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Sling TV review: Pricing, availability and free trials in 2024

(Graphic by The Desk)

Sling TV has carved out a niche in the live TV streaming market as the most affordable option. But with a lower price tag comes some limitations. This review dives deep into Sling TV, exploring its strengths, weaknesses, and whether it’s the right cord-cutting choice for you.

À La Carte Channel Selection and Flexible Plans

Sling TV’s core concept revolves around choice. Unlike competitors with one large channel package, Sling offers two base plans: Sling Orange and Sling Blue. Orange focuses on entertainment channels, including Disney-owned networks like ESPN and Disney Channel, while Blue caters to a broader audience with news, sports (minus ESPN), and lifestyle channels. You can subscribe to either individually or combine them for the full channel lineup.

This à la carte approach allows for customization based on your viewing habits. Need sports? Grab Sling Blue. Craving Disney content? Sling Orange is your pick. This flexibility is a major advantage, especially for budget-conscious viewers who only want specific channels.

However, creating your perfect package can get complicated. Sling offers numerous add-on packs for genres like sports, kids, and news, which can quickly inflate the overall cost. Factor in these extras before getting sticker shock when your “budget-friendly” plan balloons to rival more comprehensive services.

Channel Selection: Hits and Misses

Sling TV’s channel selection is decent, but it lacks the depth of some competitors. Local channels, a staple of traditional cable, are conspicuously absent. This is a dealbreaker for viewers who rely on local news and network programming.

Sling shines in specific areas. Sports fans on a budget will appreciate Sling Blue’s inclusion of USA Network, TNT, Fox Sports 1 and TBS, which broadcast major sporting events like Major League Baseball, National Hockey League and Major League Soccer. Those who want ESPN should choose Sling Orange, which includes other Disney-owned channels like Freeform as well.

Both Sling Orange and Sling Blue include a core set of channels like Comedy Central, Cartoon Network, CNN, A&E, History Channel and TV Land. A combined Sling Orange + Sling Blue package starts at $55 month, and includes ESPN, Fox Sports 1, TNT, TBS, Fox News Channel, Bravo, E! and more.

Movie buffs have access to some popular channels like Turner Classic Movies, TNT and TBS in both packages, but a significant lack of premium movie channels necessitates separate subscriptions to streaming services like Max (formerly HBO Max) or Hulu. That said, Sling TV subscribers can add on certain premium movie networks like Starz and MGM Plus for separate fees.

DVR: A Step in the Right Direction

Sling TV includes 50 hours of cloud DVR storage with all base packages. This allows you to record shows and movies to watch later, a valuable feature for cord-cutters. However, 50 hours can fill up quickly, especially for heavy DVR users. Upgrading to DVR Plus for an additional $5 per month bumps storage to 200 hours, a more reasonable amount for those who record frequently.

While the DVR functionality is a welcome addition, it falls short compared to competitors. Setting recordings can be cumbersome, and features like fast-forwarding through commercials are limited on certain devices.

The Barstool Sports Channel appears on a device running Dish Network’s Sling TV service. (Graphic by The Desk)

Interface and Usability

Sling TV’s interface has undergone improvements, but it’s not the most intuitive. While functional, it lacks the polish and user-friendliness of services like YouTube TV or Hulu with Live TV. Navigating channels and finding specific programs can feel clunky at times.

On the plus side, Sling TV is available on a wide range of devices, including smart TVs, streaming sticks, tablets, and smartphones. This makes it easy to watch your favorite shows on the go or on whichever screen you prefer.

Value for Money: The Ultimate Trade-off

Sling TV’s biggest selling point is its affordability. Starting at $40 per month for each base plan (Sling Orange and Sling Blue), it’s significantly cheaper than most live TV streaming services. However, the true cost depends on your channel needs. Adding extras and DVR Plus can quickly erode the initial price advantage.

Here’s where the trade-off comes in: Sling TV is ideal for budget-conscious viewers who only need a few specific channels and don’t mind the lack of local channels or a comprehensive DVR experience. But if you crave a wider channel selection, local channels, and a more polished interface, you might be better off with a slightly pricier competitor like DirecTV Stream or Fubo.

(Logo courtesy Dish Network/Sling TV LLC, Graphic by The Desk)

Who Should Consider Sling TV?

  • Budget-conscious cord-cutters: If you’re looking to ditch cable but prioritize affordability, Sling TV is worth considering. Just be mindful of the add-on costs.
  • Viewers with specific channel needs: Do you crave sports or Disney content? Sling’s à la carte approach lets you tailor your package to your interests.
  • Travelers and mobile viewers: Sling TV’s wide device support makes it easy to stream on the go.

Who Should Look Elsewhere?

  • Local news and network TV watchers: The lack of local channels is a major drawback for viewers who rely on traditional programming. Sling Orange only offers local ABC stations in eight areas, while Sling Blue only offers Fox and NBC in a handful of markets. In both cases, only network-owned local stations are carried — meaning, if people live in an area where a third party broadcaster like Nexstar Media Group, Sinclair Broadcast Group, TEGNA, Gray Television or Allen Media Group own the local network affiliate, it won’t be offered on Sling TV.
  • DVR enthusiasts: Sling TV’s DVR storage limitations and clunky interface might not satisfy heavy recorders.
  • Those seeking a premium experience: If you prioritize a user-friendly interface, comprehensive channel selection, and a robust DVR, Sling TV might fall outside the expectations of people who want a premium experience like access to all of their local channels and certain national, news and sports networks within a single package.

Does Sling TV offer a free trial?

Yes! Sling TV offers a no-commitment, 7-day free trial to those who want to try out Sling Orange or Sling Blue, or the combined Sling Orange-Sling Blue package. New customers can take advantage of the free trial offer by clicking or tapping here.

Does Sling TV offer any free channels?

You bet — Sling TV offer a free, ad-supported television platform called Sling Freestream, which offers access to hundreds of free streaming channels like ABC News Live, CBS News, Comedy Central Pluto TV, MSG SportsZone, AMC Thrillers, Stories by AMC, IFC FilmPicks and way more. Sling Freestream is available within the Sling app with no login or credit card needed — just click or tap here — and subscribers of Sling TV can also access Sling Freestream channels as part of their subscription.

What devices support Sling TV?

Sling TV and Sling Freestream are available as streaming apps on a wide variety of smart TV devices, including Amazon Fire TV, Android TV (Google TV), Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, TiVo Stream and set-top boxes for Cox Cable and Comcast (Xfinity). Sling TV is also available on smart TVs made by LG, Samsung, Vizio and Sony.

To learn more about Sling and to get a free 7-day trial, click or tap here.

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