There’s no shortage of internet TV companies fighting for time on your screens, including some compelling options from big names like DirecTV and PlayStation. Obviously there are also streaming-only options like Netflix and Hulu, but the popularity of services like Sling prove there’s a market for traditional TV without traditional cable boxes or satellite. Even Google is getting in on the train with YouTube TV.
Sling TV, which is owned by Dish Network, was one of the first options in the internet television space. They offered a skinny bundle of channels for just $20, which kickstarted a wave of competition and various takes on this format. So how does Sling stack up against its rivals today? Let’s find out.
The most advanced streaming service in the world would struggle without competitive pricing and programming, and that’s arguably where Sling TV shines. Its original base package, which is now known as the orange package, includes over 30 channels with a little bit of something for everyone. Best of all, however, is that it includes ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPN3 for your sports needs, plus networks like TNT and TBS that also show sporting events. At just $20, it’s incredibly well-rounded and will appeal to sports fans.
The other package, known as the blue package, is a little more expensive for a few more channels, trading out ESPN and other Disney-owned networks for more variety. You’ll pick up things like FX, USA, and Syfy, plus sports-related networks like Fox Sports and NFL Network, which I personally think is a worthwhile tradeoff, especially since it’s only $5 more. It really depends on how into sports you are.
You can bundle everything together for $40, so you’ll get everything the blue package has plus the Disney networks. That’s a $15 premium for three ESPN channels, the Disney channels, and Freeform, but again, this is completely dependent on your sports/channel tastes.
On top of the base packages, Sling offers a bunch of “extra” packages to build up your subscription. Most of these are between $5 and $10 and include things like a kids package with several extra channels for your kids, a comedy package, a news package, and a sports package. If you pick the complete package and all available extra packages, you’re looking at about $70 per month. That nets you a ton of channels, though.
You can also optionally add on HBO, Cinemax, and Starz, which are $15, $10, and $9, respectively. And if you’re looking for foreign programming, Sling offers many Spanish channels and some extra packages for several languages around the world.
Okay, so there’s a ton of programming here, but a big selling point on these services is their accessibility on your smart devices, and that’s not something that every service does well. Fortunately, Sling TV has an app ready to go on just about every device you probably have in your house, with one notable exception.
There’s an app available on both Android and iOS, Android TV, Chromecast, Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Windows, MacOS, and the Xbox One. That covers most everyone, except for the PlayStation 4. That’s likely due to Sony wanting to promote PlayStation Vue, but it’s worth pointing out for someone that exclusively uses the PS4 as a media device and somehow doesn’t own or doesn’t want to use any of the other devices for streaming Sling. Also, Sling works on Roku devices, something that’s mysteriously absent from DirecTV Now.
The apps are all regularly updated, and I’ve personally had pretty good experiences with every one that I’ve tried. Streaming on Android and iOS devices works very well on the go, and the apps for the set-top boxes all seem snappy and responsive with a pretty solid interface. Sling tries to keep the UI as uniform as possible across devices, and I absolutely love that continuity.
Sling allows you to pick a few favorite channels that will show up in front of everything else, and these sync across devices. If you watch something on demand, it will also show up in your “continue watching” section on all of your devices.
Once you’ve actually selected a channel, you can browse its programming schedule to see if there’s anything you’re going to want to catch in the future, but you can also access all of the on demand programming from here. So if you’re behind on a few episodes of your favorite show, you can binge everything here, then wait for it to come on live.
And if you just don’t know what you want to watch, you can use Sling’s guide to find something you’ll like. It will list everything currently available or on at that time, and it breaks everything down into genres. So if you want to watch a funny TV show, just look at the comedy section and pick something out. Sling will automatically switch you to the correct channel.
Sports is the same way, but it has its own dedicated section. You can see everything related to your sport of choice, including programming and on demand content, all in one place. It makes it incredibly easy to keep up with everything, especially during busy sports days.
Sling’s been in the game longer than just about everyone, but they’re more than competitive with the big hitters like DirecTV and PlayStation. The abundance of easily accessible on demand content helps separate it a bit from DirecTV Now, plus its lower price point makes it very attractive for someone that only wants a few channels or, more importantly, sports.
Content options, though, are definitely a little worse than some of the packages from competitors. There’s no arguing that DirecTV offers the biggest bundles, so for someone that wants a ton of content and doesn’t mind paying for it, it’s difficult to get that from Sling. Even PlayStation Vue offers bigger packages, but again, both of those services are quite a bit more expensive than Sling TV.
On the bottom end, Sling will have more to worry about from Google’s TV streaming service and whatever Hulu has cooking, but as of right now, Sling TV takes the crown of the skinny bundle. Performance is good, there’s a little bit of something for everyone, and it’s not outrageously expensive. They offer a few week trial, too, so if you’re on the fence, you can easily see what all the fuss is about.
Buy it now: Sling TV