For us, after housing and daycare, the next largest expense is our monthly payment to Verizon for our Fios Internet and cable. So it would make sense that if you want to try to save money, you start there first.
One of the best options is Sling TV. Sling TV is a service that gives you the best of live TV over the internet at just $20 a month.
We pay $65 for internet and $85 for cable TV — that means we can trim our monthly cable bill from $85 to just $20. That's a $65/mo savings, or nearly $800 a year.
What is SlingTV?
Sling TV is a streaming video television service that gives you 31 channels for just $20 a month. You can use it to stream to your wi-fi enabled television or any other device and use it as a replacement for your more expensive cable TV package. (full channel listings below)
It's such a simple idea — cable TV over the internet at a fraction of the cost. No contract, no activation fee, and a 7-day free trial to see if it's for you.
If you're wondering how they can do this, SlingTV is a subsidiary of Dish Network.
Dish Network tested an internet TV service back in 2012 and named it DishWorld. It was available through Roku devices. In the years since, after signing carriage deals with numerous networks, renamed Sling in January 2015 and put under the leadership of CEO Roger Lynch, who was the executive vice president of advanced technologies for Dish Network.
I have to admit, their cable spots are on point:
SlingTV has three core packages (price is per month, channel list updated 3/13/17):
- Sling Orange ($20/mo) gives you 30 channels and includes many of the major channels — ESPN, AMC, CNN, HGTV, Comedy Central, Cartoon Network, History Channel, Disney Channel, ESPN2, ESPN3, TNT, Food Network, TBS, BBC America, Freeform, IFC, A&E, El Rey, Viceland, Lifetime, Travel Channel, AXStv, Newsy, cheddar, Bloomberg Television, Local Now, Polaris+, Maker, Flama, and Galavision.
- Sling Blue ($25/mo) ups the channels to over 40 and includes Sling Orange (minus three ESPN channels, Disney Channel and Free Form) and adds Fox Select Markets, NBC Select Markets, Fox Sports Select Markets, NFL Network, FX, USA, Bravo, FS1, FS2, NBC SN, FXX, Syfy, Nick Jr., truTV, BET, National Geographic, Nat Geo Wild, Univision and UniMás.
- Orange + Blue ($40/mo) is both (so Blue with the ESPN, Disney and Freeform channels added back) and a total of 50 channels.
Then you can add different “Extras” packages (price is per month):
- Sports Extras ($10) – NFL RedZone, NBA TV, ESPN SEC Network, SEC Network+, Pac-12, ESPNU, ESPNEWS, NHL Network, beIN SPORTS, Golf Channel, ESPN Goal Line, ESPN Bases Loaded, ESPN Buzzer Beater, Campus Insiders, Outside Television, Motors TV North Am, and Univision Deportes
- Kids Extras ($5) – Disney Junior, Disney XD, Nick Jr., NickToons, Boomerang, BabyTV, TeenNick, Sling Kids, and ducktv.
- Comedy Plus Extra ($5) – MTV, Spike, MTV2, CMT< GSN, Logo, and TV Land
- Lifestyle Plus Extra ($5) – VH-1, E!, Oxygen, Cooking Channel, DIY, FYI, Hallmark Channel, WE TV, Lifetime Movie Netowkr, Hallmark Movies &, Vibrant TV, Mysteries, and Z Living HD
- Hollywood Extra ($5) – epix, epix2, epix Hits, epix Drive-In, SundanceTV, Turner Classic Movies, and HDNet Movies
- News Extras ($5) – CNBC, MSNBC, theblaze, BBC World News, HLNFusion, euronews, France 24, News18, NDTV 24×7, RT Network, and CCTV-News
- Broadcast Extra ($5) – ABC, Univision, and UniMás
- World Cricket Extra ($5) – Willow, Willowxtra
Missing anything? Premium channels right?
- HBO is $15 a month
- Showtime is $10 a month (available as of April 2017)
- Cinemax is $10 a month
- Starz (includes Starz West, Edge, Comedy, Encore, and Kids & Family) is just $9 a month
Finally, you have a litany of international and Spanish language channels too that you can add on. They have practically everything.
Where Can You Watch It?
Practically anywhere with an internet connection. It works on Apple TV, iOS, Roku, Amazon FireTV, Chromecast, XBox, Android, and your computer via apps. One notable exclusion is the PlayStation console, I suspect that's because SlingTV competes with PlayStation Vue.
To watch on your TV, it needs internet capability. If you can watch things like Netflix on it now, it has internet capability.
If you don't know or you are certain it doesn't have internet capability, you can solve that easily by picking up a Roku Streaming Stick. It's a stick that plugs into your TV's HDMI port and gives you the capability to view Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc.
Is it for you?
Many cable packages brag about how you can get hundreds of channels, but how many do you actually watch?
I kept a time journal one week and discovered that outside of basic cable, I only watched three channels: ESPN, History, and Discovery. I only watch ESPN for live sports and History/Discovery were when I was bored and channel surfing. We watch no “appointment TV,” which is when you set aside time to watch a show live.
That meant 99% of our television watching was basic cable or something off Netflix or Amazon Prime video.
In essence, I'm paying $85 a month for ESPN. That's crazy.
If you have TV watching habits like me, you need to give their 7-day trial a shot. Or you should just cancel cable and see if you even notice!
Besides illegal streaming, SlingTV is easily one of the best alternatives to cable television service. 🙂
Best part, you can give it a whirl for free for 7 days. I know lots of people who tried it, while keeping their cable, just to see. Some of them decided they preferred cable. Many realized their TV watching habits didn't justify paying for cable.
Are there downsides?
You don't get your local channels unless you're in select markets. If you want those, you'll need to include an over the air antenna. Those are dirt cheap on Amazon, it's just a matter of finding a good place to put it.
On the Orange plan, you can only watch on one device. Blue lets you watch on up to 3 simultaneous devices.
If your entertainment set up is powered by a Playstation, Sling doesn't yet work on the Playstation. It probably won't work on it for a while because Playstation has their own competing service called Playstation Vue.
Lastly, there is a Cloud DVR Beta program where you can record your shows and watch them later. You just can't watch the recordings offline and DVR functionality isn't available on all channels.
SlingTV always has a 7-day free trial – it's a good way to find out if Sling TV is going to work for you. Some people have had trouble with the streaming because they needed faster internet, you should consider that in any cost analysis. Sometimes you realize there are shows on other networks that aren't on Sling TV. A week to try it out gives you a good sense of your usage, especially if you don't feel like keeping a log like I did.
The current active promotion is a Free Roku Express when you pre-pay for two months of SlingTV. Alternatively, with a three month prepayment you could get an Apple TV for just $89 (normally $149) or 50% off the Roku Premier+.
Have you tried Sling TV? What do you think about it?