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Here’s everything you need to know to get started.
What is Sling TV? For starters, it’s the reason you should be breaking up with your cable company. No matter what channel you’re looking for or what feature you’ve come to depend on, Sling TV offers a streaming alternative. It’s the most well-known and arguably best live TV streaming service in the U.S., but it has plenty of competitors.
If you’re looking to get started, here’s everything you need to know about Sling TV.
What is Sling TV?
Sling TV is a live TV streaming service that lets you watch your favorite channels, record shows, and even rent movies online. It offers three different starter channel packages, all of which you can customize with various add-on packages and premium channels. In theory, Sling TV cuts costs for consumers by letting them pay only for the channels and features they actually need while removing a bunch of the clutter and junk found in most cable packages.
You can download and watch Sling TV on most internet-connected devices (covered below). The service has a familiar interface that makes it easy to scroll through channels the way you’re accustomed to doing, even if you’re using your phone or a trackpad instead of a remote. And depending on your channel package, you can watch from multiple devices at once, so you can be streaming a show on your phone at work, for example, while someone at home watches on your Roku.
Whether it’s cloud DVR, UFC pay-per-view events, or hard-to-find specialty channels, Sling TV offers a slick, modern way to watch TV online.
The price of Sling TV varies widely based on your package and what add-ons and premium channels you select. But at a minimum, you’ll spend somewhere between $25 to $40 per month for a base package.
- Sling Orange: $25 per month
- Sling Blue: $25 per month
- Sling Orange + Blue: $40 per month
1) Sling Orange
The lesser of Sling TV’s two entry-level packages, Sling Orange offers fewer channels than Sling Blue and only a handful of exclusive channels, but it does contain three ESPN channels and the Disney Channel, which might be enough for your consideration. You can find the full list of Sling Orange channels here.
2) Sling Blue
Sling Blue has more than a dozen channels that you won’t find on Sling Orange, and that includes local channels. While it’s fair to categorize Sling Blue as a sports package (you’re getting NFL Network, NBCSN, FS1 and FS2), it’s rounded out by great entertainment (AMC, TNT, FX) and news (CNN) options. You can find the full list of Sling Blue channels here.
As the name suggests, this package gives you access to both Sling Orange and Sling Blue, but the packages aren’t actually combined. You’ll see both in your channel guide, meaning channels like TBS and TNT will show up twice. It’s a minor inconvenience for an otherwise exceptional channel package. You can find the full list of Sling Orange + Blue channels here.
CHECK OUT THE COMPETITION:
- FuboTV channels
- PlayStation Vue channels
- DirecTV Now channels
- YouTube TV channels
- Hulu Live TV channels
- Philo channels
Local channels are only available in two Sling TV’s packages: Sling Blue and Sling Orange + Blue. Even then, local affiliates for Fox and NBC, including their regional sports networks, are limited to specific markets. If a local version of Fox or NBC isn’t available in your city, you’ll either get a national version of the channel or an on-demand alternative. The latter won’t let you watch live programming, but you’ll at least be able to catch up on your favorite shows after they air.
You can check to see what’s included in your area by entering in your ZIP code here. Here’s what’s available in Washington, D.C., for example:
It’s worth noting that Sling TV doesn’t offer CBS, ABC, the CW, or PBS. That might not seem like a big deal—after all, you can pick up those channels with an HD antenna—but if you’re on mobile, you’re out of luck. Here’s more info about Sling TV local channel availability. The service is currently offering free antennas to new customers to account for those missed channels.
Sling TV channels: The add-ons
Where Sling TV really shines is in its add-on channel packages—which are grouped into categories like Sports, Comedy, News, and Lifestyle—but they’re also a bit complicated for first-time users. It’s easiest to figure out what channel you want and then work backwards. For example, if you want to add NFL RedZone, it’s only available in the $10-per-month Sling Blue Sports Pack. That means you’ll either need Sling Blue or Sling Orange + Blue as your base package. (That’s a great deal by the way, and it also comes with NBA TV, NHL Network, Pac-12 Network, and BeIn Sports.) Here’s a complete guide to Sling TV channel packages.
As for Sling TV’s premium channels, they’re fairly standard:
- HBO: $15 per month
- Showtime: $10 per month*
- Cinemax: $10 per month
- Starz: $9 per month
- Epix: $5 per month
- CuriosityStream: $6 per month*
- UP Faith & Family: $5 per month*
- Pantaya: $6 per month*
- NBA League Pass: $28.99 per month*
- NBA Team Pass: $17.99
- Stingray Karaoke: $7 per month*
- Dove Channel: $5 per month*
- Outside TV Features: $5 per month*
* Former Sling TV customers on Roku can subscribe to these channels without having a current Sling TV subscription.
Sling TV PPVs and rentals
One of the things that sets Sling TV apart from its competitors is its offering of movie rentals and UFC pay-per-views. Both are easily accessed from within the app. You won’t save any money (UFC PPVs cost the same amount no matter how you order them, and the video rentals are $5.99 for HD), but it’s convenient to be able to order and watch all from one place, as opposed to switching to Amazon Prime or another service. These options are a clear indicator that Sling TV wants to be your one-stop shop for replacing your cable or satellite company.
Sling TV can be streamed on most internet-connected devices, including Amazon Fire TVs, Android Fire Stick, Apple TV, Android TV, Roku, Xbox One, Google Chromecast, and iOS and Android devices, in addition to web browsers. (You can find a complete list of Sling TV devices and specifications here.)
While you can connect as many devices as you want to your account, how many of those devices you can use at once is determined by your base package. Here’s how it breaks down.
- Sling Orange = 1 device
- Sling Blue = 3 devices
- Sling Orange + Blue = 4 devices
- HBO add-on (with any Sling package) = 3 devices
- Sling International = 1 device
- Sling Latino = 2 devices
Unlike most live TV streaming services, Sling TV does not include cloud DVR with every subscription. But for $5 per month, you can get 50 hours of DVR storage, which you can use to record specific events or an entire season of a series as new episodes premiere. Once you reach your 50-hour limit, Sling TV will automatically delete your oldest watched content, but you can also safeguard specific recordings in your My DVR settings.
While you can record the vast majority of Sling TV channels, a few are off-limits, namely anything in the Disney and ESPN networks. Likewise, you can’t fast-forward through the commercials for some recordings on Fox channels, including FS1 and National Geographic. (Here’s everything you need to know about Sling TV DVR.)
New to cord-cutting? Here are our picks for the best movie streaming sites of 2018 and free live TV apps and channels. If you’re looking for a specific channel, here’s how to watch HBO, Showtime, Starz, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, AMC, FX, Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, CNBC, FS1, TBS, TNT, Golf Channel, Cartoon Network/Adult Swim, the CW, BBC, CSPAN, NBA TV, MTV, the Weather Channel, and NFL RedZone without cable, as well as free movies on YouTube. If you’re on the move, here’s how to watch Fox Sports Go and live stream NBC Sports.
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Austin Powell is the former managing editor of the Daily Dot. His work focuses on the intersection of entertainment and technology. He previously served as a music columnist for the Austin Chronicle and is the co-author of The Austin Chronicle Music Anthology.