Help Me, Tom's Guide: How To Get Sling to Work on Amazon Fire TV

If you've worked with multiple streaming devices before, then you already know that not all apps are created equal.

Credit: Tom's Guide

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Netflix on a smart TV looks different than Netflix on a PlayStation 4; Amazon Video runs beautifully on a Fire TV, but requires a tedious workaround on a Google Chromecast.

The simple fact is that not all streaming apps are created equal, which forum user demmitt43340 discovered when he tried to use Sling TV on his Amazon Fire TV Stick:

"Problem with Sling freezing on Amazon Fire Stick," he wrote. "Would Roku be more compatible? Don't believe Internet speed is the issue, as we can watch Amazon [and] Netflix with no freezing issues." He went on to describe the problem: The Sling TV app would freeze frequently, and rebooting the device had no effect on the matter.

What's the problem?

It's often difficult to diagnose issues with streaming apps, since there are approximately a thousand different factors that go into a user's experience on any given day.

Which device are they using? How strong is the Wi-Fi signal? Is the app itself stable? Was the Internet provider experiencing any difficulties? How far away is the router? Who else was using the Internet, and what were they doing? Any one of these factors — and more — can turn a flawless video stream into a stop-motion nightmare.

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Still, demmitt43340 is not the only person to have a subpar experience with the Sling TV app on an Amazon Fire Stick; I did, too. I usually run Sling TV on my Xbox One, which is a straightforward, bug-free experience. But two weeks ago, I was dog-sitting at my sister's apartment. When we weren't mesmerized by the turtles in Central Park, my canine companion and I tried to catch up with Better Call Saul on Sling TV on a Fire TV Stick.

After every other commercial break, though, the app would freeze up, and resist all attempts at closing it. Twice, while trying to address the issue, the app simply crashed.

To determine if there's some kind of known issue with the Sling TV app on the Fire TV Stick, I went straight to the source. I contacted the Sling TV team and described demmitt43340's issue to them. They looked into the issue, and replied that they are "not aware of any systematic problems on the Fire Stick." However, they did invite the user to contact Sling tech support, which could help diagnose and treat the issue.

This is pretty much in keeping with what I found during a cursory Google search. There is indeed a Reddit thread about Sling TV's freezing issues — but only four users weighed in. To me, at least, this suggests that Sling TV freezing on Fire Sticks is a legitimate issue, but probably doesn't affect all that many users in the grand scheme of things.

How to fix it

I'm going to leave aside the standard "check your wireless connection and distance to the router" advice here, since everything else on demmitt43340's network seems to be working fine. Let's assume that the problem is, indeed, with the Sling app on the Fire TV Stick — although, as stated above, it can be very difficult to pin down just one source of a streaming issue.

Another user in the thread, paulchezter, beat me to the punch in terms of how to (probably) fix it. Clearing an app's cache is a quick and easy method to addressing just about any streaming issue, and the only real downside is that you'll have to sign in again.

In the Fire TV Stick menu, go to Settings, then Apps, then Manage All Applications. Scroll down to the Sling TV app, then select Clear Cache & Data. That's all there is to it. This gets rid of any old data that might be slowing down the Sling TV app, or getting in the way of its normal operations.

It's a good idea to do this periodically, especially if you've been through multiple versions of the app on your machine. In fact, if you really wanted to hedge your bets, you could clear the cache, uninstall the app, restart the Fire TV, and install the app fresh.

The Amazon Fire TV Stick also has a troublesome requirement that some users neglect. Even though it's a small dongle, you can't just plug it into your TV's USB port, like a Roku Stick or a Chromecast. The Stick will technically work, but it won't draw enough power to function at peak efficiency. If your Fire TV Stick isn't plugged into a wall outlet, apps may lag and freeze with greater frequency.

There's always the nuclear option, of course, which is a factory reset of the whole Fire TV Stick. While this may sound like a troublesome option, it's actually not so bad. Once you sign back into your Amazon account, it should only take half an hour or so to re-download all of your favorite apps. And much like clearing the cache can solve connectivity problems, a good refresh of a gadget every once in a while can help clear some unexpected junk out of the system.

Time to upgrade?

While demmitt43340 asked if a Roku device would work better, I'm not sure it's worth investing in a second streaming player. After all, Rokus have their share of pros and cons, just like Amazon devices; even if Sling TV worked perfectly, who's to say another app wouldn't? Fire TV devices aren't my first recommendation when it comes to streaming gear, but they're generally just fine, and I wouldn't recommend getting rid of them, either.

On the other hand, the Fire TV Stick wasn't an extremely powerful device when it debuted in 2014; by now, it's almost archaic. No app is going to run as well on a Fire TV Stick as it would on a Fire TV Cube, or an Xbox One, or even a moderately robust smartphone. I'm hesitant to make promises about how individual apps might perform on more recent systems, but better specs never hurt anyone.

In short: Plug the Fire Stick into a wall, clear Sling TV's cache and maybe perform a factory reset. If those steps don't work, it might be time to consign the Fire TV Stick to the bedroom TV and upgrade to something a little fancier in the living room.