Sling TV has been out for quite some time now and many people are getting a chance to check out what it offers. Is it a good alternative to cut cable and save you more money? I think yes, but there are some stipulations attached to why I think so. Sling has worked well for me, but I have very fast internet speeds, but if you have slower internet, Sling might be a good alternative. This Sling TV review will help you look into it, but remember, you get a free, 7-day trial to test it out. If you want to test that with other services, also checkout the new DIRECTV NOW service which has been doing pretty well.
Below is my original review with updated pricing and package offerings they have as Sling constantly adds new things to keep up with their competition. Enjoy and remember to ask questions in the comments if you have them.
Well, it’s been some time since I first signed up for Sling TV. Dish Network first announced Sling back at CES 2015. When I first heard about it, I got excited. I wanted to try it out, so I signed up and waited for my invitation. I got it after a few weeks. I know this service has been making rounds due to it’s ability to provide cord-cutters, like myself, a way to get ESPN and some other programming when it’s being broadcast. As a sports fan, I’ve enjoyed having ESPN back. I figured it’s time to provide my Sling TV review since I’ve had time to thoroughly test it and watched a lot of TV with the app. There are definitely some pros and cons of Sling TV, but lately the pros have far outweighed the cons.
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The best part about Sling TV is they have a free, 7-day trial to test it out. I did the same thing and is why I started using it. The trial went well and the service has been getting better over time. Remind you, this is still very new technology in the cable TV arena, so there will be bugs to sort out.
What is Sling TV?
For those of you who are looking at your screen asking “What is Sling TV?“, give me a moment to explain. This streaming service was introduced by Dish Network back in January 2015. It’s an online only content stream that can be hooked into a TV with a select number of applications. The best part is there is no contract. It’s month to month! You can even start and stop the service online when you know you’re not going to use it.
When Sling was first released, I was only given the choice of Android and iOS devices to stream on. They also didn’t have an app in either app store yet, so I had to download it from their welcome email. They since have put up their apps in their respective stores (iOS and Android). This should make it much easier to get started with Sling.
Currently, Sling TV works with a number of devices, which makes the service much better. What’s good is they give good discounts on these devices if you sign up for their service and prepay for three months ($60 with the base plan). I think this is a great way to get a service to help you cut the cord, but also get a new device.
Here are the current devices they support:
- Apple TV
- Apple iOS (iPhones/iPads)
- Amazon Fire TV (and Fire TV Stick)
- Xbox One
Here are their current deals for signing up and prepaying for three months.
How Sling TV Works
Sling TV provides you with on-demand access to a select number of channels for $20 per month. There are some taxes and fees added one, but I was paying about $23 per month after those were added on. There are currently 24 channels you can access for the $20 price tag. I will list these channels shortly. When you use one of their approved devices or your computer/phone/tablet, you can watch shows as they stream over your wireless. The price includes only one stream at a time. It’s not per household, but per person/device. You can’t have concurrent streams going on without having multiple memberships. If you want to stream more than one device at a time, then it will cost you another subscription. That’s the downfall of Sling TV, but one that doesn’t affect me as my wife and I watch TV at the same time, when we actually do watch it.
What Channels Does Sling TV Get?
The number one question I asked was “what channels do I get?” This is important as I didn’t want to pony up $20 just to watch some reality TV shows. I wanted access to content I used to watch when I had cable TV. Luckily for me, Sling TV provides a number of channels my wife and I actually enjoy watching and what we looked for when we had our expensive cable package. This is why the $20 price tag was OK with me. I have a cheap internet plan after negotiating with Time Warner Cable. Sling TV launched with some good channels, but has recently added a few more “add on” packages depending on what you want. Here are the base channels provided by Sling. You can see all their channel packages here.
- Food Network
- History Channel
- El Rey Network
- Disney Channel
- Travel Channel
- Adult Swim
- Cartoon Network
- ABC Family
- Bloomberg Television
These are the basic channels offered in their base package. They have now released a few more to give you options on top of the addons below.
Sling Orange – For the $20 per month, you get the channels above. This is their base package, which is what I use.
Sling Blue – For $25 per month, you can have access to 40 channels, instead of the 25 in the Orange package. This could be a good deal for just $5 more.
Sling Orange + Blue – They combined the two plans above and give you all channels for $40 per month.
Now, this service will be good for those who like these channels, but don’t have cable. You won’t get these with an over-the-air antenna, so you have to get them through a cable package or a service like Sling TV. My main focus was ESPN, ESPN2, TBS, TNT, Food Network, and HGTV. The others were just there. If you don’t want just those, but need more sports or another package, Sling TV provides extra channel packages. These can be added on top of the basic Sling TV package. Here are the extras!
HBO Extra – It’s HBO live and on demand, but it costs just as much as the basic Sling TV package. If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, then this might be your thing.
Cinemax Extra – You get access to Cinemax broadcasts for another $15 per month.
Sports Extra – For $5 more per month, you can add Universal Sports Network, beIN Sports, ESPNU, ESPNEWS, SEC Network, Univision Deportes, ESPN Buzzer Beater, ESPN Bases Loaded, and ESPN Goal Line.
Kids Extra – For another $5 per month, you can add Disney Junior, Disney XD, Boomerang, and BabyTV to your Sling service.
Hollywood Extra – Love those Hollywood hits? For $5 per month, you can add channels from Epix, Epix2, Epix3, Epix Drive-in, and Sundance TV.
World News Extra – Gotta have your news? $5 per month extra will get you news from NDTV 24×7, News18 India, HLN, Bloomberg, Euronews, France 24, and RT.
Lifestyle Extra – For those looking for those lifestyle shows, you can add Cooking Channel, DIY Network, Tru TV, FYI, WE TV, and LMN for $5 per month.
Comedy Plus Extra – This is a strange one, but they do have some extra channels that might be considered comedy by some, but not all! It’s $5 per month.
Sling also does provide some Spanish options as well. They have four add-ons that encompass about 15 more channels. Two add-0n packages are $5 per month and two are $7. You can find them here.
Sling’s Multi-Stream Option
It appears Sling has heard their customers when we yelled at them for no multi-stream option. Now they are implementing it. I figured out why they didn’t do it before and it was because of the deal with ESPN. They are such a PITA. Basically, ESPN didn’t want to give Sling the option to multi-stream, so for each subscription, you could only watch it on one device. That is changing.
The streaming limitation depends on what plan you select with Sling. If you choose the Orange plan, you can still only stream one device at a time. If you want to increase that, you need to go up to the Blue plan, which then gives you 3 devices you can concurrently stream on.
Some of the extra packages allow you to stream on multiple devices no matter the plan you have with Sling, such as HBO.
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My Thoughts After Testing Sling TV
Here are my thoughts after testing Sling TV. I will say the service has improved since I first signed up. In the beginning, there was a lot of buffering and the app was glitchy. That’s to be expected with first time release. I don’t mind stuff like this when you are an early adopter. The sign up process had to be over the phone, as I was part of their early invite program. I say this, but I was probably just part of their regular release. The customer service agent over the phone went over everything in great detail. They offered me seven days free and they still over this to anyone signing up. The sign up process is much easier now and can be done all online.
I had the app installed on my tablet in a few minutes. It didn’t take long. I got my username and password from the sign up process over the phone. An email was sent out after I was done signing up asking me to reset my password. That was really just a way to get me to create a password and not do it over the phone. In less than 10 minutes, including the app download and install from the welcome email, I was up and running watching ESPN.
After about two weeks, Sling TV was introduced on Amazon Fire TV. Since I have a Fire TV Stick, I also got the ability to include the app on there. That was when my viewing of Sling TV changed. I could get it on my TV instead of just my tablet. Admittedly, I didn’t watch Sling that much before I got it on my Fire TV Stick ( I recommend the stick). It just wasn’t that appealing to watch on my tablet. After the app was put on the stick, I was hooked.
The app is really easy to use on the Fire TV Stick. You just launch it, it logs in for you and then is on the screen of “What’s On” that shows you all the shows currently being broadcast. You can move to select stations to see what’s on there if you like a specific channel. Most of the channels allow you to watch a show that is already over. You can view some of them up to three days old. You can also rewind the current show or watch it from when you turned it on. ESPN does not provide this on any of its stations. This is NOT a Sling TV issue, this is how ESPN created the contract with them. I believe TBS or TNT is the same way.
Not Everything Was Awesome
My initial reaction of Sling TV was very positive up until the Final Four of March Madness the first year I was a customer. I was able to watch games on TBS and the other stations, along with recaps on ESPN. I had no issues with the app, except for occasional buffering. I’m not certain if that was the fault of my wireless or not. Either way, all was good until the Final Four. That’s when I saw the service degrade quickly. We were watching the first Final Four game and the service just couldn’t keep up. It was buffering or just shutting off completely. We would have to go out of the app to the Fire TV home page and then reload it. It would come back on for just a short while. I even sent out a tweet about it.
Using Sling during the Final Four was extremely frustrating and I wasn’t the only one who was complaining. Many took to Twitter that day to unleash their frustrations. I did test some other channels and noticed that is was only the one which was broadcasting the Final Four. The other ones worked just fine. This told me that too many people were streaming and it was testing the service to the limit. Sling took notice and did rectify the program. By halftime of the second game, they had the bugs worked out, at least for me. The game streamed fine after that and all was well.
Beyond the random buffer issue here and there, the other aspect is your only allowed to stream to one device per household or account if you choose the lowest package. If you wanted to stream to another one, you would have to upgrade your account to their blue package at least.
I don’t keep our Sling TV subscription active at all times. I don’t need it, but luckily I can easily turn it off and on via their website. I was able to cancel it within a minute or two of logging in my Sling account. If I want to turn it back on, all I have to do is log back in and turn on the subscription. They just charge your credit card when you do that. This is great for things I want to watch, like when Football is back on. We turn it back on when we know there is something we want to watch that we can’t get on our antenna or through other means.
Sling is not an alternative for those who love sports. If you need your sports channels, then Sling TV won’t cut it. That being said, it worked for me and I was able to watch the Final Four, but it’s not substitute for the huge sports package you can get on cable or satellite.
All in all, I think Sling TV is pretty good. They have worked out some of the major buffering issues and it has been fixed after it’s first big test during the Final Four. They had a lot of people sign up just for those games, so I’m sure they weren’t expecting it, but they handled it. I would recommend this service to those who are looking for some ESPN when they cut the cord. It’s no contract, so you don’t have to worry about paying when you don’t need it. The service will vary greatly depending on your internet speeds, so make sure you have good service there. I’m excited to see what else they add as the time goes on. This is as close to a la carte programming as we are going to get at the moment.
Interested in trying out Sling TV?
Have you tried Sling TV yet? If so, what did you think?