The 2017 guide to Sling TV: how it works, channel listings and best streaming devices
Sling TV remains the lowest cost option for those seeking an alternative to high priced cable or satellite TV subscriptions. Here’s how Sling TV works. Instead of streaming premium channels via cable cord running into your house, you’re doing it over the Internet.
Its entry-level channel lineup, known as Sling Orange, gives you 20 channels for $20 per month. That might be all you want or need for premium TV.
The Sling Orange channel lineup includes AMC, CNN, Comedy Central, A&E, History Channel, IFC, BBC America and El Rey Network. Sports fans will like having ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN 3.
Sling Blue gives you 10 more channels for another $5 per month. Sling Blue has some real gems like Viceland, FXX and both National Geographic and Nat Geo Wild.
What’s the rub?
You will lose your ESPN channels, Disney Channel and Freeform. Unless you go for a Sling Orange + Blue channel lineup for $40 per month.
No matter how you assemble your channel package, Sling TV remains the closest thing to an a la carte television currently on the market. There are roughly 15 add-on channel bundles, most of which cost an extra $5 per month.
Adding HBO costs $15 per month and Cinemax is $10 per month.
If you’re a movie buff, but don’t want to pay for HBO, there are inexpensive options like the Hollywood Extra bundle.
For $5 per month, you’ll get Sundance TV, Turner Classic Movies, Fandor, HDNet Movies, and four Epix channels. They are Epix, Epix2, Epix Hits and Epix Drive-In.
Before getting any deeper into channel offerings, it’s worth covering a few basic questions for newcomers to the tribe of cord cutters across the U.S.
How do I watch Sling TV on my TV, computer, tablet?
Sling TV works on nearly every streaming box on the market. So you might be able to download the app on some hardware you already own. First you need to go online, create an account and sign up for a free 7-day trial. I recommend doing this before you go ahead and cancel your cable service.
I have some battle-tested methods for lowering your Internet bill, which I’ll get into below in case you choose to get rid of your cable or satellite TV subscription.
Once you have a valid Sling TV account, just login to your app.
If you have a fairly new Smart TV, or one with Android TV software, you might already have a Sling TV app ready to go. LeEco Smart TVs come with a Sling TV app already baked in. Sling TV is also available at the Google Play Store for Android devices like ZTE smartphones, and iTunes for iOS devices. Here’s a more specific list of compatible hardware.
Amazon Fire TV
Phones, Tablets & Computers
iOS devices 9 & higher
Android 4.0.3 & higher
Amazon Fire Android 4.4
Windows 7 & higher
Apple Lion 10.7 higher
Gaming & DVRs
Channel Master DVR
Does Sling TV have a DVR feature to record shows?
Sling TV is currently beta testing its Cloud DVR service. That means it’s only available to a small number of people using Roku devices who were invited to test it out.
What is Cloud DVR? The shows you “record” are actually being pulled from a server much like on-demand features you use on platforms like Netflix or Amazon Video. So you don’t need a DVR like a TiVo to record your shows, or worry about whether you have enough space left to record all the shows you want.
You can expect Sling’s DVR feature to become available to all customers later this year. Once released, you will be able to pause, rewind and fast forward recorded shows and movies.
At the moment, you can only rewind and fast forward on some Sling TV channels.
Sling TV competitors
PlayStation Vue, a key competitor for Sling TV, already has a Cloud DVR feature. It has a capacity of roughly 500 shows. Like Sling TV, PlayStation Vue works on just about any streaming box device and can even stream to a PC or Mac computer. The entry level package for PlayStation Vue is called Access Slim, and gives you 45+ channels for $29.99 per month. Along with Cloud DVR, PlayStation Vue is doing a better job at rolling out local channels as part of their channel lineups.
Our guide PlayStation Vue: an interactive guide on everything you need to know can break down channel selection and pricing in more detail.
Another competitor, DirecTV Now, offers 60+ channels for $35 a month with their channel lineup called “Live a Little”. DirecTV Now has no Cloud DVR feature at the moment. There’s no CBS. Live Fox, NBC and ABC channels are only available in select cities. Our review of DirecTV Now concluded it has a promising future, but a long way to go with improving overall performance and features.
Does Sling TV have local channels?
Sling Blue subscribers in some markets can get local broadcast channels. You can check on a channel listing in your region within the Sling TV help section. Just type in your zip code, and you should get an answer.
The broader answer to this question is still developing. The AirTV Player is just coming to the market. It’s a 4K streaming top box made by a subsidiary of Dish, the owners of Sling TV.
At the moment, AirTV has separate menus for Sling TV content and OTA channels. But soon, the company expects to offer an integrated menu that will combine local channels from your TV antenna along with your Sling TV subscription.
The antenna is sold separately. Our guide — How to Choose the Best TV Antenna & DVR – can give you some guidance on what kind of antenna you may want to buy based on where you live in the U.S.
What sports channels are on Sling TV?
Whether you want NCAA basketball, NFL football, soccer or NASCAR, Sling TV has you covered. Sports fans will want to check out three sports add-ons.
Sling Sports Extra: ($10/mo.) NFL Red Zone, NBA TV, Pac-12, NHL Network, Golf Channel, beIN Sports, Campus Insiders, Outside TV, Motors TV North Am, and Univision Deportes.
Sling World Sports: ($10/mo. or $80 per year) 10 channels will get you live sports from around the world. Watch La Liga, Ligue 1, Serie A, Bundesliga and English Premier League Soccer on beIN SPORTS, and beIN SPORTS en Espanol.
World Cricket Extra: ($5/mo.) gets you the Willow channels and live cricket action around the globe.
What other add-ons make up the Sling TV channel list?
Here’s the important thing to remember while deciding what add-on channels you might want. Pay attention to this tip if you are not combining Sling Orange and Sling Blue. The number of channels you can get with a particular add-on may change depending on your subscription.
For example, if you opt for Sling Orange with the Kids Extra bundle for another $5 per month, you get 9 channels.
But if you’re just a Sling Blue customer, and choose Kids Extra, you only get seven channels. There’s no Disney Junior or Disney XD. Ugh… why? At the moment, I don’t know. I can only tell you what kind of sausage is available, not how it’s made.
The following isn’t a complete breakdown of every add-on offered. But I wanted to point out a few notables.
STARZ: ($9/mo.) gets you a lineup of brand new and well known movies along original shows like Power and Ash vs. Evil Dead.
COMEDY PLUS EXTRA: ($5/mo.) includes MTV, Spike, MTV2, CMT, Logo, GSN and TV Land.
NEWS EXTRA: ($5/mo.) has CNBC, MSNBC, BBC World News, theblaze, HLN and major news networks from Europe, India and Russia.
LIFESTYLE EXTRA PLUS: ($5/mo.) Hallmark channel, VH1, Oxygen channel, DIY Network are among 12 channels in this lineup.
It’s worth looking over the other channel offerings for Sling TV if you’re considering moving away from cable. Below, I offer another tip for combining certain premium channels with Sling TV.
What international channels are on Sling TV?
Sling TV is doing something with channel add-ons that will likely give them an edge in the years to come.
It’s a really smart move. And their competition would be wise to pay attention.
Best of Spanish TV Extra, Caribe Extra, Hindi Extra and Chinese Extra are among dozens of channels being offered to customers as $5 add-ons.
While newcomers like DirecTV Now are focused on age demographic or so-called cord nevers, Sling TV is looking at who actually lives in 2017 America.
Customers also have the option of Sling Latino, which offers a 20+ channel lineup that includes the Best of Spanish TV. A 45+ channel lineup combines ESPN Deportes, beIN Sports and Sling Orange. The 55+ channel bundle is the Best of Spanish lineup with Sling Blue.
What Internet speed do I need to stream Sling TV?
Sling TV recommends a constant speed of 5.0 Megabits per second (Mbps) for streaming to a TV, PC or Mac. A constant speed of 25 Megabits per second is recommended for households using multiple devices. A 3.0 Mbps connection will be fine for streaming video on tablets or smartphones.
How many simultaneous streams can I have on Sling TV?
Sling Orange subscribers can watch one stream at a time. A Sling Blue subscriber gets up to three streams at once on different devices. If you are paying for Sling Orange+Blue channels, you have four streams. One stream will get Sling Orange channels, the other three streams will be Sling Blue channels.
No matter which channel lineup you choose, you will be able to stream HBO on up to three devices simultaneously. Sling International and Latino subscribers can watch international content on up to three devices at a time if you get the Family Plan extra for $5 per month.
Can I get Showtime on Sling TV?
No, it’s not offered. But all is not lost if you are a huge fan of Homeland or Ray Donovan.
As you do the calculus of what channels are most important in your life, keep in mind you have options. You might only need a minimal channel lineup like Sling Orange for your History Channel fix, and a premium channel like Showtime for Ray Donovan.
If that’s the case, it doesn’t make much sense to become PlayStation Vue customer just for Showtime.
If you subscribe to Amazon Prime for two-day delivery, then you can take advantage of Amazon Channels. A Showtime subscription is $8.99 per month after a 7-day trial. There are many other premium movie channels that you won’t find on Sling TV or PlayStation Vue.
Comedy fans can subscribe to SeeSo for $3.99 per month after a free 7-day trial. PBS Kids is $4.99 per month.
What this all boils down to is two things. Don’t eat every damn piece of food offered at the buffet. Make a list and pick the channels you really need. When you know that you definitely want to break away from your cable or satellite TV subscription, you need to get your Internet bill as low as possible. You want to save some money while you’re making this change.
Cord Cutting 2017: the definitive guide has some battle-tested methods that will help you lower your bill for an Internet subscription.
Does Sling TV still have a deal for a discounted Apple TV?
Yes. New subscribers can get an Apple TV for $89 when you prepay for three months of Sling TV. Apple TV is usually priced at $149.
What’s the best streaming device for Sling TV?
My preferred streaming device is an Amazon Fire TV, which I connect via Ethernet for optimum streaming without lag. In my review, I noted that Fire TV is a forward looking device that streams 4K content, has voice search, and a brand new interface that integrates Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Crackle and other platforms. The only area where Amazon Fire TV falls short is that it does not stream HDR content. That wasn’t a deal breaker for me.
Considering a smart home set up? Like gaming?
Then a NVIDIA SHIELD TV is the way to go. The Android TV software streams Sling TV and a variety of other platforms in 4K such as Netflix and Amazon Video.
Later this year, NVIDIA is expected to roll out NVIDIA SPOT, a companion device to SHIELD TV that will carry voice-commands with SmartThings devices.
The new AirTV Player might be great, but I haven’t had a chance to try it out yet. It remains to be seen whether the much anticipated user interface that combines Sling TV and OTA channels lives up to the hype.
Do you have a favorite Sling TV channel package? What’s your streaming device set up for Sling TV? Share what you’re doing in the comments below and help out your fellow readers.