Everything you need to know about Sling TV

Joe Supan
JS
Joe Supan
Aug 7, 2019
  • Sling TV has three packages: Orange ($25/mo.), Blue ($25/mo.) and Orange + Blue ($40/mo.)
  • Sling Orange includes ESPN and Disney Channel, while Blue has Fox, NBC and Discovery
  • ABC and CBS aren’t available in any of Sling’s plans
  • More customizable add-ons than any other service
  • Can add 50 hours of DVR storage for $5/mo.
  • No free trial, just 40% off first month

With 2.47 million subscribers, Sling is the most popular live TV streaming service around for a reason: It’s cheaper than almost any of its competitors. Sling’s most expensive package is $40/mo. — less than anything offered from Hulu + Live TV, PlayStation Vue, DIRECTV NOW, YouTube TV and fuboTV — and it has even cheaper plans at $25/mo. 

And while those packages are missing major channels like ABC, CBS and Animal Planet, Sling is still one of the best options around for those looking to significantly trim down their monthly TV bill. But if you want a more robust channel lineup — or if you’re a diehard sports fan — you’re better off going with fuboTV or Hulu + Live TV.

How does Sling TV work?

Sling streams live TV channels through your internet connection. It’s the TV experience you’re used to without the clunky equipment, hidden fees, and long-term contracts. All you need to start watching is at least 5 Mbps internet speeds and something to stream it through like a smart TV or streaming device.

  • Works everywhere in the U.S.
  • Cheaper but has fewer channels than cable, satellite and most other live TV streaming services
  • Need at least 5 Mbps internet speeds
  • No contracts — just pay every month and cancel anytime 
  • Works with almost every streaming device, gaming console and smart TV
PlanPrice*Channels**Simultaneous streams
Orange$25/mo.331
Blue$25/mo.473
Orange + Blue$40/mo.544

Sling TV packages

Although they’re cheap ($25/mo.), most viewers will find some of their favorite channels missing in Sling’s Orange and Blue plans. 

Sling TV offers three packages in total: Orange ($25/mo.), Blue ($25/mo.) and a discounted combination of the two, Orange + Blue ($40/mo.). Around 79% of Orange’s channels are also available in Blue, but there are some key differences. 

Sling Orange ($25/mo.)Sling Blue ($25/mo.)Both
ESPNFox (select markets)A&E
ESPN 2NBC (select markets)TNT
ESPN 3DiscoveryTBS
Disney ChannelFXHistory
FreeformUSAAMC
MotortrendSyFyFood Network
ACC NetworkTLCComedy Central
National GeographicLifetime
Paramount NetworkCartoon Network
NFL NetworkCNN
FS1HGTV
FS2Investigation Discovery
truTVBBC America
NBC Sports NetworkTravel Channel
BravoIFC
FXXEPIX Drive-In
E!Fuse
Nick Jr.Bloomberg TV
BETAXS TV
NBC Sports Regional Sports Networks (select markets)Viceland

Sling Orange vs. Blue

Sling Blue has 21 channels that aren’t available on Orange, but Orange only has eight that aren’t in Blue. The two packages also share 19 of the same channels.

Sling Blue has an objectively better channel lineup. It has 47 channels to Orange’s 33, and when we scored all live TV streaming services based on the channels that consumers most want in a TV package, only two offered more value for the money than Sling Blue — Philo and AT&T Watch TV, both skinny bundles for $20/mo. or less.

But Sling Orange has one must-have channel that is non-negotiable for huge segments of viewers: ESPN. Without it, sports fans would miss out on a significant number of sporting events, including Monday Night Football’s marquee NFL matchups, the College Football Playoffs and NBA Conference Finals games. 

It’s why the channel and its affiliates cost a reported $9.06 in more than half of American homes. If you don’t need ESPN, you’ll get a lot more value with a plan that doesn’t include it.  

Sling Orange + Blue

Live TV streaming services generally come in two flavors: skinny bundles and cable lookalikes. On their own, Sling Orange and Blue offer a slimmed down version of TV that’s unique to streaming. Together, they resemble more of a traditional TV package. That is, you’ll have to pay for a lot of channels you never watch. 

Orange + Blue is still good value. In fact, it ranked the highest in our analysis in the “cable lookalikes” category, and $40 is still on the cheap side for a live TV streaming service. 

What’s missing from Sling TV

The channels Sling is missing are tough to overlook. It doesn’t have ABC or CBS in any of its plans — the two channels consumers said they wanted more than any others in TiVo’s survey of 3,300 consumers. Granted, you can get those channels for free using a TV antenna or Locast.org, but it certainly degrades the channel-surfing experience to exit the Sling app every time you want to watch ABC or CBS. 

Out of Sling, Hulu, PlayStation Vue, DIRECTV NOW and YouTube TV, Sling is the only service that doesn’t have all of the “big four” networks, ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC. 

The following channels aren’t available in any of Sling’s base plans or add-ons:

  • ABC
  • CBS 
  • Fox Sports Regional Sports Networks
  • HBO
  • PBS
  • Animal Planet
  • Nick
  • The CW
  • Fox News
  • Oxygen
  • Ion
  • Disney Jr.
  • MSNBC
  • TCM
  • Music Choice
  • CNBC
  • MLB Network

Is Sling TV good for sports?

Casual fans can get by with Sling, but if you’re a more avid sports viewer, you’ll probably want to upgrade to PlayStation Vue or YouTube TV. That’s because Sling is missing ABC and CBS, two of the most important channels for sports fans. Without them, you’ll miss NFL games every Sunday (and during the playoffs), the NBA Finals and a number of college football games. 

As you can see, Sling lacks at least one channel that airs live games from each of the five most popular sports leagues in the U.S.

LeagueWhat it hasWhat it’s missing
NFLESPN, Fox, NBC, NFL NetworkCBS
MLBESPN, ESPN 2, Fox, FS1, TBSMLB Network
NBAESPN, NBA TV*, TNTABC
NHLNBC, NBC Sports, NHL Network*, USACNBC
NCAA FootballACC Network, ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPN 3, FoxABC, Big Ten Network, CBS, Pac-12 Network, SEC Network

Another problem for sports fans is that the key sports channels are split between Orange and Blue. Orange has ESPN and TNT, but Blue has Fox, NBC and NFL Network. If you want to catch every NFL game, for instance, you’ll need both, which costs $40 (and it’s still missing CBS). 

More importantly, Sling has the weakest selection of regional sports networks (RSNs) of any major streaming service. These are the channels that broadcast your local NBA, MLB and NHL team’s games. Sling only carries NBC Sports, which covers about 10 channels across the country. If your local team plays on a Fox Sports affiliate or an independent station, you’re out of luck. 

Customizable add-ons

Sling TV offers more ways to customize your channel lineup than any other streaming service. 

Add-on packages

Most live TV streaming services promise some version of “à la carte TV,” but Sling is the only one that reasonably delivers it. It has seven groups of channels you can add on to any of its plans for an additional monthly fee, or you can add all seven for a discounted rate.

Add-onPrice*Channels
Sports Extra$10/mo.
  • NFL RedZone
  • NBA TV
  • NHL Network
  • Golf Channel
  • beIN SPORTS
  • Pac-12
  • Outside Television
  • Olympic Channel
  • Motorsport TV
  • Comedy Extra$5/mo.
  • MTV
  • MTV2
  • CMT
  • Logo
  • Revolt
  • GSN
  • TV Land
  • Kids Extra$5/mo.
  • NickToons
  • TeenNick
  • Boomerang
  • BabyTV
  • ducktv
  • News Extra$5/mo.
  • BBC World News
  • Free Speech
  • TheBlaze
  • NewsMax
  • HLN
  • Weather Nation
  • Fusion
  • Euronews
  • Science Channel
  • News18
  • RT America
  • CGTN
  • Lifestyle Extra$5/mo.
  • VH1
  • BET
  • Cooking Channel
  • DIY
  • FYI
  • Hallmark Channel
  • WE TV
  • Lifetime Movies
  • Hallmark Movies & Mysteries
  • Hallmark Drama
  • Z Living HD
  • Heartland Extra$5/mo.
  • World Fishing Network
  • Sportsman Channel
  • Outdoor Channel
  • RIDE TV
  • American Heroes Network
  • RFD-TV
  • Destination America
  • PixL
  • The Cowboy Channel
  • Hollywood Extra$5/mo.
  • REELZ
  • HDNet Movies
  • SundanceTV
  • The Film Detective
  • Cinemoi
  • Turner Classic Movies
  • Total TV Deal$20/mo.
  • 50 hours of DVR storage
  • Sports Extra
  • Kids Extra
  • Comedy Extra
  • News Extra
  • Lifestyle Extra
  • Heartland Extra
  • Hollywood Extra
  • 4 for $10 Deal$10/mo.
  • Kids Extra
  • Comedy Extra
  • News Extra
  • Lifestyle Extra
  • Premium channels

    Sling TV also offers 27 channels that can be added individually. But outside of Showtime ($10/mo.), Starz ($9/mo.) and EPIX ($5/mo.), most of them are pretty niche. DOGTV, for instance, promises “revolutionary content designed for a dog’s visual, auditory and emotional sensibility” for only $5/mo. Notably absent is HBO, which is available through most live TV streaming services for $15/mo. 

    International plans

    Sling TV provides the most international-friendly service around. If English isn’t your first language, you can choose from 17 different packages to add onto your Sling TV plan. Here are the options:

    • Best of Spanish TV – $5/mo.
    • México – $5/mo. 
    • Sudamérica – $5/mo.
    • Centroamérica – $5/mo.
    • España – $5/mo.
    • Willow Cricket Mini – $5/mo.
    • Hindi Mini – $5/mo.
    • Telugu Mini – $5/mo.
    • Tamil Mini – $5/mo.
    • Chinese Mini – $5/mo.
    • Français Mini – $5/mo.
    • Deutsch Mini – $5/mo.
    • Arabic Mini – $10/mo.
    • Italiano Mini – $5/mo.
    • Polish Mini – $15/mo.
    • Brazilian Mini – $15/mo.
    • Sun TV Mini – $10/mo.

    Sub-par interface and navigation

    Sling isn’t exactly difficult to navigate, but it is one of the least user-friendly streaming services we’ve tested. 

    Like every other streaming service (and every cable and satellite TV interface of the past decade) Sling uses a channel guide to help you find something to watch. 

    It’s perfectly serviceable, but it can also be unnecessarily cumbersome. When you click on a channel, for example, instead of taking you directly to what’s playing, Sling opens up a separate window that shows you a description of the program. From there, you click “Watch Live” to actually view the show.

    Clicking your remote an extra time isn’t a dealbreaker by any means. But that added step made the experience just a little more frustrating. We tested Sling on Roku and Fire TV streaming devices as well, and the result was exactly the same. 

    Sling also opts not to use any colors in its interface aside from its logo, for a TV experience that feels like you’re reading a Word doc. Compare that to YouTube TV’s dynamic channel guide below, and Sling’s design starts to feel even more mailed in. 

    Sling TV promotions

    Sling is the only live streaming service that doesn’t offer a free trial, but it makes up for it with a number of generous promotions. 

    No free trial

    It’s disappointing that Sling doesn’t offer a free trial to customers who want to test the service out. We’ve come to expect it and it’s something that comes standard with every other streaming service. Instead, it swaps that free week with 40% off your first month of service. That lowers the price of Orange and Blue to $15 in the first month, and Orange + Blue to $25. 

    Free TV antenna offer

    To make up for its biggest channel gaps, ABC and CBS, Sling offers customers a free indoor or outdoor TV antenna when you pre-pay for two months of service. They’ll even send out someone to install it professionally for you.

    This does add an annoying extra step to the TV-viewing experience — you’ll have to switch TV inputs and remotes every time you want to watch a local channel — but it’s a big part of why Sling can keep its prices so low. 

    Free Roku Express offer

    Not sure how to stream on your TV? Sling will send you a free Roku Express streaming device when you pre-pay for two months of service, a $30 value on its own. If you have a 4K TV, Sling will also include a Roku Ultra (retails for $99.99) for a discounted price of $49.99 when you pre-pay for three months.

    Sling TV FAQs

    Which streaming devices work with Sling TV?

    The following streaming devices, smart TVs and gaming consoles are compatible with Sling TV:

    • AirTV Player
    • Amazon Fire TV
    • Android TV
    • Apple TV
    • Google Chromecast
    • LG TVs
    • Roku
    • Xbox One
    • Xiaomi Mi TVs

    Does Sling TV include cloud DVR recording?

    Sling is the only major live TV streaming service that doesn’t include cloud DVR recording in any of its base plans. You can add 50 hours of DVR storage to your package for an extra $5/mo. 

    How many simultaneous streams does Sling TV allow?

    Sling allows one stream at a time on its Orange plan, two on its Blue plan and four on Orange + Blue. If you try to stream on more devices than it allows simultaneously, you’ll get an error message on the first device that was signed in.

    What internet speed do I need for Sling TV?

    Sling recommends various minimum speeds for different types of streaming:

    • At least 3 Mbps for streaming on tablets and phones
    • At least 5 Mbps for streaming on a laptop, PC or Mac
    • At least 25 Mbps for homes that use multiple devices at once

    If you’re not sure what speeds you’re currently getting, use our speed test below to find out.

    Shop internet plans