Back in October 2021, I cut the cord by signing up for Sling TV. And until now, I've stuck with it (save for an hour last fall), and found its affordable price and customizable nature to be a perfect post-cable TV combination.
Then, price changes in 2022 and 2023 happened. First, an across-the-board Sling TV price hike meant three Sling TV plans went up by $5 per month. I use Sling Blue most of the year (and Sling Orange & Blue when I need ESPN for F1 live streams), so Sling TV would now cost $40 during the "off season" and $55 once the checkered flags waved.
But, then, I had the bad luck of living in one of the areas impacted by Sling TV's ABC-based price hike. This is because I'm in New York, where Sling Blue customers will get WABC, an ABC affiliate — along with a $5 price bump.
If you live in Chicago (WLS), Fresno (KFSN), Houston (KTRK), Los Angeles (KABC), Philadelphia (WPVI), Raleigh-Durham (WTVD) and San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose (KGO), you'll also get one of the above ABC affiliates. Interestingly, those in Fresno, Houston and Raleigh will not get a price hike, and the rest will be charged $5 more per month than I am.
Sling's announcement placed itself as having tried do the right thing, stating "For many years, Sling has been able to absorb the increasing costs of carrying local broadcast channels. However, to provide FOX, NBC and ABC, our pricing needs to adjust to include some of the costs of offering these channels. We do not take this decision lightly and value your loyalty. We’ll continue to work to keep prices as low as possible while remaining the most affordable and valuable option for streaming live TV."
Sure, Sling will still be one of the best streaming services and best cable TV alternatives, especially if you want ESPN in Sling Orange and don't need local networks. You'll still pay just $40. But for me, Sling Orange & Blue doesn't make sense anymore. Here's why:
A $60 Sling TV package fails in comparisons
Once this price change goes into effect in March 2023, Sling Orange & Blue will cost $60 per month, at least for those forced into the "pay $5 more for ABC" change.
And right now, I don't think I can really accept paying $60 for the version of Sling I had last year at $50. Why? Well, as I explained in our YouTube TV vs Sling TV face off, value is the only place where Sling TV really beats YouTube TV.
While Sling Blue & Orange has select channels YouTube TV doesn't, such as Vice, Lifetime and The History Channel, its overall count pales in comparison. Not only does YouTube TV offer all the major broadcast networks no matter where you are, but it's got twice as many in total, with "more than 100" to Sling's 47 in Blue & Orange.
But wait, there's more. YouTube TV also beats Sling with better apps and user experiences, an unlimited DVR (Sling gives you a meager 50 hours of storage to start). It even gives sports fans detailed stats and tons of major moment replays. All for just $5 more than Sling.
Back when Sling was $35 (Blue or Orange) or $50 (Blue & Orange) per month, those discrepancies with YouTube TV were more acceptable. Now? Not so much.
Outlook: But wait, there's still another challenger
|Hulu with Live TV||YouTube TV||Sling TV Orange+Blue|
|Starting Price (per month) ||$70||$65||$55 - $60|
|Channels and content||More than 75 channels, Hulu content, Disney Plus with ads, ESPN Plus||More than 100 channels||47 channels|
|Simultaneous Streams||2||3 (Unlimited option available in $84.99 per month package)||1 (with Orange), 3 (with Blue) 4 (in the $55 per month Orange/Blue)|
That $70 per month bundle also gives me all the channels I want, with ad-supported Disney Plus and Hulu and ESPN Plus. I already spend $15 on the latter trio, which gives me ad-free Disney Plus, and ad-supported Hulu and ESPN Plus.
Spending $10 more to keep ad-free Disney Plus seems like a silly decision, but it's not that simple. I prefer the user experience of YouTube TV over that of Hulu + Live TV, and the latter has historically had more buffering issues for me.
So, which will I choose? I'm not sure yet, but I do know I'm canceling Sling TV. Sorry, Sling, it's not me: it's your pricing and features.
In order to raise its rates like this — especially if YouTube TV somehow stays at $65 — Sling needs an unlimited DVR. Right now, it charges $5 more for DVR Plus, which only increases the cap to 200 hours. Since I don't know if Sling will ever match YouTube TV and Hulu on DVR capacity, I don't know if I'll ever go back. At this point, YouTube TV would need to raise prices.
And that stinks. For me, an acceptable cable TV alternative now costs 20% more than it did a year and change ago. And it doesn't seem like this wave of price hikes is ending any time soon, either.