By: HDTV Professor
Since it’s worldwide launch in early 2015, Sling TV immediately and permanently revolutionized the streaming TV industry. It was the first true internet-only streaming service that offered a live TV channel line-up comparable to cable and satellite TV’s plans… while also including a fair amount of your local channels. Nowadays, there are plenty of new competitors in the online streaming world, but Sling TV continues to hold its own and then some. Read on for a closer look at Sling TV’s history, current packages and my general thoughts on the service…
DISH’s cord-cutting solution for millennials and the tech-savvy
A lot of folks don’t know that Sling TV was actually envisioned, created and, now, still managed by DISH. A decisive response to the Netflix boom, DISH (and, thereafter, other providers), soon realized that the cord-cutting trend was primed to evolve to a legitimate industry in its own right. The perfect cocktail of a lower price and flexible contract, Sling TV caught on fairly quickly, and thanks to a solid infrastructure (very few streaming timeouts or that annoying buffering that often comes with HD internet), it’s continued to grow at an impressive rate. And while it only includes a fair percentage of the channels in DISH’s satellite packages, they made a conscious decision to strip out all the fluff and part-time channels. So, for $20-$40 a month, you get anywhere from 30+ to 50+ core and high-demand channels…
The Sling TV Plan Duo: Orange and Blue
There are two primary plans available: Sling Orange ($20/mo for 30 channels) and Sling Blue ($30/mo for 40 channels). Each plan is geared towards slightly different tastes in programming, yet still share a good chunk of the same channels. The max number of channels available in Sling TV’s library is 50 and if you decide you need ’em all, there’s a third combo plan at $40/mo that includes the entire set of 50. Here’s a quick look at each of the two plans:
First off, channels found in both plans
Regardless of the plan you choose, here’s a list of some of the more popular channels you’ll always get with Sling TV: AMC, CNN, Food Network, HGTV, Comedy Central, History, TNT, TBS, A&E, Travel, Bloomberg, Vice, etc. Overall, a solid list and remember, these are all live feeds, so, for example, if major world news breaks, you’ll get immediate coverage on CNN and all the other news networks. Previous to Sling TV, lack of live coverage was probably the single biggest complaint folks had with streaming TV. Lastly, there’s also a nice mix of automatically saved, on-demand shows available as well. For most channels, the Sling TV program guide will let you watch a solid collection of recently-broadcast channels. A nice offset to the lack of a DVR.
Sling Orange: 30+ channels for $20/mo
Along with the channels above, the Orange plan is well-suited for sports fans as it’s the only one to include the full ESPN suite (ESPN, ESPN 2 and ESPN 3). Of particular note, those 3 channels are NOT found in the Sling Blue plan (even though it’s $10/mo more). A couple other channels unique to the Orange package are Disney and Freeform (both owned by ABC Disney). Freeform, formerly ABC Family, brings you a ton of family and kid-oriented movies and programs. So, if you have a sports fans and/or young adults under your roof, Sling Orange might just be the perfect squeeze :).
Sling Blue: 40+ channels for $30/mo
With roughly 10 more channels, Blue is quickly becoming Sling’s most popular plan. Though it doesn’t include ESPN or Disney, its biggest draw is the inclusion of local channels. You won’t get the full suite you’re probably used to, but most parts of the country will be able to watch their local FOX, NBC, Galavision and Fox Sports feed. Additional, popular new channels include: NFL Network, FX, FXX, FS1, FS2, NBCSN, truTV, National Geographic, NatGeo Wild, Univision, etc. So, aside from the local channels, a good chunk of the new channels are sports, drama or documentary-related. And, all rolled into a $10/mo increase, there’s plenty of recurring value in this plan.
And, remember, if you dig all the channels in Sling Blue and also want ESPN and/or Disney, the All Channels plan gets you everything for $40/month. As with most streaming TV services, there’s no contract so you can actually change plans on a whim – so, if there’s a big tournament on ESPN over the weekend, you could always upgrade for a few days then drop back down when the dust settles.
To-date, we’ve tried all the over-the-top and streaming TV services out there. From the new DIRECTV Now to Hulu and Roku, our current favorite and most recommended streaming service is still Sling TV. It’s fast, easy to use, has never crashed on us and the picture quality is flat out impressive. The only major drawback is the inability to record programs. I’ve heard that functionality is in the works but barring a leased receiver (which sort of defeats the purpose of lightweight streaming TV), they’ll probably have to get it done via some high-speed cloud option. For now, Sling TV is an excellent service for folks that want to cap their TV spending yet still have the freedom and flexibility associated with month-to-month programming.