Looking for a way to cut the cable TV cord? Or maybe you never had a cord in the first place, and you’re looking for a way to get some of your favorite channels on the cheap. Sling TV is a relative newcomer to the cord cutter’s arsenal of options. The company is owned by Dish Network (DISH) but operates as a completely separate entity, so you don’t need a Dish subscription to use the service.
How It Works
Sling TV doesn’t require one of those clunky cable boxes sitting on top of your TV, because it streams everything from the Internet. You can use just about any device connected to the Internet to get service, including iOS and Android devices, your Xbox One, your Roku box, Chromecast, and Windows devices. Simply download the app, sign up and you’re ready to receive Sling’s lineup of 23 channels, with an additional array of about 65 available as individual add-on packages.
Unlike other services, such as Netflix or Hulu, Sling TV is live. You receive each channel as it’s happening, just as you would with traditional cable or satellite TV.
How Much Does It Cost?
The service starts at $20 per month. There are no contracts or set-up fees, and cancelation is easy. The $20 plan gets you the 23 channels, including ESPN, AMC, the Food Network, A&E, the History Channel, TNT, HGTV, CNN and more. If the basic lineup of channels isn’t enough, you can add bundles of additional channels for $5 per month each.
What Sling labels as “Extra” packages are available for sports, kids, Hollywood, and lifestyle, as well as plenty of Spanish offerings. The sports package adds nine channels, the kids' package adds five and the World News package adds seven. You can also pay an extra $15 per month for HBO and another $10 for Cinemax. You can see all of the available packages online. You cannot add these extra packages without first subscribing to the basic 23-channel lineup.
How About Local Channels?
No local channels are included with your Sling TV service. Of the four big networks – NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox – the only one available is ABC, as part of the Broadcast Extra package, but even that isn’t a local channel. If you’re looking for local programming, either sign up for your cable company’s basic cable package or invest in a digital antenna.
One Device at a Time
With your Sling subscription, you can only stream on one device at a time. If you’re a family hoping to entertain the kids while the adults watch shows on another device, you would need to invest in another subscription.
Is It Cost Effective?
As with most things, it depends. If the $20 base package is enough, there’s little doubt that it’s a low-cost way to watch TV, but if you’re looking to add a bunch of packages the cost mounts quickly. To get all of the English-speaking channels you would pay an extra $55, bringing your bill to $75 per month for a total of 51 channels.
The average cable bill is about $99 per month, but you can find cable packages for around the same price with more channels. And even with Sling TV, you face the same problem that people hate about cable TV: the bundle. You’re going to pay for channels that you’ll probably never watch. Channels such as Polaris, Maker, Freeform and Galavision are part of the core lineup. Ever heard of these?
The Bottom Line
There’s no doubt that Sling TV is a great deal if you can keep from adding a lot of the extra packages. Cord cutters like to use Sling TV along with other packages such as Hulu, CBS All Access and Netflix. As for cord cutting in general, if you’re in love with a few shows you should definitely look into how you can combine a service or two to get the shows you want at a low cost. However, if you’re a TV junkie you’re probably stuck with cable for a while.