Sling TV Finally Adding Live Network TV, Multi-Stream Support. Is It Worth It?

Since Dish’s Sling TV streaming service launched in 2015, there were two regularly repeated gripes from cord-cutters: That Sling didn’t provide online access to any of the major broadcast networks and that you were forced to only using Sling on a single device at any given time. Sling is now taking steps to address both of these issues, but will they be enough to offer a true cable replacement?

This morning, Sling announced a “Beta” test of a new channel lineup that boosts the total number of channels to 30 (up from around 25 in the current standard Sling package), but also ditches ESPN and ESPN 2. Those sports channels have been a major selling point for Sling since its launch, but they are traditionally the most expensive non-premium cable channels for any pay-TV provider to offer. Also gone from this expanded offering is the namesake channel of ESPN’s parent company, Disney. Disney-owned Freeform (formerly ABC Family… formerly Fox Family… formerly the Family Channel… formerly CBN) is also gone.

In place of the ESPNs and Disney are several FOX-owned channels — FX, FS1, National Geographic, regional Fox Sports channels where available (more on that below), and streaming access to FOX itself… if you live in the following markets:
Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Gainesville (FL), Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York City, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Francisco, Tampa, and Washington D.C.

Sling users who live outside of those markets will have next-day on-demand access to FOX shows, according to the service.

The regional sports channels being made available in this test offering are:
FOX Sports Ohio, FOX Sports West, FOX Sports Florida, FOX Sports South, FOX Sports Midwest, FOX Sports Arizona, Fox Sports Cincinnati, FOX Sports Detroit, FOX Sports North, FOX Sports Prime Ticket, FOX Sports San Diego, FOX Sports Southeast, FOX Sports Southwest, FOX Sports Sun, SportsTime Ohio, and YES Network.

Also making Sling more attractive to some users is this package’s multi-stream feature. Whereas the existing Sling offerings limit a user to watching streams on a single device at any given time, this test bundle includes up to three simultaneous streams on the same account.

So a family could use Sling in multiple rooms of the house, or three of them could be watching on their phones while bored at school or the office.

The new Sling offering is the same $20/month price as the existing slate of channels, so its worth to you is going to depend on a few factors:

If you’ve primarily been using Sling to watch ESPN programming and games, this would obviously not seem like a good deal. Likewise if your young kids will not understand why Disney is no longer an option.

If the inability to stream live TV to multiple rooms/devices had been holding you back from cutting the cord, the three-stream package might offer you the flexibility you seek without the hassle of a cable box or dealing with the cable company.

Also, if you’re looking for Spanish-language content, the expanded lineup — which adds Univision and UniMas — might be worth considering.

All that said, the $20/month price for Sling does still mean that customers have slim pickings compared to the typical basic cable package with its 100+ channels. Sling has tried to cherry-pick some of the most popular channels — HGTV, Food Network, A&E — but a number of the other bigger players (USA, SyFy, Bravo) are owned by Sling competitor Comcast and are not available here.

Sony’s PlayStation Vue does offer more channels and includes live TV from more broadcast networks in several markets, but at a higher price (and with Sony’s notoriously bad customer service).

Potential cord-cutters who aren’t urgently looking to shut down their cable plan might want to consider waiting to see what DirecTV offers when it launches its streaming service later this year. So far, the satellite company has offered very little detail on what this service will include or what it will cost, but the added competition to Sling and Vue can only benefit consumers in the long run.

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