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Sling TV Review: Is it Worth $20 Per Month?

Sling TV offers cable channels without the nasty contract. Read my Sling TV review to see if it’s worth the $20 per cost to get ESPN shows.

We tried Sling TV for two weeks in January as we had recently canceled our DirecTV contract and thought a review of the service would be good. We were intrigued by the idea of getting access to channels like ESPN for $20 without a contract. Those who want to cut the cord are often held back out of fear that they’ll miss out on sports.

I used to be one of those people and was excited about getting ESPN and ESPN2 for $20 per month with the ability to cut it any time I want. We had a good overall experience, but ultimately decided not to keep it. Here’s a Sling TV review to give a full breakdown of the service.

How Sling TV Works

 

As mentioned, Sling TV is a no-contract way to get television content. Ironically, it was launched by Dish TV in 2015 though they don’t have the messy contracts or high costs the parent company has.

Sling TV is an Internet based TV service that offers just over 20 channels for $20 per month. They also offer a $25 per month plan for 25 channels. You simply download the app to get started. You can download it straight from the Sling TV website or you can download it for free from Amazon.

Sling TV works on a variety of different devices. We only used it on our television, but it you can use it from the following devices:

As you can see, there are a fair number of options to use Sling. The installation, at least for our television was relatively simple. I set up our account for it through the Sling TV website as they offer a free 7 day trial. I then downloaded it through our Amazon Fire TV Stick, and was set up in a total of maybe five minutes.

I will add that while I was setting it up on our Fire Stick there was an ad to try it free for 14 days. I chatted with their customer support area and they instantly upgraded me – so keep that in mind if you sign up.

I will also add that Sling TV is a mix of live TV plus on demand shows, so it’s really a marriage of Netflix and the channels you want from cable.

What Channels Do You Get With Sling TV?

 

The Sling TV app offers a base package of 23 channels. Those channels are:

ESPN                                               TBS

ESPN2                                             Travel Channel

AMC                                                 Adult Swim

Food Network                                CNN

A&E                                                   H2

History Channel                              Cartoon Network

TNT                                                   ABC Family

El Rey                                                Lifetime

HGTV                                                Galavision

IFC                                                     Bloomberg Television

Disney Channel                              Polaris+

Maker

Sling TV also offers eight, add-on packages for an extra $5 per month per package. Those packages are:

Sports Extra – which comes with nine channels, including ESPNews and the SEC Network.

Kids Extra – which offers five channels, including Disney Junior and Boomerang.

Best of Spanish TV – which lists 14 channels, including Univision and ESPN Deportes.

Deportes Extra – which provides seven channels, including Azteca.

Peliculas and Novelas Extra – which includes nine channels, including Uni Mas.

Hollywood Extra – which comes with six channels, including Sundance TV and TCM.

World News Extra – which offers seven extra channels, including HLN and RT.

Lifestyle Extra – which lists six channels, including DIY and the Cooking Channel.

In total, Sling TV offers access to 65 channels though it’d not make much sense to get each as you’d pay $60 plus tax every month. They also offer HBO Now if you’d like access to that for an additional $15 per month.

Sling TV – What to Like

 

There’s a lot to like about Sling TV. Most importantly, it’s relatively inexpensive and does not require a contract. That alone is worth consideration. It lets you access some of your favorite shows if you’ve cut cable without the nasty cost.

I also like that it’s compatible with so many devices. You can use it on your phone or even on a video game console if you like, so there’s obviously a lot of options. We only used the television interface but it was relatively straightforward. You simply launch the app on the Fire TV Stick (here’s our Amazon Fire TV Stick review) and navigate to the channel you want to watch.

The app provides a “What’s On” section so you can see what’s live. You can also navigate to the specific channel to see what on demand programming they have available. I will add that many of the channels have pause, rewind and fast forward features, which is nice – though it does not work on channels like ESPN, TBS or TNT.

The other thing of note I really liked is the 3-Day Replay Sling TV offers. It’s not available on all channels, but is on most. This feature allows you to access content that has been on the given channel during the past three days. They also offer a similar “Start Over” function that allows you to jump back to the beginning of a show. While not the full features found in a DVR it does offer some ways around it.

Sling TV – What Not to Like

 

The main complaint I had with Sling TV was buffering issues. We have a relatively fast Internet connection (42.85 Mbps download speed, 6.13 Mbps upload speed and 90 ms latency) since we work from home, but still ran into buffering issues.

The most glaring time I saw this was while trying to watch the college football playoffs in January – with the championship game being the worst. It took 10-15 minutes for the game to come on though I’m sure it’s because there were many other people trying to access it at the same time. That being said, they had much worse problems during March Madness last year so it’s something to keep in mind.

Another thing to keep in mind is Sling TV only works on one device at a time. That wasn’t an issue for us though it may well be for you. Lastly, some of the more popular channels are linear only which means live is the only option you get with no ability to fast forward or rewind.

Sling TV offers cable channels without the nasty contract. Read my Sling TV review to see if it’s worth the $20 per cost to get ESPN shows.

Sling TV Review – Final Thoughts

 

Ultimately, I believe Sling TV is the beginning of new things for those who want to cut the cord. As such, it’s not perfect. My hope is that they continue to improve its functionality and clear up the buffering issues. I think for those who want to cut the cord and still have access to channels like ESPN it can be a great option for the $20 per month price tag, especially given the lack of a contract. That’s also not to mention the fact they seem to be adding new channels and capabilities to the platform regularly.

We chose to forego signing up after the free 14-day trial. We have Netflix and HBO Now plus we can access a lot of content for free thanks to our Amazon Prime membership and Fire TV Stick. That saves us nearly $90 per month and we saw no need to add an additional $20 per month.

We also get local channels with our Mohu 50 Leaf, so we’re set for our channels and if we really can’t get something we can almost always find it somewhere online. We may change direction come football season but for now we’re content without it – but it still might be a good consideration for you given it’s free for a week or two and has no contracts.

 

Do you still have cable and, if so, how much are you paying for it each month? What’s one channel you feel like that you can’t live without? If you’ve used Sling, what are your thoughts on it?

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I'm the founder of Frugal Rules, a Dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry. I'm passionate about helping people learn from my mistakes so that they can enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. I'm also a freelance writer, and regularly contribute to GoBankingRates, Investopedia, Lending Tree and more. If you're wanting to learn how to monetize your blog, check out my blog coaching services to see how I can help you take your site to the next level.

40 Comments

  • I have heard a ton of good thing about Sling, although I have never tried it. Hulu and Netflix are working out for us at the moment.

  • We have been cable free for just about 6 years now. I’ve heard of sling tv before, but considering we never watched those channels much (with the exception of HGTV) I figured we wouldn’t get our monies worth. Also, many of the shows that I do watch on HGTV are now being played on Netflix, after season, of course. This makes Netflix so much more valuable to me:) I don’t mind watching after everyone else has at all…

  • Jaime says:

    We tried Sling TV for two weeks too and ended up canceling. I ended up watching for the most part and my bf gave up on it. Mostly because just like you did, we ended up having buffering issues.

    We’re also just too used to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and couldn’t get used to the commercials again. Meh for commercials!

  • Ben says:

    I tried Sling a while back when the college football season started, and I ran into the same buffering issues. Wasn’t worth it.

    We also live in an area where we can’t get local channels so I was bummed they didn’t offer those.

  • We just switched to basic channel only cable, and I admit I was going to look into Sling if my husband decided he just couldn’t live without his sports. So far, though, it hasn’t been a problem (and in NC during college basketball season, that’s saying something.) Good to know the draw backs though…if the buffering is bad, that makes it really frustrating to watch games.

    • John Schmoll says:

      The sports aspect is the big draw to Sling in my opinion. But, it just doesn’t measure up when it comes to the buffering. I have hope they, or someone else, will be able to improve upon that in the near future.

  • Michelle says:

    We don’t have cable, Hulu, Netflix, Sling, or anything else haha. Don’t miss any of them either!

  • I definitely have looked into Sling TV. We still have cable but after splitting the bill 50/50 with our renter it’s not that much more than Sling, so we’ve kept cable for now. We will likely cut cable out of our budget when she moves out this Summer. We actually already have Netflix and a roku, so I think it will just take a little adjusting to get used to having something like Sling and using a digital receiver/DVR.

    • John Schmoll says:

      I remember you mentioning that in a previous comment DC. I think you’d actually be fine without Sling. So much content is available through Netflix and Amazon Prime or Hulu you’d be fine without it – for the most part.

  • Syed says:

    Thanks for the review I was looking into this product because we are planning to cut the cord next month. Sounds good but not sure if it would be worth it for us. We will try to subsist on Netflix and local channels for a while and see where things go from there.

    • John Schmoll says:

      Not a problem at all Syed. We’ve done just fine with Netflix and stuff we can get through the Amazon Fire Stick. If you get a good antenna you’d be set up for nearly everything.

  • Sarah says:

    We just got Sling in December and we like it, but the only other option we have is Netflix. My husband likes ESPN, I like HGTV and my girls watch Disney in the morning. I do agree with you in that it’s not perfect – it freezes quite often or the picture will be blurry. Honestly, I could do without it, but I do like that my kids happily watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse in the mornings 🙂 #priceless lol

  • We don’t care about sports, so Hulu and it’s $8.99 keep us perfectly happy. Sounds like we’re lucky because Sling appears to add up big time. Well, depending on what you’re looking for anyway.

  • Jason B says:

    I’ve been debating canceling my cable for a minute. After reading this post, I will keep it for a while longer. I’m only paying $65 each month anyway. I like my sports and would be pissed if I missed parts of games do to buffering issues.

  • I’ve looked into it since some of those channels may interest me and my wife. We currently don’t have cable at all and just use an antenna. We don’t really have much time for TV anyway but would consider it in the future. Hopefully they fix the buffering issues.

  • Marilyn says:

    Thank you for this review. We’ve cut the cord some time ago. We currently have Amazon prime and Netflix but as our daughter has gotten older really wants the disney channel and cartoon network. I’m debating on sling but we’re not avid sports fan and rarely watch the games so I’m torn on weather it worth the 20.00 bucks for just those two channels.

    • John Schmoll says:

      Not a problem at all Marilyn. It could be worth it, but much of Disney’s programming can be had on other platforms so you have to see if Sling provides a value.

  • Josh says:

    We’re considering Sling, but the best internet money can buy at our location is only 7 Mb, so I’m a bit hesitant to begin with.
    Are the buffering/quality issues primarily with big ticket ESPN events, or are they across the board? The reason I ask is that our house’s primary use would be kid shows, Disney, etc with occasional HGTV, TNT/TBS, and ESPN mixed in. If buffering isn’t as big an issue on Disney, etc, it seems like Sling may be a good fit for us…?

  • Frank says:

    Sling sucks big time. I subcribt for a 7 day trial and can watch the NBA finals. Not offered in my area was their response after a 25 minute wait time. I would not recommend it at all.

  • Bill C. says:

    I ditched cable about 4 months ago and opted in for SlingTV. I am very pleased with the service and the only channel that is sometimes blurry is ABC which I pay for separately (5.00 monthly) due to NBA playoffs. My internet service is uVerse at 24MB and I have great HD picture quality and zero buffering problems.The Food Network and Travel channel allow you to view previously broadcasted shows up to approx 3 days back and I can watch anything I find interesting and without a DVR recorder. My stream box is Amazon Fire TV which I bought at a 50% discount including free delivery for a 3 month SlingTV subscription. I also watch on my Fire Kindle HDX and iPhone, meaning I can watch TV 24×7. I miss out on some sports games, but I am not strapped with a fat cable bill and a contract.

  • Adair says:

    What is the best way to watch shows live like the walking dead? I’m trying to cut the cord and I currently have Amazon and Netflix. I thought sling would be great. However after reading some comments I’m not so sure now.

    • John Schmoll says:

      Yea, I was hoping for a bit more with Sling but my main issues was with watching sports. Have you checked out if AMC allows you to watch Walking Dead online without a cable subscription? You might want to try that as I know *some* networks allow that. If not, something like Sling may be the best option though I admittedly don’t know how many episodes they carry. From what I remember, a few of the shows I noticed only had the 5 most recent episodes.

  • Bill S says:

    i was looking into Sling, but i cant seem to find TCM. have they discontinued carrying TCM as a channel option?

    • John Schmoll says:

      Good question Bill. According to their site TCM is still a part of the “Hollywood Extra” upgrade package for $5. You get 6 extra channels, with TCM and Sundance TV looking to be the best add-ons.

  • I’ve never had cable but when I saw that Sling TV was offering a free Roku box for a 3 month commitment, I figured it was worth a look since it was equivalent to the price of a Roku box. I got to watch some of the NBA Finals and my wife likes the Food Network. Buffering issues are valid but my internet connect is not the fastest. I’ll probably cancel after my 3 month commitment though as I really don’t watch much TV anyways. And when I do, free TV is fine

  • Lisa Winans says:

    I would warn anyone against using Sling. The customer service is awful. I subscribed to Sling use with my Roku devices. After their system upgrade it stopped working. It hasn’t worked in a month. I have sent emails and had endless phone calls. They have no idea when it will work again. They will not offer a refund because it would be possible to view Sling “in other methods”. I subscribed to use with my Roku, not my computer or IPad. Of course they will still allow people to download the app on Roku knowing that it isn’t working for many costumers.

    • John Schmoll says:

      Sorry to hear about your experience Lisa. I never had an issue with their customer service, it seemed fine on my end. But, to be fair, I didn’t use it on Roku. That being said, my experience was far from perfect so can understand your frustration.

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