7 things about Sling TV you need to know before you sign up

The Sling TV app button on the Apple TV home screen.
(Image credit: Henry T. Casey / Tom's Guide)

In a time of rising prices, Sling TV looks to keep a lock on its position in the hierarchy best cable TV alternatives. While I'm not entirely positive about the service, we still rate it as the best of this category, due to its customization options.

Summer, though, with its warm weather and time for vacations, makes us think twice about every one of our monthly bills. So, we thought now was a good time to give prospective cord-cutters and switchers a chance to figure out if they should get Sling TV. Here's what you need to know.

1. Sling is the (second) most-affordable live TV service

The home screen on Sling TV shows cable news options on a wall-mounted TV

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey / Tom's Guide)

Starting at $40 per month, Sling TV is relatively cheap in the current landscape. Popular rival YouTube TV is $73 per month, while Hulu + Live TV is a notch more affordable at $70 (or $69 if you don't want Hulu originals). Fubo and DirecTV Stream start at $75, which makes them the priciest options. That said, Fubo gets even pricier if have any regional sports networks in your area, tacking on at least $11 per month, regardless if you want those networks. 

But you're probably curious what I meant by saying Sling is only the second-cheapest option. The $25 per month Philo offers more than 70 live channels, including AMC, Comedy Central, Food Network, VH1 and the Paramount Network (the place you watch Yellowstone online). Missing, though, are any broadcast networks (such as ABC, FOX and NBC) and ESPN, which are likely the reasons Sling charges more.

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Header Cell - Column 0 Starting monthly priceChannels
Sling TV $4031 (Orange), 42 (Blue)
Hulu + Live TV $69More than 90
YouTube TV $73More than 100
DirecTV Stream$75More than 75
Fubo $75 (before regional sports network fees)164 channels

2. Sling Blue & Orange differ on more than just channels

The TV channels grid on Sling TV on a wall-mounted TV

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey / Tom's Guide)

Beyond a regional price difference we'll explain below, Sling Orange & Blue mostly differ based on their included channels. Blue includes 42 channels while Orange sports 31 channels. 

How could Sling charge people the same price while giving some fewer channels? Sling Orange ($40 per month) includes six channels that Blue ($40 and up) does not: Disney Channel, Freeform, MotorTrend and — most importantly — ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN3.

Sling Blue's exclusivity list is longer, starting with your local affiliates, then Bravo, Discovery Channel, E!, FX, Fox News, MSNBC, the NFL Network, TLC and USA.

And then there's the other difference. Sling Orange lets you only watch on one device at a time, while Sling Blue gives you up to three simultaneous streams. Have Sling Orange & Blue ($55 and up) ? Well, you can only watch Sling Orange channels on one device at the same time, and Sling Blue channels are available on three devices at once.

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Header Cell - Column 0 Sling BlueSling Orange
Channels exclusive to its tierFOX, NBC, Bravo, Discovery Channel, E!, FX, Fox News, MSNBC, the NFL Network, TLC, USA.Disney Channel, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, Freeform, MotorTrend
Simultaneous streams31

3. Sling TV added ABC this year — and it's complicated

Up until 2023, Sling TV only streamed two national broadcast channels, Fox and NBC — both only in the Sling Blue and Orange & Blue tiers. Then, in March, Sling gained ABC to Sling Blue, but only for subscribers in the following markets:

  • Chicago (WLS)
  • Fresno (KFSN)
  • Houston (KTRK)
  • Los Angeles (KABC)
  • New York (WABC)
  • Philadelphia (WPVI)
  • Raleigh-Durham (WTVD)
  • San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose (KGO).

Annoyingly, it gets more complicated. Everyone — except those in Fresno, Houston and Raleigh — now pay $5 more per month. Why do those three regions get ABC for free? It's unknown.

So, this means ABC has pushed Sling Blue up to $45 per month and Sling Orange & Blue to $60 per month, for select users. And there's no way to opt out

4. Sling's Cloud DVR fills up quickly

The DVR page in Sling TV on a wall-mounted TV

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey / Tom's Guide)

My biggest grievance with Sling TV right now is its paltry DVR capacity. The rest of the industry — even super-cheap Philo — has either accepted that unlimited DVR is the standard, or you've got Fubo, which offers 1,000 hours by default. 

Instead, Sling gives you 50 hours of cloud DVR for free, and will give you another 150 hours if you pay another $5 per month. I know Sling's affordable entry-level price means it can't compete as much with its rivals, but I can accept that more about channels than I can about DVR.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
ServiceDVR capacityPaid upgrade
Sling50 hours200 hours costs $5 per month
Fubo1,000 hoursn/a
PhiloUnlimited (9 month limit)n/a
YouTube TVUnlimited (9 month limit)n/a
Hulu + Live TVUnlimited (9 month limit)n/a
DirecTV StreamUnlimited (9 month limit)n/a

5. Sling's local affiliate networks don't travel

the Sling app icon on an iPhone

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Just because you have FOX, NBC and possibly ABC when you're at home with Sling TV doesn't mean you'll get those channels everywhere. I learned this the hard way when I went upstate for a weekend. 

I never thought about the small town I was staying in as being extremely remote, though, until I learned it didn't have a local NBC affiliate when I tried to watch SNL one weekend. I later learned of a workaround for this problem: set your Sling account to record the shows you want to watch in advance, and watch them from your DVR.

6. Sling's competitors challenge it on value, beat it on special features

YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV may be pricier than Sling, but they also offer more. Hulu, for example bundles in Hulu's original shows, Disney Plus and ESPN Plus — a $12.99 per month value. Consider how ABC makes Sling Orange & Blue start at up to $60 in some markets, and you'd start to think that Hulu is offering more channels and more services for $3 less — provided you use the Disney Bundle.

Over on YouTube TV, though, multiview is starting to debut. Something of a power user feature multiview lets you watch up to four channels at once, and you can select which one's audio you want to hear. Right now, though, they don't let you pick which channels you can stream at the same time, though that feels like an eventual upgrade. This feature is still in something of a beta.

7. Sling's interface isn't actually the worst

You may have heard people grumpily complain about how Sling's apps feel old and outdated. In ways, that's true. But after testing them all I actually found one I like less. 

That's Hulu + Live TV's, because it makes you click way more to get to your TV guide, which is buried inside of the "live" view. This way, you need to be watching something in order to then get to the guide. That gets even worse on the Apple TV 4K, where you have to click through an on-screen menu (hidden under the 'live' bolt icon) to find the guide.

That said, I wish Sling was as snappy and elegant as YouTube TV. I really do.

Outlook: Sling's pricing is its strongest suit

The more I think about Sling, the more I realize its future lies in competitors getting pricier — because it will be hard for Sling to stay the same price as well. It's beat channels, DVR and special features, and challenged on value.

But if you're looking for the lowest entry price, Sling TV is still the best cable TV alternative for you. Personally, I'm waiting until I can find a way to just use it for Sling Blue, because the Blue & Orange vs Hulu pricing just doesn't work.

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Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.