Sling TV has gone through multiple evolutions since it debuted at CES 2015 (winning our Best in Show award that year in the process). Since then, it’s become an ever-present option for cord cutters looking for live TV without the bonds of cable. Most recently, Sling has added free content from its channel selections for a select group of Roku users who have been Sling TV subscribers but have canceled for one reason or another, including titles like Shameless, The Big Interview with Dan Rather, and Heartland. In an industry first, Sling, which is owned by satellite television provider Dish Network, also launched the ability to sign up for individual channels on an à la carte basis. The company is also rolling out a new search interface to make it easier to find what you want to watch.
Sling TV’s multiple channel options and constantly updated list of features make it surprisingly complicated, and there are also plenty of competitors looking for your cable-cutting dollars. To help simplify everything Sling has to offer, we’ve put together a comprehensive, hands-on evaluation so you can see if it’s right for you.
Sling TV: What it is and isn’t
Dish Network would still be happy to sell you 250 channels for $85 per month, and it doesn’t intend Sling TV to replace full-blown satellite service or cable. Instead, it hopes to meet the needs of cord cutters (those who quit cable) or “cord nevers” (those who never had it), who can’t get everything they want from traditional streaming sites like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu (though Hulu has gotten pretty close). That’s what makes Sling TV’s inclusion of sports networks like ESPN and NFL Network so attractive — livestreamed sports are hard to come by outside of a contract.
Sling TV’s selection of channels was lean to start, but it is regularly being beefed up, and the channels it does offer (listed below) are fairly popular. A recent addition includes E!, the channel best known for its so-called reality shows, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Botched, and Very Cavallari. The service also offers video-on-demand from a handful of the channels it offers, as well as movie rentals. Best of all, Sling TV requires no signup fee, no contract, and you can test it out with a one-week free trial before fully diving in. One big change in recent months is the removal of the Broadcast Extra add-on, which included ABC and Univision.
Below, you’ll find charts for each of the base Sling TV channel packages, followed by a listing of the channels included in add-on packages starting at $5. The number of available channels for each package has grown and changed over time and is likely to continue expanding and changing into the future, but our guide is regularly updated as things change. Listings here are up-to-date as of July 2019.
Included in $25 per month Sling Orange package
Included in $25 per month Sling Blue package
A quick glance at the above listings shows that there are some major differences in channels included with each of the package options. Sling Orange includes multiple sports channels, most notably a suite of ESPN channels including ESPN, ESPN 2, and ESPN 3. Sling Blue, on the other hand, drops the sports but adds in networks like FX, and Discovery, plus Fox and NBC in select markets. Each package can be upgraded with a Sports Extra add-on, but each add-on is different. The Sports Extra add-on for Orange costs $5 per month and includes football, baseball, basketball & hockey coverage on ESPNU, ESPNEWS, SEC Network, NHL Network, and, NBA TV. Meanwhile, the Sports Extra add-on for Blue costs $10 per month, giving you access to NHL Network and NBA TV, but also NFL RedZone, a virtual must-have for football fans.
Included in $40 per month Sling Orange and Blue package
If you’re looking to keep costs low, you’ll have to pick between the two above options. Luckily, for those who don’t mind paying extra, there’s a third option: “Sling Orange and Blue,” which includes all the channels from both Orange and Blue packages for $40/month. It’s a bit more expensive, to be sure, but you won’t have to decide between live sports on ESPN with Orange or network streaming with Blue.
To bolster your channel list, Sling TV offers several add-on packs, most of which include multiple channels. These cost $5 to $10 per month, though some premium add-ons like Showtime are a bit more expensive. Below are all of the packages currently available. Keep in mind that some packages differ depending on which color of Sling TV you choose, though if you subscribe to both Orange and Blue, every channel from each package will be available. Some channels are truly à la carte, as you can subscribe to them without a base Sling TV package. As of July 1, 2019, the Sports Extra add-on for Sling Orange has increased from $5 to $10 per month.
It’s also important to state that these packages can update and change from time to time, so be sure to double check on Sling TV’s website.
Sports Extra (Orange), $10 per month: NBA TV, ESPN SEC, ESPN SEC+, PAC 12 Network, ESPNU, ESPNews, NHL Network, BeIN Sports, ESPN Goal Line, Stadium, ESPN Bases loaded, Outside TV, and Tennis Channel
Sports Extra (Blue), $10 per month: RedZone NFL Network, NBA TV, NHL Network, NBC Golf, BeIN Sports, PAC 12 Network, Stadium, Outside TV, Olympic Channel, and Tennis Channel
Cheddar Business, and Cheddar News, free: Both Cheddar Business and News channels are available to all Sling TV subscribers at no extra charge
Comedy Extra (Orange), $5 per month: MTV, TruTV, MTV2, Paramount Network, CMT, Logo, GSN, TV Land, and Revolt
Comedy Extra (Blue), $5 per month: MTV, MTV2, CMT, Logo, GSN, TV Land, and Revolt
Kids Extra (Orange), $5 per month: Disney Junior, Disney XD, Nick Jr., Nicktoons, TeenNick, Boomerang, BabyTV, and Duck TV
Kids Extra (Blue), $5 per month: Nicktoons, TeenNick, Boomerang, BabyTV, and Duck TV
News Extra (Orange), $5 per month: BBC World News, HLN, Fusion, Euronews, News18, CGTN, NDTV 24×7, RT Network, Weather 24 (new users will get a free six months of Weather 24, even without the News Extra add-on), American Heroes Channel, Destination America, Science Channel
News Extra (Blue), $5 per month: MSNBC, CNBC, BBC World News, TheBlaze, HLN, Euronews, France 24, News 18, NDTV 24×7, Russia Today, CGTN, Weather 24 (new users will get a free six months of Weather 24, even without the News Extra add-on)
Lifestyle Extra (Orange), $5 per month: VH1, BET, Cooking Channel, DIY Network, FYI, Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, Hallmark Drama, WE TV, Lifetime Movies, Vibrant Network, ZLiving Network, Afro
Lifestyle Extra (Blue), $5 per month: VH1, E!, Oxygen, Cooking Channel, DIY Network, FYI, Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, Hallmark Drama, WE TV, Lifetime Movies, Vibrant Network, ZLiving Network, Afro
Hollywood Extra, $5 per month: Fandor, Reelz, HDNET Movies, Sundance TV, TCM
Heartland Extra, $5 per month: World Fishing Network, Sportsman Channel, Outdoor Channel, Ride TV, RFD TV, PixL, Cowboy Channel
Best of Spanish Extra, $10: EstrellaTV, Azteca, BeIN Sports Ñ, BeIN Sports, Cine Latino, Cine Sony, History en Español, Pasiones, INTI, CBeebies BBC, VME Kids, NTN24, Baby TV Español, El Financiero Bloomberg TV, ZeeMuno, ¡Hola! TV, Discovery en Español, Discovery Familia
À la carte add-ons
CuriosityStream, $6 per month: Includes over 1,500 documentaries on science, tech, nature, and history
UP Faith & Family, $5 per month: Includes a number of family-friendly movies, animated series, and TV series
Pantaya, $6 per month: Large selection of Spanish-language films
Stingray Karaoke, $7 per month: Includes more than 10,000 karaoke songs to choose from, with lyrics displayed on video backgrounds.
Dove Channel, $5 per month: Offers more than 300 hours of family-friendly movies, TV shows, musicals, and documentaries.
Outside TV Features, $5 per month: Includes TV series, feature films, and documentaries focusing on the world of action and adventure sports.
Starz, $9 per month: Starz, Starz West, Starz Edge, Starz Comedy, Starz Kids & Family, Starz Encore
Showtime, $10 per month: Showtime, Showtime West, Showtime 2, Showtime Showcase, Showtime Extreme, Showtime Beyond, Showtime Next, Showtime Women, Showtime Family
Epix, $5 per month: Epix, Epix2, Epix Hits
HBO: Currently blacked out due to a contract dispute with parent company AT&T/DirecTV
Cinemax, $10 per month
ConTV, $5 per month: Shows and movies for Comic-Con fans including sci-fi, horror, retro cartoons, and more.
Docurama, $5 per month: A curated collection of documentary films and TV shows.
Grokker, $7 per month: Fitness-oriented channel with yoga, meditation, cooking classes, and more.
Here TV, $8 per month: LGBTQ+ movies, series, documentaries, and short films.
Comedy Dynamics, $5 per month: Stand-up from comedians like Bob Saget, Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish, plus shows and feature films.
DOGTV, $5 per month: The first TV experience meant for dogs, with mood-based programming like “Relaxation,” “Stimulation” and “Exposure.”
VSiN, $4 per month: Originating from the South Point Hotel Casino & Spa in Las Vegas, VSiN offers straightforward information on point spreads, odds and more from top personalities in sports media.
International add-on packages
Sling also offers several international mini-packs. These include the following:
Arabic Mini, $10 per month: Arabica, BBC Arabic, Al Jazeera Mubasher, MBC Drama, Melody Classic, ART Cima, Melody Hits, MBC 3, MBC Wanasah, IQRAA TV, Noursat TV, Aghapy TV
Brazilian Mini, $15 per month: TV Globo Internacional
Chinese Mini, $5 per month: CCTV-4, CGTN, China Movie Channel, CCTV-Entertainment, Hunan Satellite TV, Zhejiang TV, Dragon TV, ShenZhen Television, Jiangsu International Channel, Phoenix North America Chinese Channel, Phoenix InfoNews, Beijing TV
Deutsch Mini, $5 per month: P7S1 Welt
Français Mini, $5 per month: France 24, TV5 Monde Cinema, TiVi5Monde, Trace Urban
Hindi Mini, $5 per month: Aaj Tak, Zee Cinema, SAB TV, zoOm, Food Food, Times Now, News18, B4U Movies, B4U Music, Sony Mix, Sahara Samay
Italiano Mini, $10 per month: Rai Italia, Rai News 24, TV2000 Italia, La7, Rai World Premium
Polish Mini, $15/month: iTVN, PolSat 1, 360TuneBox, DocuBox HD, FashionBox HD, Fast&FunBox HD, FightBox HD, FilmBox Arthouse, Gametoon, Nature Vision HD
Tamil Mini, $5/month: Jaya Max, Jaya Plus, JMovies, Raj Digital Plus, Raj News, Zee Tamil, News18, zoOm, News18 North East, Desi Bonus, Zee Purvaiya
Telugu Mini, $5 per month: Maa Music, TV5 News, Zee Cinemalu, News18, zoOm, News18 North East, Desi Bonus, Zee Purvaiya
Willow Cricket Mini, $5 per month: Willow Cricket, Willow Extra
Sling TV has several perks unique to the platform, as well as common features you would expect from most online streaming TV services.
Sling TV already has competitive pricing models compared to the other live TV streaming services available, but its refer-a-friend program can trim down your bill even more. For every friend you refer to Sling TV, you and your friend will get a $5 discount for the following three months. Your friends will benefit, too, as they will get $5 off their first month. While these discounts only apply to one billing cycle, a $5 discount equates to getting a free month of an add-on pack.
Single stream versus multiple streams
Only certain subscription packages allow for multiple simultaneous streams. If you opt for the basic package, Sling Orange, you’ll be restricted to streaming from just one device at a time. You can easily jump from your tablet to your streaming set-top box, for instance, but you can’t use both at the same time. The other, more expensive subscription plans allow for up to three simultaneous streams.
In addition to the above sports channel packages, Sling TV includes a handy feature for tracking upcoming games called Game Finder. The feature is an online search tool where users can find upcoming regular season NCAA and NFL games. You can access the tool at Sling.com/gamefinder.
If you want to ensure that you don’t miss anything, Sling TV’s cloud DVR feature will help.
The feature will cost you an extra $5 per month, but it will grant you 50 hours of cloud-based DVR storage — though Roku users can enjoy twice that much. Unlike the cloud DVR functionality provided by competitor PlayStation Vue, there is no 28-day time limit, just the storage limit. Once you start approaching the limit, Sling TV automatically makes space by deleting the oldest recordings that you have already watched. Thankfully, Sling allows you to flag content as “protected” so you can prevent it from being automatically culled. Other added features include DVR folders for organizing your recorded content, and the ability to set up recordings from a show’s franchise page in the Sling TV guide.
Cloud DVR recording isn’t available on all channels, and you’ll often find that the channels that don’t allow DVR recording also don’t allow time shifting. However, users are able to record multiple shows simultaneously on channels that currently support the feature. Similarly, while the large majority of devices support cloud DVR, the Xfinity X1 and some Samsung smart TVs currently do not. It’s a bummer this feature isn’t open to all channels and devices, but Sling TV has been steadily increasing support as the service grows nonetheless.
Video on demand
Sling TV offers a fairly robust selection of movies on demand at launch, with even more promised in the near future. Rental costs are $3 for SD and $4 for HD. The eclectic library includes a healthy selection of Disney flicks, and plenty of big-budget fares. In addition, a new deal with Epix will bring in around 2,000 VOD titles, with titles new and old, spanning the gamut of popular programming.
Titles are broken down into categories including Action & Adventure, Comedy, Documentary, Drama, Foreign Films, Horror, Kids and Family, Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Thriller, Classics, Romance, War & Westerns. A search feature is also available to make finding out if a specific title is available much easier.
If you decide to cancel Sling TV, whether that’s for good or just for a little while, you’ll still have something to watch. The service has a selection of free content that provides more than 100 hours of movies and TV shows including Wrecked, The Detour, Good Behavior, and Flip or Flop. This content is only available to previous subscribers (though even using the free trial counts) and is currently only available on Roku devices, though the company intends to add support for more devices in the future, and may even open up its free offerings to everyone at some point.
We expected it to take some time to learn how to wade through a new layout, so it came as no surprise that Sling TV felt a little awkward at first. But in less than a day, we became accustomed.
Sling TV avoids the blocky “guide graph” of your home DVR in favor of a timeline-based programming guide, enriched with thumbnail graphics for each show. We’re also glad to see an integrated search feature, which makes finding a specific movie in Sling TV’s on-demand catalog much easier.
The UI feels better on a tablet or phone than it does on our Roku or Amazon Fire TV, probably because Sling TV’s design lends itself better to a touchscreen or point-and-click interface than it does with directional cursor navigation.
We tested Sling TV on a 65-inch TV screen, which we expected would expose any shortcomings in video quality … and it did. With a strong internet connection and good throughput, we felt like we were watching 720p at best, and the framerate is also prone to speeding up and slowing down depending on stream buffering. Cable, satellite, Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu all have better-looking HD streams in our estimation. On smaller screens, compression artifacts and poor resolution are much less noticeable. We think Sling TV looks best on screens that are 47 inches and smaller, and it’s beautiful on tablets and phones.
Sling is also rolling out a new search interface. Before you even begin typing in your query, the app will present a list of the most popular searches happening now. Once you’ve chosen what to search for, results will be organized into a new set of categories, including top results, movies, shows, and channels. Like Netflix, you will also now be prompted to play the next episode of a show if one exists, as soon as your current episode is over.
Loading and buffering
A solid, speedy internet connection is recommended for the best Sling TV experience, but not required. Users can choose to stream at low quality (0.5Mbps), medium (0.8Mbps), high (1.5Mbps), or best (no limit). We streamed at the best quality and experienced longer load times and some buffering, depending on the state of our internet connection, but it’s nice to know those with fast connections can get a quality experience, and those with bandwidth caps can control data consumption.
Shifty time shifting
Whether or not you are able to pause, rewind, or fast-forward — also known as “time shifting” — what you’re watching will depend on which channel you’re watching, as not all support this feature. Sling continually adds time shifting support to new channels, with a little over a third of the channels now supported.
On the plus side, those channels that do allow time shifting will let you go back as far as three days in the program history, so you can catch episodes of your favorite shows on those channels that you may have missed.
Sling TV is available on a host of devices, and very likely on one (or multiple) you already own.
- Amazon Fire TV
- Amazon Fire TV Stick
- Xiaomi Mi Box
- Apple TV (4th Generation)
- Chromecast Ultra
- Google Chrome web browser (beta)
- Channel Master DVR+
- Nvidia Shield
- Devices and TVs using Google’s Android TV
- Select LG Smart TVs
- Roku players
- Roku TV models
- Select Samsung Smart TVs
- Xbox One consoles
- iOS and Android devices
- Windows 10
- Xfinity X1
- Oculus devices
Sling TV isn’t for everyone, and Dish knows that. Still, at $25 a month for the basic package (or $40 for more channels), with no contracts, commitments, or cancellation fees, it’s certainly worth a shot for those who have only kept cable around for channels like ESPN, CNN, or HDTV. There are cheaper services like Philo or AT&T’s WatchTV, which cost $16 and $15 per month respectively, but they don’t offer sports channels or locals, which are often what people are looking for from a live TV streaming service. Paired with an HD antenna, and a couple of other streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, Sling TV can become an important part of a complete cord cutter’s diet.
In the end, what is there to lose besides your cable provider?
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