How Sling TV Can Ease You Off A Monthly Cable Bill
Early in our cord-cutting journey, we were skeptical about losing certain cable channels. The 150+ channels we never watched? We weren’t going to lose any sleep over those…but, the ~10 or so we DID watch?? That was another story. Enter Sling TV to the rescue! Our Sling subscription definitely made the transition easier and gave our family access to live TV channels they felt they couldn’t live without. Spoiler alert: those channels they thought they couldn’t live without….they’ve even gotten over them. 🙂
What is Sling TV? The stripped down cable package you’ve been looking for!
Like the tagline says, Sling is an a la carte service meant to offer you access to a subset of common cable channels that you’re likely getting in a typical package. For example, right now the latest Xfinity Digital Starter and HD Preferred packages include 140+ and 220+ channels.
Hmm…that’s great…I guess.
I mean, who doesn’t watch NBC Golf or C-SPAN3 religiously? (seriously?? there’s a C-SPAN3?!?) But the reality is that I will NEVER watch the vast majority of those channels which makes the $150-$200/month cable bill all the more tough to stomach. On the other hand, Sling’s starter service (Orange) will cost you $20/month and offers you 28 channels….no, this doesn’t include C-SPAN3 but it does include channels like TBS, AMC, Lifetime, TNT, CNN and Bloomberg.
Sounds interesting, right? Let’s look more at the offerings and how it works.
How it works: Sling subscriptions – Orange or Blue
Sling is a streaming service like Netflix or Hulu…you pay a monthly fee and then access the shows/programs through a device like a Roku or Amazon Fire, a smart TV or even on your computer or tablet.
While there are three potential subscriptions — Orange, Blue or Orange+Blue — you can buy from Sling, there are a few key differences to note. First, the prices range from $20-$40 per month. Second, if you have multiple people possibly wanting to watch at the SAME TIME you should consider avoiding Orange since that is a single user product (although we got by just fine with that one). Third, these are all LIVE channels. This means what you watch on Sling is what you would see if you kept your cable package — this is not repackaged, old shows or a subset of programs. A must-have for many!
Comparing the Sling offerings
The table below compares some of the differences across the packages:
|Sling Orange||Sling Blue||Orange + Blue|
|Cost per month ($)||$20||$25||$40|
|Number of users||1||3||4*|
|FOX Sports 1||√||√|
|FOX Sports 2||√||√|
|NBC Sports Network||√||√|
|Nat Geo Wild||√||√|
*, this is a combo of services so Sling let’s you have one user for “Orange” channels and up to three users on “Blue” channels. See more in the Sling FAQ for more details. RSNs – regional sports networks.
But, I want more! There’s an add-on for that!
We were early adopters of Sling and got signed up right as the service was launching so our initial subscription was for $20/month, with two $5/mo add-ons ($30/mo total): one for the kids’ package and one for the sports package. Since then, Sling has modified their offerings and added on the multi-user feature with Sling Blue and the sports are a bit more embedded in the offering list. A few of the Sling add-on’s that are available:
- Cloud DVR – $5/mo. Let’s you record up to 50hrs/month of shows, movies, etc.
- Sports extra – $5/mo. Channels like NFL Redzone, NHL Network, Golf Channel (think beyond ESPN).
- Comedy extra – $5/mo. Not sure entirely why it’s comedy, but includes MTV, Spike, CMT.
- Kids extra – $5/mo. Includes nicktoons, boomerang.
- News extra – $5/mo. Cable news junkie? Problem solved – includes MSNBC, CNBC, BBC world news and others.
- Lifestyle extra – $5/mo. Mix of channels including VH1, E!, DIY network.
- 4 extras deal – $10/mo. You can pick from the other “extras” and only pay $10/month.
- Hollywood extra – $5/mo. EPIX channels (movies) included here.
- Heartland extra – $5/mo. Outdoor network, Sportsman channel and others.
- Premium channels – $9-$15/mo. HBO, Showtime, Cinemax and Starz.
What about local channels? Starting to appear
One feature that was NOT present when we first started using Sling were access to local channels…however, that’s starting to change. One way to figure out if this is available in your area is to check the Sling FAQ page…enter your zip code and they will show which stations are available and for what subscription package.
If you are having trouble picking up channels via a digital antenna, this might be a workaround for you to consider. Also see here for our guide on how to get set up with a digital antenna if you’re still looking to go that route.
Should you get a Sling TV subscription?
For us, Sling TV made sense in the beginning. We were scaling back our cable subscription but still had stations we felt would be kind of a deal breaker if we’d lost them, so $30/month was manageable and worth it. Plus, with no contract and no equipment investment we would only be out $30 if we hated it.
Sling drawbacks? Well, the single user format was not ideal but something we got used to quickly enough. I can think of only 2 instances in the first year that it was an issue; otherwise, it went unnoticed (and we have a family of six).
Outside of the user number, the only other issue we’ve had is occasional freezing of the video. This is not an everyday occurrence, and seems to be more prevalent with our Amazon Fire versus the Roku 3. Also, during the last year we have upgraded our wifi equipment and have much better network speed throughout the house so not sure if this is more of an equipment issue, a network issue, a Sling issue or all of the above. It’s been infrequent enough that we’ve not really done any troubleshooting to resolve the issue.
With the new offerings and add-on’s, I could see Sling TV costs getting quickly out of hand, but it would still take a lot to be on the scale of a monthly cable bill. Adding up a Blue+Orange subscription ($40) with HBO ($15) and Cloud DVR ($5) and that will get you to ~$60/month. Not outrageous compared to cable, but certainly not that cheap. And if you are layering in other streaming subscriptions (e.g. Netflix, Hulu), it does add up.
Conclusion: Sling TV a good investment
In the end, we were glad to go this route. Right now, we’re debating whether we should hang on to our Sling TV subscription or cut the cord. But, our decision has nothing to do with the service (which has been great!) and more to do with the fact that over time, we’re just watching less TV and Hulu seems to be filling a good niche for us at a lower price point.