Technology is ever-evolving and the realm of entertainment media, more so. Over the past decade, a legion of companies has soothed our cable TV-stricken wounds with the revolutionary “online streaming sites”. Although these services ticked all the boxes in sync with the consumer demand, they had one major snag; and that is, the lack of real-time broadcast.
Thankfully, a few companies recognized this setback and designed a service that allowed users to watch live TV online, just like they would using a cable TV subscription, albeit, at a lower price. Sling TV, the trailblazer in this sphere and a DISH Network venture, was introduced only two years back, as a supplement to on-demand streaming services and a substitute for cable TV. The service offers a vast selection of major TV networks that you can access across a huge range of devices without installing any kind of equipment.
You’re perhaps looking to know more about the service so without further ado, let’s get into the review bit.
Sling TV Plans Break Down
Sling TV’s plans may seem a bit compounded owing to the different cable channels. The two main categories are – Orange and Blue.
1. Sling Orange
$20 per month, you can stream about 30 basic channels such as ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, TNT, TBS, HGTV, DIY Network, CNN, Cartoon Network, ABC Family, Disney Channel, AMC, A&E, History, H2, Lifetime, Bloomberg, Food Network, Travel Channel, Newsy, Flama, AXS TV, Comedy Central, Cheddar, BBC America, IFC, Freeform, and Viceland.
Note that many of these Sling TV channels have been added to the plan recently, so that means that Sling TV is going all out with regards to tapping more content partners. With Sling Orange, you get only a single screen.
2. Sling Blue
The “Blue” plan is priced at $25 per month and gives access to channels like BET, Bravo, El Rey, UniMas, USA Network, Fox On-Demand, National Geographic, NBC, Nick Jr., Syfy, and Fox Sports, in addition to the basic networks – A&E, AMC, AXS TV, BBC America, Bloomberg, Local Now, Newsy, TBS, History Channel, TNT, Cartoon Network, HGTV, Travel Channel, Viceland, Comedy Central, Flama, CNN, and Cheddar.
What’s more? You can stream on two screens simultaneously provided you’re subscribed to this plan.
You could either subscribe to either of the plans mentioned above or combine the two i.e. Sling Orange + Sling Blue at $40 per month, to maximize the value. Though these do include some major TV networks, many other biggies seem to be missing.
The good news is that you can add a few of those to your base package at an additional cost. Let’s take a quick look at what add-ons are available currently:
A Brief Note About Sling Extras
- Sports Extra: Includes beIN Sports, Campus Insiders, Motorsport.tv, NBA TV, NFL RedZone, Golf Channel, SEC Network, Univision Deportes Network, ESPN News, Pac-12 Networks, NHL Network, Outside TV, etc. ($5/$10 per month depending upon which channels you choose).
- Lifestyle Plus Extra: Includes Cooking Channel, DIY Network, BET, AFRO, E!, LMN, Oxygen, FYI, VH1, Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, truTV, Vibrant TV, and WE TV ($5 per month).
- Comedy Plus Extra: Includes Logo, MTV, CMT, Game Show, TV Land, Spike, truTV, and E!Rey ($5 per month).
- Kids Extra: Includes Disney XD, Disney Junior, Boomerang, BabyTV, Nick Jr, Nicktoons, Sling Kids, TeenNick, Ducktv, etc. ($5 per month).
- Broadcast Extra: ABC, Univision, and UniMas ($5 per month).
- Hollywood Extra: Reelz, SundanceTV, Fandor, HDNet Movies, and Turner Classic Movies ($5 per month).
- HBO: East and West feeds plus HBO on-demand at $15 a month.
- Cinemax: East and West feeds plus Cinemax on-demand at $10 per month.
- Showtime: All Showtime networks at $10 per month.
Apart from these add-ons, Sling TV also offers a few regional channels ranging across languages like Italian, Spanish, Hindi, and Arabic.
Supported Devices and Country-Wise Availability
As of now, one may stream content on Sling TV only in the United States. However, there are ways to access the platform outside of the U.S. using reliable VPN services but the experience might get slightly affected.
Having said that, Sling TV has made a lot of effort to bring their service to various platforms including iOS and Android devices, Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire Stick, Xbox One, and Google Chromecast.
Just a while ago, Sling TV partnered with LG to develop an app for their smart TVs. You may even watch the content using your laptop or computer that’s powered by either Windows 8 or Mac OS.
Our Experience Using The Sling TV App
We tried using Sling TV on devices of literally every screen size. Before we move onto what we liked, let’s talk about what we disliked.
To our disappointment, the user interface is not uniform across devices. On a Samsung Galaxy 7, the app ran pretty smoothly with barely any lags or resolution problems. However, when we switched to Apple TV and tried streaming the same content, the load speeds reduced and the video/audio quality suffered big time. We also noticed a slight delay (about 3-4 seconds) before a channel began streaming. This is a disadvantage since essentially, it is supposed to broadcast live like it would on a normal cable/satellite TV.
Another hitch that we faced was to do with the search functionality. While Sling TV does pull up a long list of search results, it’s not necessarily relevant. Also, navigation could be an issue given how the content is organized. Unlike on other services, you wouldn’t find many useful sub-categories or genres that would have facilitated easy browsing.
Although there’s a tab called “My TV” right at the top, displaying your most-loved networks, it’s quite futile since it does not tell you what’s on at the moment.
However, on Roku, none of the above-mentioned issues exist barring maybe a few unnoticeable bugs. In fact, you’ll even get the ever-so useful “Guide” and all the DVR features, offering you the best Sling TV experience.
Keeping all the snags aside, we loved the fact that Sling TV offers such a wide selection of TV channels. But that’s not all! The service has an incredible DVR feature that allows you pause, rewind, and fast-forward TV channels and store up to 50 hours of content at just $5 per month. However, there’s a catch to this. As of today, the Cloud DVR feature is only available on select devices including all Roku devices, Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire Stick, and Amazon tablets.
Once you’ve figured out the nuts and bolts of the service, all the above issues except buffering can be overlooked. Overall, it is pretty great app considering how new it still is, with a lot of room for improvement.
Most of us watch about 10-12 channels per week on an average. Considering this, Sling TV can save you quite a lot of money because cable TV packages fill their plans with a lot of poor quality channels that you’d probably never even watch. Although it’s still not possible to build your own package on the platform, you could always opt for additional channels based on your interests or stick with the basic channels if you don’t watch a lot of TV.
Unfortunately, for those who will not be satiated with the main plans and want all the other features and add-ons like HBO, the monthly bill will soon start to look like your cable TV bill. In that case, Sling TV may not be the best option. Maybe you could go for the basic plan and supplement it with another service such as Amazon Prime Video or Netflix Subscription.