Sling TV: The Standalone, Cable-Cutting Service You’ve Been Waiting For


With around 100,000 subscribers and growing service options, Sling TV is one of the most exciting things to happen to wireless live TV streaming and standalone services in a long time. If you are growing frustrated with cable or really wish you had access to some of the more exciting live TV channels for sports and popular shows, this slinging service may be all you ever wanted.

Cable Cutting With Sling TV

Sling TV is a service offered by Dish Network – but don’t worry, you don’t need to subscribe to Dish or have any sort of satellite dish to make it work. It is a separate technology that allows you to access regular TV channels over an Internet connection. It’s also relatively new, launching in early February 2015 in the United States.

There’s no doubt that Sling TV was designed for cable cutters and those who never showed much interest in buying cable TV in the first place. It doesn’t offer all the channels you can get on a cable subscription – not even close – but it does offer a select grouping of channels based on what you want, with a little bit of customization so you can create a package to suit your needs.

About those channels: The core package is called The Best of Live TV, and it offers channels that include ESPN, ESPN2, AMC, TNT, Food Network, HGTV, Disney Channel, ABC Family, Cartoon Network, and more. In other words, stuff for the whole family with an emphasis on live sports events and popular shows that are the big reasons that people stick with cable.

However, you can also choose to add on subsequent channel packages for more customization. The Sports Extra channel will give you the SEC Network, Universal Sports, Univision Deportes, and several more ESPN channels. The Hollywood Extra package gives you more movie packages, the News & Info package adds HKN, DIY, Bloomberg TV and the Cooking Channel, and the Kids Extra is pretty self-explanatory.

Sling TV costs $20 per month across the board. Each additional package adds a $5 extra charge. Because the service is available through online sources, you can use the Sling service on set-top boxes like Roku (Apple TV appears to be a work in progress), mobile devices, your desktop computer, and eventually some Internet-connected game consoles and smart TVs. So far the only thing totally off the board are PlayStation consoles.

The Pros and Cons of Slinging TV

The advantages of getting a service like Sling TV should be obvious for cable cutters. It avoids the control of cable contracts, and the savings are quite notable – $20 is less than all but the most basic cable packages in the right locations, and the customization packages are an added bonus.

The lack of dependence on a cable box is also nice. Slinging TV content is becoming more common these days, but it’s good that the service offers a flexible way to stream live TV via a wide and growing range of devices.

Of course, there are also disadvantages. You just won’t get the same access to channels with a standalone service as you can with cable or satellite…at least not yet. This may mean giving up some of your favorite programs, or finding others ways to watch them. And you will still need to pay extra for services like HBO.

The Rise of Sling Competitors

You may have noticed a few major missing channels in the Sling TV package. This is because other channels are also jumping on the standalone channel service train, offering packages of their own. PlayStation is starting up Vue TV in select cities and could eventually expand throughout the United States. CBS has launched a standalone service for its own channel for $6 per month and has boasted that it already has more subscribers than Sling TV (not exactly a fair comparison, of course).

The point is that standalone, post-cable services are still in a very early stage, which is why we see so much disparity as different companies offer different services for their own channels. You cannot expect a lot of merger activity and deal-making in the coming years to make these services easier to use as a whole.

Photo Credit: Eva the Beaver