Sling TV Review – Everything You Need to Know
When Dish Network officially unveiled Sling TV in January 2015, executives knew that they had a winner on their hands. With the tagline of “Take Back TV,” Sling TV was positioned as a hip, savvy way to “cut the cord” with cable TV companies, but still have access to lots of premium live content at a more affordable price point. And now, only a few months after launching, the service has picked up more than 1 million subscribers, including many in the very desirable 18-to-35 demographic.
The best live programming
The fundamental appeal of Sling TV is that it gives you access to the best live programming, including live sports, hit TV shows and breaking news. And you don’t get burdened with a lot of channels that you don’t want.
As part of the Sling Orange package, subscribers get access to 30+ channels, including ESPN and CNN, for the low monthly price of just $20. As part of the Sling Blue package, subscribers get access to 40+ channels, including FOX and NBC (but not ESPN) for just $25 per month. And as part of the Sling Orange + Blue package, you get access to all the channels for just $40 per month.
Sling TV touts the Orange + Blue package as the best overall value, and it’s easy to see why — if you get the Blue package, you get access to live sports via ESPN but don’t get access to hit broadcast TV shows from FOX and NBC. And if you get the Orange package, you get access to the hit broadcast TV shows from FOX and NBC, but you don’t get ESPN. So, if you’re like most people, you probably watch a little of both entertainment and sports, so you’d want to get the blended Orange + Blue package.
But think of how brilliant that is from a marketing perspective — Sling TV can claim to offer live streaming TV for just $20 a month, even if most people will eventually upgrade to a package that is twice as expensive! The important point, though, is that Sling TV was the first live streaming service to offer ESPN (although now PlayStation Vue and DirecTV Now offer it), and also the first live streaming service to give users the option of bundling in HBO without having a cable TV subscription.
In fact, Sling TV has a number of important content “add-on” packages that can easily raise the price of your monthly bill. These are just some of the options available to Sling TV subscribers:
- HBO – $15
- Cinemax – $10
- Starz – $9
- Kids Extra package – $5
- Sports Extra package – $5 and $10
- Lifestyle Extra package – $5
So, in many ways, Sling TV customers can personalize their channel lineup to fit their tastes. For example, NFL football fans can order the NFL Red Zone network, Spanish-language viewers can order the Spanish TV package, and movie fans can bundle in services like EPIX and HBO.
Live TV on-the-go
One of the reasons why tech-savvy millennials have embraced Sling TV is because it appears to be tailored to their mobile, on-the-go lifestyles. Young millennials don’t watch TV from a couch — they watch from their tablets and smartphones and laptops, wherever they might be. That’s why Sling TV constantly emphasizes that you can watch “at home or on the go.” You can watch on literally any digital device.
And, best of all, there’s no pricey equipment to order, and no installation. All you need to do is to go online, sign up, and download the Sling TV app. From there, you just sign in, and you can start watching instantly from any device. Except your TV, that is. To watch Sling TV on your home TV, you’ll need a set-top box. Supported devices currently include the following:
- Apple TV
- Amazon Fire TV
- XBox One
No annoying cable experience
And, as part of the overall branding of Sling TV, the service does everything possible to eliminate every annoying aspect of the cable TV experience. Sling TV encourages you to “watch what you love, without the cable experience you hate.” (It has to be pointed out here that, since Sling TV is a subsidiary of Dish Network, there’s not a word about the “satellite experience you hate.”)
As part of delivering this optimal experience, Sling TV makes it very easy for people to sign up and also to cancel. You can just cancel online, for example, without having to get into a debate with a customer service representative. And there are no cancellation fees, as well as no annual contracts and no credit checks. This makes Sling TV much more like a traditional service you’d order over the Internet, and not at all like a traditional cable TV provider.
Drawbacks to Sling TV
Ok, so Sling TV sounds absolutely amazing, what doesn’t it offer? Well, you’ve probably noticed that there hasn’t been any mention of an “on demand library.” That’s because, well, there isn’t one to mention. Subscribers are essentially limited to “catch up” programming from the TV networks that are part of the service. You’re not going to be binge-watching a full series of TV shows or streaming movies from a vast archive.
This is probably a major drawback for many people. However, even Sling TV admits that it’s meant to be a “complement” to services like Netflix. In other words, if you want live streaming TV AND you want live streaming movies, you’re probably best off combining Sling TV and a service like Netflix.
And that has opened the door to competing services like AT&T’s DirecTV Now, which offers both a full channel lineup of live streaming TV, in addition to a massive, on-demand archive of 10,000+ movies and TV shows. DirecTV Now, of course, is the creation of DirecTV, the primary satellite TV competitor to Dish Network (which created Sling TV). So, DirecTV Now and Dish Network are essentially fighting a new war now, this time over content streaming over the Internet.
Sling TV stands out as the first real streaming TV service to take on the major cable networks. It’s relatively cheap (with prices starting at $20 per month) and offers a robust lineup of channels that can be customized to specific tastes. Moreover, it’s perfectly tailored to the on-the-go lifestyle of young millennials. Perhaps the only thing it’s missing is a comprehensive video on-demand service for people who enjoy movies along with their live streaming TV.