “top picks” suggestions, and it points users to suggested content on YouTube for whatever show or movie they’re viewing.

Sling TV will need to ramp up in terms of personalization quickly to better compete as these others become more advanced.

“The ‘Recommended for You’ ribbon is just the beginning of more personalization updates to come,” wrote  Sling TV’s vice president of product management, Jimshade Chaudhari, in the announcement. “We’re working to improve personalization in the app and create a more engaging and interesting viewing experience, so you can expect Sling to debut more helpful features,” he said.