Sling TV Offers Live TV for $20/Month

April 2015

Tired of paying for $80 a month for cable TV service that includes scores of channels you don't watch? Rejoice. You can now join the growing legion of cable cutters and still get live TV.

In February Sling TV began offering a streaming TV service for $20 per month that includes ESPN, ESPN2, CNN, AMC, IFC (Independent Film Channel), TBS, TNT, Disney Channel, Travel Channel, and more. And this is just the beginning. HBO is rolling out out a standalone paid service this month called HBO Now. And CBS is also now offering a standalone live-streaming service.

You can stream Sling TV to your computer, smartphone, and tablet. Plus, there are apps for Amazon Fire TV and Roku, which are inexpensive streaming video devices you connect to your TV. Apps for XBox and Nexus Player are expected soon. There's a 7-day free trial so you can check it out without making a commitment. If you decide to subscribe, you can cancel at any time. There's no connection fee or setup fee.

To use Sling TV, you need to download their app. The interface is pretty much identical on my Mac and my iPad. And if I want to watch Sling TV on my HDTV, I can do so via the old laptop that I have connected by my TV.

It's been years since I've had cable, and Sling TV appeals to me because the one thing I like to watch on TV is professional tennis. Espn3.com has a surprising amount of tennis available for free, but sometimes the tournaments that I really want to watch are only available on ESPN or ESPN2.

Sling TV made big news in January when it was first announced because it's the first time that the cable monopoly has been broken. Until now, content providers such as ESPN were unwilling to make separate deals. They liked being bundled with cable services, because it gave them a guaranteed market. And the cable companies liked the bundles because it meant that people were locked in to a higher price. Everyone was resisting offering a la carte channels, which would allow people to pick and choose the content they wanted.

But surveys showed that the number of cable subscribers was declining, and the number of cord-cutters was rising. It seemed inevitable that the old model would decline, and that Internet streaming would eventually be a major player in the TV industry. So now we're starting to get a la carte services that will give you more flexibility and likely save you money. In fact, Sling TV is a subsidiary of Dish, the satellite TV service.

Sling TV may even be a good choice for someone who has a basic cable or satellite package. I have a friend who subscribes to basic satellite, which doesn't include any major sports channels. He was delighted when I told him about Sling TV. He can subscribe to that and still be paying less than if he were to pay for a satellite bundle that includes sports.

Sling TV also has some add-on packages for $5 per month, taking the a la carte concept even further. They include Hollywood Extra (includes the EPIX channels and Sundance TV), News Extra (includes CNN Headline News and Bloomberg), Sports Extra (sports channels such as ESPNU and ESPNews), and Kids Extra (includes Disney XD and Disney Junior).

Movie rentals are also available to Sling TV subscribers. The rental is typically $3.99 for standard definition and $4.99 for high definition. They also offer foreign movies for free (no English subtitles, though) and classic movies for $2.99/$3.99.

Last fall both HBO and Showtime announced they'll be offering standalone services, and last month HBO said that HBO Now would be available on Apple devices starting in April for $15 per month.. A service called HBO Go has already been available since 2010 but not as a standalone service. If you were a cable subscriber, you could pay $10 per month to also get HBO on your other devices, such as your computer, smartphone, tablet, or streaming-TV box.

CBS All Access gives you access to all of their live programming for $5.99 per month. Plus, they offer on-demand access to over 6,500 episodes. If you want to check it out, they offer a 7-day free trial.

Along with all these choices you also have the popular movie-streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.

If I were more of a couch potato, I'd probably go for Sling TV, a rooftop TV antenna for over-the-air local channels, and Netflix for movies. That's a lot of content for not a lot of money.

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© 2015 by Jim Karpen, Ph.D.

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