I’m an off-again on-again streaming TV and streaming content kind of guy. Sometimes I’m a Netflix subscriber. At other times I’m a Hulu subscriber. Sometimes I’m both (or neither). I’ve subscribed to the CBS app (and had a terrible time trying to cancel the recurring charges) and several other less well-known streaming apps. It just depends on what I’m interested in watching at any given time.
Recently, though, I resubscribed to Sling TV. I didn’t want to, really; I desperately wanted to like YouTube TV but I just couldn’t. This article and video describe what happened and why I went back to Sling TV after a bit of a hiatus.
Quick note: whatever streaming TV service you choose to go with, consider picking up either the Amazon Fire TV stick or the Roku streaming stick as they are the cheapest way to pipe your favorite streaming TV services to your TVs. I have a Fire TV stick in the bedroom that works alright, although I do prefer my Apple TV for our main TV in the living room.
I have tried and tested several streaming TV options over the last couple of years: Sling TV, DirecTV NOW and PlayStation Vue are where I have logged the most time. As of yet I haven’t tried either YouTube TV or Hulu’s Live TV offering. After I made a video comparing the best streaming TV services (which were the only streaming options at the time) I actually remained a subscriber of PlayStation Vue for awhile. Somewhere along the way I was briefly a Sling TV subscriber as well (you can also check out that video review). For the last 12 months or so, however, I have not subscribed to any streaming TV services.
This week that changed when my family decided we were bored with just having Netflix and Hulu. As a YouTube content creator my first instinct was to check out YouTube TV. It wasn’t around the last time I researched things and I knew it had to be good. And I was right! It hit every technical feature I wanted at a great price but there was one big problem: YouTube TV had an abysmal selection of available channels.
So here’s what my reasoning actually looked like while deciding Sling TV was going to be the way to go this time around:
- DirecTV Now has an incredible selection of channels in different tiers as well as a huge selection of on-demand content. Those are two very appealing assets. Unfortunately, DirecTV Now is currently beta testing their DVR functionality meaning it’s not quite ready to go. I have to have DVR; every other service offers this and it’s basically the one thing I must have so DirecTV Now was out for the time being. I might consider switching over once the DVR hits for all users.
- PlayStation Vue was pretty cool when I had it before but looking things over now their pricing just isn’t very competitive given their cheapest package starts at $39.99. Part of the reason to pay for a streaming TV service instead of cable is to save as much money as possible and PlayStation Vue didn’t seem like the best path toward that goal.
- I already explained why I couldn’t go with YouTube TV right now — terrible channel selection. Unlimited DVR, up to 6 accounts, ability to record shows simultaneously and a clean design and easy-to-use interface would be great in the future if they can pull in more channels to choose from.
- Hulu’s Live TV offering suffers from similar content issues: there’s a main block that you can access with no ability to add on anything more than a premium channel or two. Lame.
So that’s why I didn’t go with DirecTV Now, PS Vue, YouTube TV or Hulu’s Live TV service. Now let me tell you what it’s like using Sling TV nowadays and what some of the potential downfalls are.
First off, Sling TV has amazing pricing. Their base package is $20 a month and then you can add on extra channel bundles for just $5 a month each. If you’re into movies or news or sports then you can get just what you want without having to overpay for other stuff you’re not really into.
I do like having the option to watch Sling TV on my phone or tablet. It’s great for traveling in particular. I do wish, though, that Sling (or any of the other providers for that matter) would come out with the ability to download content for offline viewing like YouTube or Netflix — that would be great for flying.
Sling’s interface is alright. It’s not amazing but it’s not awful either. It’s usable. The search functionality could be better (it basically never works for me) and I wish there was some intelligent content surfacing. As it stands, it takes just as long as it does on cable to find something you want to record or watch. Where’s the artificial intelligence Sling?
The DVR works pretty well — about like you’d imagine. I have noticed that more things are recordable now than in the past — not everything, but close. I’m less than a week into my new Sling TV subscription and I’ve already eaten up 50% of my DVR storage so I’m already feeling squeezed by Sling’s 50 hour limit. Hopefully they change this (or even get rid of the cap altogether like YouTube TV) soon.
I recently tried to sell my parents on dropping their cable for Sling TV but there was one big drawback for them: no local sports. I think this is one thing that will keep a lot of people from subscribing to any of the streaming TV options. Outside of the playoffs or the Super Bowl, who wants to watch other teams?
Finally, I don’t like that Sling omits local networks like ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox. You can get one or two if you’re lucky through certain packages but you can’t get them all, easily, across the board. That means you’re going to have to use a bunch of different apps or even an antenna if those channels are important to you. Bummer.
Here’s my final assessment: I’d definitely recommend Sling TV to anyone who might be interested. It’s still not the be-all end-all streaming content app we all desire, but for what it is, it’s a good offering that’s sure to get better over time.