Cable Without the Cable Price Tag: Our Sling TV Review

In our December State of the Blog update, I mentioned Jon and I decided to give Sling TV a whirl. We’ve had Sling for a month, now, and I thought I’d let you know how we like it.

Short Answer: We like it a lot and we’ll be keeping it for the foreseeable future.

Our Cord-Cutting Story

We decided early last year to exchange our $164 200+ channel cable/internet package for a basic 15 channel cable/internet combo for $55 a month. We already had a Netflix subscription and an Amazon Prime membership, so we thought we’d see how life went without the multitude of channels you get with standard cable.

Mostly, it went fine. We just watched Netflix and Amazon instead of all those channels.

Since then, we’ve also done 2 Hulu free trials. Both times, we decided Hulu didn’t offer many things we liked that we couldn’t get on Netflix and Amazon. (Much as I love Top Chef, I don’t see having Hulu just for one show.)

We also dropped the basic cable for an HD Antenna from Amazon.

We were reasonably satisfied with Netflix, Prime and broadcast TV, but I realized as the year went by, there were a few things the family missed.

Jon enjoyed sports and cable news, and he was glued to the TV every time he went to his parents’ house. Little Bit watched Disney channel nonstop whenever we went on vacation. And I…well, I didn’t want to wait a year for new Doctor Who episodes to make it to Prime.

Enter Sling TV.

Sling TV Basics

Sling TV is owned by Dish Network. In fairness, we tried to subscribe to Dish a couple of years ago and they told us that our house was too wooded. Since Sling TV is internet-based, our lack of open sky no longer matters and we are happy subscribers.

Sling has two basic configurations of channels. We subscribe to Sling Orange. For $20 a month (plus $1.66 tax) we get 30+ channels, including our go-to channels: ESPN, ESPN2, Disney Channel, and FreeForm. In other words, for us, the vast majority of channels we actually watched when we had cable.

Sling Blue is $5 (plus tax) more per month and has a somewhat different group of 40+ channels. Instead of the ABC/Disney related channels, it has a lot of the Fox networks, including Fox sports, and several NBC-related networks like Bravo and SyFy.

Both have Bloomberg, CNN, BBC America, TBS/TNT and several other attractive cable channels. Some channels you can watch only live, but most have at least some on demand content. That’s good because Sling only allows streaming. There’s no intrinsic way to record the content for later viewing.

For $40 a month, you can get both packages and have access to all of their content. You can also add premium channels or add-on subscriptions for additional channels for special interests like News or Sports.

The Good

So far, we’ve really enjoyed Sling. With one exception, we’ve been able to log in and watch every time we’ve wanted to watch. We’re willing to consider that a blip, same as we do when we have trouble accessing a particular video on Netflix or Amazon. The streaming quality is about the same, too.

And it’s good value. The $20 a month we spend for Sling TV costs more than Netflix or Hulu. However, it seems a lot more reasonable than any cable package that would allow us to watch our favorite channels.

Even commercials are…well, better than cable. Many of the shows are designed so that local cable companies can put in their own ads, and during those local slots, Sling just goes blank for a minute. So yeah, we have to watch commercials, but I found them far less irritating than I did on regular cable or even Hulu.

With the channels we love, a price that seems reasonable, and reliable service, we’re pretty happy. Plus, since we paid for a month up front, Sling sent us a Roku Express. While we have Amazon Fire TV in for our main TV, the Roku allows us to set up Sling (and everything else) on a second TV. Very convenient for watching NSFK TV in the back bedroom.

Sling doesn’t seem to be offering the Roku deal at the moment, but keep an eye out. They do offer similar deals from time to time.

Best of all, it’s a month to month agreement with no contract. Cancel any time without a bunch of hassle.


Cable without the Cable price tag: Our Sling TV Review

The Bad

We miss having a DVR. If we had just gotten rid of our cable, we might feel far more irritated with the lack. However, our family hasn’t survived DVRless for over a year, and there’s plenty of on-demand content.

Some people may not find their favorite channels on Sling either. The company has a good lineup, but it’s limited. My father-in-law seemed really interested…until he discovered that Sling doesn’t carry his favorite news channel. Jon would love to have some business news, but you have to subscribe to the blue or combined package plus the news extra to get CNBC.

Finally, we realized pretty quickly that you can only stream Sling TV on one device at a time, and defaults to whoever starts the app most recently. It’s not a huge problem, but the family has occasional app-opening battles, especially during longer sporting events.

The Bottom Line

Our family enjoys our Sling subscription. If sports, cable news, or a couple of your favorite channels are all that is keeping you from joining the cord-cutting revolution, then Sling TV may be the service for you. For $20 a month, it fills a whole host of current TV yearnings without the $100 plus a month price tag you pay for most cable packages.

I’m not saying it’s the only option. PlayStation Vue and Direct TV Now both offer similar services for slightly more money. (They start at $30 and $35 a month respectively.) Both have more channels. PlayStation Vue even offers a cloud-based DVR. So if Sling doesn’t fit your needs, both may be more your style.

But for now, we’ll stick to Sling. After a year without cable, we’re finding Sling TV just enough TV at just the right price.

Do you still have cable tv, or have you switched to streaming services? Which streaming services do you choose, and why?

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31 Responses to “Cable Without the Cable Price Tag: Our Sling TV Review”
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