A video streaming service can easily replace your cable subscription—and usually for less money. Sling TV lets you tune into dozens of live television channels for a moderate monthly fee and offers extensive programming options. It also lets you rent movies and offers a completely free tier of on-demand and preprogrammed content. However, Sling TV does not offer nearly as many local channels as other services and it lacks some high-end streaming features that top competitors include.
What Can I Watch on Sling TV?
Sling TV offers three plans: Orange, Blue, and Orange & Blue. The channels in the Orange and Blue plans overlap, which can make it confusing to choose between them. Most other video streaming services offer a single live TV plan.
The Sling Orange plan offers 33 channels, including AMC, CNN, BBC America, Cartoon Network, Comedy Central, Disney, ESPN, Food Network, HGTV, IFC, TBS, TNT, and Travel Channel. Sling Blue offers about 48 total channels depending on your local media market. While the Blue plan removes ESPN and Disney, it adds Discovery, FOX News, MSNBC, NBC Sports, NFL Network, Nick Jr., and SYFY. You also get FOX and NBC local affiliates in select markets with Sling Blue. You can subscribe to the combined Sling Orange & Blue plan, for a total of 54 channels. Hulu + Live TV’s lineup includes about 75 channels, by comparison.
Local ABC channels are not available without the use of an antenna, which partially defeats the purpose of subscribing to an all-digital streaming service in the first place. Note that Sling TV will send you an HD antenna or a Roku Express if you pay for two months of service in advance. If you pay for three months up front, you get the antenna as well as an AirTV Player Bundle. CBS broadcast channels are not available at all. Sling TV does not offer any PBS channels, which Locast and YouTube TV do.
Although Sling TV may lack some local content for US subscribers, it is one of the best live TV services for international TV, with channel packages aimed at Asian, European, Latin, and Middle Eastern audiences. FuboTV offers a few channel add-ons (International Sports Plus, Latino Plus, Portuguese Plus, RAI Italia, and TV5Monde) for international audiences.
Sling TV allows you to rent movies in either HD or SD resolutions, with varied pricing for each movie. For instance, you can rent popular titles such as Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker in HD for $3.99 (though Star Wars fans will find Disney+ to be a better option). Older and less-popular movies typically cost less. Rentals are valid for 24 to 48 hours after you start playing them, but you have up to 30 days to start watching them. Amazon Prime Video also offers movie rentals.
Sling TV for Sports
A good sports streaming service lets you watch all the games you’d get with cable without missing a beat. Unfortunately, neither Sling TV’s Orange nor Blue packages are ideal for sports fans, as they split some important channels between them. The Blue package loses all of the Orange’s ESPN programming. On the flip side, the Orange package lacks the Blue’s FOX and NBC affiliates, NBC Sports, and NFL Network channels. Thus, sports fans are best served with the Orange & Blue plan. However, to get the MLB Network, NBA TV, NHL Network, and the Golf Channel, you need to add the Sports Extra ($10 per month) package. Sling recently added the Big 10 Network to this package for Sling Blue subscribers.
Another problem for Sling TV is its low number of local network and regional sports network (RSN) channels. As mentioned, you can get local NBC and FOX affiliates in major areas. However, CBS and ABC locals (without additional hardware), as well as FOX RSNs, are not available. Without these channels, sports fans in many areas across the country can’t watch their favorite MLB, NBA, and NHL teams. Check FOX’s regional page to see which teams are affected.
Football fans should look for an alternative in our roundup of the best NFL streaming services. There are ways to watch select NFL broadcasts for free, too, such as via the NFL and Yahoo Sports apps.
FuboTV offers the vast majority of the sports channels of Sling TV’s combined plan (although it notably does not include FOX-owned RSNs or Turner Network channels). Hulu + Live TV and YouTube TV beat Sling TV for sports coverage by offering all of the major broadcast channels. AT&T TV Now is the only remaining service with the FOX-owned RSNs.
Sling’s Free Tier
Sling now offers a completely free tier with “live” and on-demand content from its channel lineup. You don’t even need to sign up for an account to access this library. At the time of testing, the so-called live TV content seemed to be of the preprogrammed variety, except for the ABC News Live Update channel. The available on-demand content includes mostly incomplete seasons of modern TV shows (Brother vs. Brother; Conan; Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives; Rick and Morty; Teen Titans Go!; The Kitchen; and The Walking Dead) and full runs of older shows (21 Jump Street (1987), 3rd Rock from the Sun, Hell’s Kitchen, Grace Under Fire, and The Commish).
I honestly did not recognize any of the free movies on Sling TV at the time of testing. Dedicated film fans should check out our roundup of the best movie streaming services. Services in that roundup cover everything from classics (The Criterion Channel) to documentaries (CuriosityStream).
Sling Free’s lineup is most similar to those of Plex, which offers a combination of both on-demand and preprogrammed streaming content. Other free on-demand services worth trying out include Tubi and Crackle. If you specifically want to watch preprogrammed channels of content, consider Pluto TV or Xumo. Our Editors’ Choice winner for free streaming services is Peacock because of its large library of mainstream on-demand content.
How Much Does Sling TV Cost?
Sling TV’s Orange and Blue Plan each cost $30 per month. The combined Sling Orange & Blue plan is $45 per month. Currently, Sling TV offers a three-day trial for those looking to try out the service.
You can expand Sling’s channel lineup with one of Sling TV’s many Extra bundles, which start at $5 per month each. For instance, the Kids Extra add-on bundles family and children’s networks like Disney XD, Nicktoons, and Boomerang. The Comedy Extra package includes CMT, Game Show Network, Logo, MTV, and TruTV. Sports fans will want to add the Sports Extra add-on to get ESPN U, MLB Network, NBA TV, NHL Network, and PAC 12 Network. Note that Sling TV offers a 4-Extras deal, which includes Kids Extra, Lifestyle Extra, Comedy Extra, and News Extra for $12 per month. There’s also a Total TV Deal (Cloud DVR, Sports Extra, Kids Extra, Comedy Plus Extra, News Extra, Lifestyle Plus Extra, Heartland Extra, and Hollywood Extra) for $20 per month. You can add premium networks such as Epix ($5 per month), Showtime ($10 per month), and Starz ($9 per month), too.
Keep in mind that the add-on packages are different depending on whether you subscribe to Sling Orange, Blue, or both, which can be confusing. Our feature on Sling Orange and Sling Blue explains all the differences.
For comparison, Philo is only $20 per month. That service focuses more on entertainment and lifestyle channels than sports and news, however. Hulu + Live TV ($54.99 per month) and AT&T TV Now ($55 per month) are the next cheapest live TV options. FuboTV and YouTube TV start at $59.99 and $64.99 per month respectively. If you only care about watching local channels, Locast is an excellent value at just $4.99 per month.
Sling is available on mobile (Android and iOS), media streaming devices (Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, and Roku), the Xbox One, and via the Microsoft Store. Notably missing from this list is the PlayStation 4, a platform that both Hulu + Live TV and YouTube TV support.
Sling TV’s web interface looks fine, with a dark color scheme and modular design. That said, individual elements feel slightly cramped. Hulu + Live TV and YouTube TV offer more visually compelling and informative home interfaces.
Options across the top menu bar include My TV, Guide, Sports, On-Demand, and Rentals. In the upper-right-hand corner of the screen, there’s a search bar and your account profile icon. YouTube TV’s search is much quicker and more advanced; it lets you combine search terms, such as a genre and a year. In the Account section, you can manage your subscription, choose a streaming quality, set up parental control limits, and manage your DVR recordings.
You can discover content in the My TV and Guide sections, which respectively show you content that is currently streaming live and let you browse either by channel or using a traditional grid-like channel guide. The channel guide has helpful filters for specific categories, such as Entertainment, Kids, News, Premium, Sling Free, and Sports. Oddly, when I filtered the guide to show channels available on Sling Free, it showed me fewer channels than were actually available to free users. You can use the guide to view listings and schedule DVR recordings up to six days in advance.
Once you settle on what you want to watch, click on the entry to get more details or on the thumbnail to launch directly into the stream. A pane pops up with a description of the content, release year, run-time, and genre. Sling helpfully notes what plans or add-ons you need to watch programming not available under your current plan.
Sling TV’s Android app defaults to the My TV section, which shows horizontally scrolling lists of content categories, such as Trending Live, Popular Shows, and Kids’ Favorites. Sling also highlighted some relevant events, including the NBA Finals and FIFA Women’s World Cup matches, at the time of testing. The rest of this main interface looks clean and you can now access the search bar and Settings section without needing to open any additional menus. The search bar allows you to search by show, movies, and channels.
Additional menu options on the bottom navigation bar include Guide, Channels, Sports, and More. Oddly, your DVR Recordings are only available from the main My TV screen. From the Settings, you can view your add-ons, set up parental controls, view remaining DVR storage, and edit closed-caption settings.
The Channel area lets you view content specifically from your add-on channels and those in your plan, while the channel guide allows you to filter by genre and air date. On-demand content and rentals are accessible via the More menu icon.
Sling TV’s Features and Playback Experience
Sling TV’s playback screen is typical, with an information bar at the top and playback controls on the bottom. You also get a 10-second rewind button and a 30-second fast-forward button. However, you cannot select the playback resolution for either live or on-demand content. Note that the sliders and buttons for adjusting time are only available for some content, such as your DVR content. Clicking on the arrow at the top of the playback bar brings up a navigation menu that shows a guide to upcoming programming. Sling TV’s playback screen on mobile looks like a scaled-down version of the one on the web. Thus, it looks a bit cluttered, especially if you expand the guide from the bottom of the screen.
Sling Orange subscribers can only stream to one device at a time, but Sling Blue users can stream to up to three. If you have Sling Orange & Blue, you can stream to up to four devices at once, which is better than average. Hulu + Live TV and YouTube TV, for example, respectively limit you to two and three simultaneous streams by default. Both Hulu + Live TV and fuboTV offer add-ons that expand this support considerably.
Sling gives you 10 hours of DVR storage for free. For an additional $5 per month, you can record up to 50 hours of live TV to watch for as long as your subscription is active. For comparison, YouTube TV keeps titles for nine months, but imposes no storage limits. FuboTV keeps 30 hours’ worth of content indefinitely, while AT&T TV Now only allows you to save 20 hours of content for up to 30 days. Hulu + Live TV enables subscribers to save up to 50 hours’ worth of content and keeps it as long as your subscription is active. Both Hulu + Live TV and fuboTV allow you to expand DVR storage limits via add-ons.
Sling TV’s live streams appear to be capped at 720p; the service does not publish details about the streaming resolutions and frame rates it supports for live content. The service does not support 4K streams. While it’s relatively rare for a cable-replacement-type video streaming service to support this resolution, some do offer it for select programming. FuboTV, for instance, will air select NFL games in 4K. Both YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV support 1080p live streams on select platforms.
Sling TV recommends internet connection speeds of 5Mbps for single device streams. For households with multiple internet users, your internet speeds should be at or above 25Mbps. I tested Sling TV over an Ethernet connection (200Mbps download) and had no streaming issues. At the time of testing, I was able to watch live 2019 NBA Final games and news shows without any trouble. I also watched a stream of a Women’s FIFA World Cup matchup over a much slower Wi-Fi network on my Android phone; the stream launched quickly and looked crisp in playback.
Accessibility and Parental Controls
On the accessibility front, Sling TV’s closed-captioning features are par for the course. Users can make adjustments to the appearance of the text, edges, background, and window, but only on some platforms (web excluded). You can’t make these changes directly from the playback screen and must instead head to the settings section to do so. I don’t like the positioning of the closed captioning for some on-demand shows; the captions appear close to the speaker on screen, rather than in a consistent spot and are several lines deep. It’s very distracting. During live broadcasts, the captions were also several seconds behind the action.
Some on-demand services offer enhanced capabilities. Apple TV+, Disney+, Netflix, and Prime Video, for example, host content with Audio Descriptions, or narrations of on-screen events that might not be discernible from a scene’s dialog alone. Audio Descriptions are typically only available for on-demand content.
Sling TV does allow you to set parental control restrictions based on content rating and for purchases, which I appreciate. However, you cannot restrict access to entire channels with these settings nor can you apply these restrictions to specific viewing profiles. That means that you will need to enter the parental control PIN whenever you want to bypass these settings. In addition to the benefits they can bring to a parental control system, profiles help keep recommendations relevant to individual users based on their watch histories.
Sling TV and VPN
A virtual private network (VPN) is an excellent way to protect your privacy online. However, many video streaming services, such as Sling TV, may block VPN users due to content licensing restrictions or other geographic-based policies. Since Sling TV is only available for users in the US and Puerto Rico, this rule applies to people in other countries using a VPN to access its region-locked content. However, when I connected to a US-based Mullvad VPN server, I had no trouble launching and watching live-stream or on-demand content from a mobile device and a web browser.
You will likely have a tough time finding a VPN that works with every one of your video streaming services since they actively look for new ways to detect and block VPN traffic. Some VPN services maintain dedicated servers for various streaming services, but this shouldn’t be your main concern when choosing a VPN. Instead, you should look for the VPN that will best protect your privacy.
Is Sling TV for You?
Sling TV’s combined Orange & Blue Plan is still cheaper than most other live TV services, but the cost of its individual plans has increased over time. On one hand, we like its lineup of national channels, free tier, and reliable streaming performance. However, a lack of robust local programming channels and inconvenient distribution of channels between the Orange and Blue plans are drawbacks.
Our Editors’ Choice winners for the live TV category are Hulu + Live TV and YouTube TV. Hulu is a great value, considering its live and on-demand component. YouTube TV excels for its top-notch interfaces and channel offerings.