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 (like BBC America, unfortunately), 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. But no DVR makes viewing a bit more awkward., especially because our Sling is calibrated for West Coast rather than East Coast viewing. That means we’d have to stay up late to watch any prime time shows that we can’t watch on demand.

I am not a Night Owl. This particular attribute drives me nuts, at least when on demand is not available.

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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*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich and I Am the Future Me*

31 thoughts on “Cable Without the Cable Price Tag: Our Sling TV Review

  1. It’s great that Sling is working well for you guys! Access to the Disney channel is great for the younger kids. When our kids were younger, we had Dish network for the kids’ shows.

    We’ve tried Sling – overall we did like it, but only used it for ESPN during football season. And we had buffering issues (which seemed to only happen in the middle of big plays). In the end, we didn’t feel we were using it enough to justify the cost. So, we’ve reverted back to antenna and Netflix/Amazon Prime.
    Amanda @ centsiblyrich recently posted…Important questions after a no spend monthMy Profile

    • Lots of people are talking about the buffering, and when I think back, it was trying to watch football around New Years. It looks like the big sporting events might be the downfall. Not enough to shake us and hopefully they’ll address it, but it’s something for us to watch out for (especially with March Madness coming up.)

  2. We have used Sling for the last 2 years – just during the College Football Season. This season, it seemed to take more time to ‘boot-up’ to ESPN to watch the games–sometimes up to 5″. That is a bit concerning. But we made it through the season and now I’ve suspended my account until the coming season.

    We may try out the Dish streaming alternative this fall. It’s a bit more expensive (I think around $35).

    • Yeah, it is a bit more. I think the PlayStation option is more attractive, because of the DVR and channel lineup. If we changed our minds, I think it would bet the next service we try. In the meantime, we’re enjoying Sling a lot. It’s nice to get sports channels without that $100 price tag, isn’t it? Thanks for coming by, Lynn.

  3. We still have cable and DVR. We are grandfathered in on a low cost deal, once it expires we will look to other services to cut costs. Other than sports or news we do not want many things live. I never expect our three children to every have cable. They stream to much content varies way on different screens to every pay for a 100+ channel package.
    Brian @ Debt Discipline recently posted…DRIP Investing ExplainedMy Profile

    • It is surprisingly easy to get away from live content, isn’t it? We watch almost nothing live, and I’m irritated when I can’t watch things on my schedule. And that was certainly not what I grew up with…No, I don’t see the next generation standing for having to be home to watch their favorite shows at all, Brian.

  4. Have you compared Sling to DirecTV Now and Playstation Vue?

    I like all of these live TV options better than Netflix etc, but the only thing that I would watch is sports and a handful of shows. But the handful of shows I can already watch online for free through the network’s website.
    TJ recently posted…The Bank Account Bonus That I Won’t Be Churning.My Profile

    • I learned about PlayStation Vue after we’d signed up for Sling, and it’s tempting (more than DirecTV Now): the DVR, the channel line up and the cost. But it’s also half again as much, and we are really happy with our choice for now. If we get unhappy later, we might try one of the others.

    • Yeah, so far so good. I think news/sports are the main reason most haven’t dropped cable, and these channel streaming services may end up killing it, at least for people who can get reliable high-speed internet. But of course, if the Trump Administration ends Net Neutrality, that may change things too. These services depend on the ability to stream data fast.

  5. I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying Sling. And I like that there’s no contract. I’m tempted to get it for Bravo but I’m going to have to pass. I’d be watching all the “Housewives” way too much. We’re doing OK just with Netflix but we’re anxiously awaiting a release of season 7 for Doc Martin.
    Mrs Groovy recently posted…Six Horrifying Truths No One Tells You About RetirementMy Profile

  6. We definitely need to look into something besides cable. The current snafu for us is that if we dump cable, our Internet bill jumps up a good $20. So we’d only be saving about $25 a month. And while I have trimmed our cable package basically down to the bones, we still get History and Discovery (my husband’s two true loves).
    Penny @ She Picks Up Pennies recently posted…What’s in a Name?My Profile

  7. Sling TV is good alternative to cable. It does come with its limitations as you have pointed out. You can’t beat the $20 per month and no contract, and you get a decent selection of channels that includes sports coverage.

    We have been cord free for a few years now. We have Netflix and Amazon Prime. I may sign up for Sling TV on an as needed basis if I am interested in watching a season of sports.
    Michael recently posted…Goal for 2017My Profile

    • It’s a nice addition, and Jon loves being able to get a few more basketball games. Thanks for coming by, Michael.

  8. I can understand the urge to cutback on the expense of cable packages. However, you have a young family. TV is not the only entertainment you have. You are very active in many other venues. As Seniors, most of our trips out are for food, medications, and doctor appointments. My husband uses his computer and watches TV most of the day. He is addicted to the 24/7 cable news and weather channel. Our bill is too high, I know, but it is pretty much all of our entertainment. We bundled services and saved some by having our internet access through the cable company. Would could also get a land line phone for free, but really do not want one. We both have cells that go everywhere with us and do not feel the need for another phone. We have Amazon, because I am a Prime member and all it cost us was buying the plug in. So think about what age your family is – young, teenagers, middle age, or seniors. Then figure out how much you spend on entertainment. If it is really a lot of money, cutting back on cable services might be wise. But life is short, do not deny yourself something you really want to save a few bucks each month.

    • It is all what you value, but cable doesn’t do it for us when the alternatives work so well. I think if we were going to crank up our entertainment spending, we’d join a pool…we all enjoy the water and I’d love the exercise. When we were a member of the Y 2 years ago, Little Bit and I went swimming 3-4 times a week during the summer. Over the last year, though, dropping cable probably paid for our trip down to see you and Mickey Mouse. 🙂

  9. Thanks for the in-depth review Emily. We haven’t read much about Sling but I want to share this with my brother. He asked me about it just a few weeks ago. We get to stream our cable TV subscription from our Florida condo – so we are happy with that and Netflix (and our antenna). I can see how Sling is good to fill in some key channels though!
    Vicki@MakeSmarterDecisions recently posted…We’ve Had The Same Tenant for 22 Years and Haven’t Raised the RentMy Profile

    • Oh, good, I hope it helps him, Vicki. I think we were surprised at how much we use it, although that may fade as we get more used to it.

    • Oh, gosh, we used to watch so much sports before we cut the cord and so many of the same movies. (Okay, we still watch a lot of the same movies. We do have a 6-year-old controlling our viewing much of the time.) And we had a ton recorded (plus we had Netflix and Prime even then). I’m happy with streaming most of the time, but Jon’s enjoying news and sports channels again.

  10. OMG are you serious? This is going to be the husband’s Father’s Day present this year. Maybe Valentine’s day if I can budget it in in time. He has been missing sports since we cut our cable five years ago! But we would have to pay close to $200 pretty month to get it back with traditional cable. I’ll have to figure out which is better–I think it may be Fox for our local sports…
    Femme @ Femme Frugality recently posted…Cheap and Free Tax Preparation OptionsMy Profile

    • Right? Jon loves it, especially getting ESPN again. I might have done it sooner, but knew we wouldn’t be able to stream Sling through the DVD player we’ve been using, so I bought him Fire TV for Christmas and we love that too (makes streaming multiple apps so much easier.)

      If you really want both ESPN and Fox sports, you might be better off with Vue’s second tier offering, though. $35 a month, but it looks better than the combined Sling packages, plus it has the cloud-based DVR. That’s probably what I would have done if we couldn’t go over to Jon’s parents to watch the Fox stuff.

  11. I only recently started looking into getting this. I have Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix but I too am obsessed with Doctor Who (watching the silence in the library RIGHT NOW) so this is well worth it for just that in my opinion. Not sure I can get the wife to agree, especially if there is no DVR because she really wants that.

    • I love Silence in the Library! so good! Again, the only reason we are able to accept not having the DVR is because it’s been so long since we had it (and Sling has a fair amount of on-demand content.) If we had just given up cable and DVR, it would be a much bigger adjustment.

    • Glad we could answer your questions, Vicki. Different things work for different families, but it’s good to have options.

  12. We did a free trial of Sling during the World Series. Unfortunately, our local Fox channel was not a market they supported. I really, really enjoyed having TV for the week. But I found that all I did was watch Keeping Up with the Kardashians (the shame..the shame…) If the Cubs weren’t blacked out where we live (4 hours away, in a different state, NOT IN THE SAME MARKET AT ALL but try telling the powers that be that) then we would definitely subscribe to Sling, at least during baseball season.

    It’s good to know that only one person/app can watch at a time.

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