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How Does Sling TV Work?

From channel packages to pricing, find out everything you need to know about streaming live TV and getting rid of cable via Sling TV.

Sling TV Logo

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There are many different ways to cut the cord, particularly depending on what type of media you usually consume. But if you’re looking for a way to watch some of your favorite cable channels and some live sports while keeping your bills low, Sling TV is one of your best options.

Depending on the package you purchase, you’ll be able to have anywhere from one to four streams at a time, access to your favorite shows and local channels, and all the Food Network you can watch (depending on the bundle you choose). The Blue package is geared toward entertainment and news junkies, while the Orange package is best for families and sports fans. Read on for the breakdown of everything you need to know before you sign up for a subscription, including how it works, how much it costs, and what you’ll need to get it (spoiler: the answer to that last one is really just “the internet”).

What Is Sling TV?

Sling TV is an app-based service through which you can watch live TV and programs you record on your DVR — like cable TV, but you can pick and choose which channels and features you want. All you need is internet access and a compatible device (unlike some streaming services, this one’s available on pretty much every major streaming device) and you can watch TV just like people did way back in the 2000s. You can add premium channels, just like a cable subscription, and you will have access to live TV as you would with cable. There are no contracts, so you’re billed monthly and can cancel or add or subtract channels before your next statement.

Where Can I Get Sling TV?

While some streaming services aren’t available on certain devices, Sling TV is an app that’s compatible with nearly every streaming device. You can get Sling TV on Amazon Fire, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, LG and Samsung smart TVs, iOs, Android, Windows, and XBOX One.

What Channels Are on Sling TV?

There are two basic plans, both of which come with free 10-hour cloud DVR: Sling Blue and Sling Orange. Both come with A&E, AMC, AXS TV, BBC America, Bloomberg Television, Cartoon Network, Cheddar, CNN, Comedy Central, Comet, Epic Drive-in, Food Network, Fuse, HGTV, History, IFC, ID, Lifetime, Local Now, Newsy, Stadium, TBS, TNT, Trvl, and Vice.

With Sling Blue, you can have three device streams, and it’s more news and entertainment focused. There’s Bravo, BET, Discovery, E!, Fox in select markets, Fox News, FS1, FX, HLN, MSNBC, National Geographic, NBC in select markets, NBC Sports in select markets, NBCSN in select markets, Paramount Network, Syfy, TLC, tru TV, and USA.

With Sling Orange, you’ll get Disney Channel, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, Freeform, and Motortrend. And you can add extra channel bundles to either plan to customize your channel lineup even more.

Via the DVR functionality, you can record full seasons or single episodes, and everything is available under the “My TV” tab on the Sling app. You can record as many shows as you want at one time, but the standard cloud DVR service only includes 10 hours — you’ll have to upgrade if you want more than that.

How Much Is Sling TV?

The Blue and Orange plans are $30 each, and the extra channel bundles (grouped via genre — lifestyle, comedy, kids, news, etc.) are $5 add-ons. You can also subscribe to both Blue and Orange for $45, which gets you up to four streams (the three from Blue and the one from Orange).

A Spanish-language channel add-on costs $10 extra per month, and dozens of other international channels are available in packages priced at around $20. Sports packages are available for $10 to $60.

If your base package is Orange and you add a package, the extra channels will all be added to your single stream. If it’s Blue, they’ll be available on your three streams. And if it’s both, you’ll be able to access the Orange-only channels on your single Orange stream, the Blue-only channels on your three Blue streams, and your add-ons on all of your streams. (It’s a little convoluted, but hopefully that makes sense.)

And if you’d like to receive up to 50 hours of cloud storage on your DVR, you can add Cloud DVR Plus for $45 a month. DVR functionality is available on all devices except Xfinity X1, and all live content except digital networks (Local Now, ESPN3, ACC Network Extra, and SEC Network+).

Sling TV app on an iPad

How Do I Watch Local Channels?

Aside from getting an HD antenna, you can also watch local channels via AirTV, Locast, CBS All Access, and Peacock.

Local Fox affiliate channels are available to watch via Sling Blue in the following markets: New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Washington, DC, Atlanta, Houston, Orlando/Daytona/Melbourne, Tampa/St. Petersburg, Gainesville, Milwaukee, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Austin, Phoenix, Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose.

And local NBC affiliate channels are available to watch via Sling Blue in these markets: New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston, Washington, DC, Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, Hartford/New Haven, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Los Angeles, San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose, and San Diego.

You can watch sporting events from ABC, including college football and NBA basketball, via the Sling Orange stream of ESPN3.

If you’re in an urban area or a close suburb, an indoor antenna (which is about the size of a phone book and attaches to a window or a wall) should be strong enough to pick up all your local channels. In rural areas you might need an outdoor antenna, since they’re further away from broadcast towers, and receiving a stable signal is more difficult. An outdoor antenna with an amplifier will boost the signal even more.

How Do I Install Sling TV?

First things first: Sign up for an account at Sling.com or through the Sling TV app on your chosen device. Then you’ll install the app (if you haven’t already) and log in. If you want to use a device that isn’t compatible with the app, you can log in using your browser of choice (as long as said browser is Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, or Safari). That’s it, Sling TV is yours.

And you can access local channels for free with an HD antenna (which you can buy here, or pretty much anywhere).

Do People Like Sling TV?

Tech review site CNET picked Sling TV as its Editors’ Choice among budget live TV streaming services, writing that it surpasses cheaper options and undercuts its competitors. “If your main priority is saving money over cable, it should be the first such service to check out,” according to the site. Its limitations, though, are the fact that the add-ons are extensive and sometimes confusing, and the only way to get all your local live TV channels (ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox affiliates) is to augment your service via an HD antenna (a $15 purchase) or an AirTV 2 DVR (for $99).

A writer for Business Insider praised its ultra-low-budget option (competitor Hulu offers live TV and DVR for around $65 a month, which is the same price as YouTubeTV), and said it’s ultimately worth the cost (particularly for the Blue package, which offers about a dozen more channels) despite a not-so-user-friendly interface.

PC Mag noted the flexibility, channel selection, and reliability of Sling TV — plus the fact that you can rent movies, too — also mentioned the slightly confusing interface and extra add-ons as potential cons.

Users on ConsumerAffairs.com have given Sling TV mixed reviews. One user from Phoenix wrote, “I like that you get a choice of programming and there are inexpensive extras you can pick. While I don’t have all the choices I would like, I have quite a few. It also allows me the opportunity to resume watching if I end up turning it off before the show is over. And I’m saving $60 a month from what I was paying for cable.”

But another from Salem, Oregon (and several others) noted problems with billing snafus, writing, “Confusing billing and free-trial restrictions. Thought I was getting a free trial then I got charged earlier than expected.”

Tech Radar, meanwhile, gives Sling TV a solid 3.5 stars out of 5, calling it “live cable TV without the headache,” and “a great solution for users of a certain lifestyle, like restaurant owners who only use ESPN and CNN, or cord-cutters who know exactly the channels that they like.”

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