The cheap days of Sling TV are over. Dish’s internet TV service is raising the price of both of its subscription packages, Sling Blue and Sling Orange, to $30 each per month. Subscribing to both bundles of channels now costs $45, which is a few bucks shy of competitors like YouTube TV ($49.99 / mo). That’s a $5 increase all around.
Sling TV notes that “this is the first time Sling Blue customers have seen a price increase; the price of Sling Orange has remained stable since June 2018.” But it’s fitting that this news comes as the year draws to a close, as it continues the upward trend of subscription costs for these cable replacement services in 2019. Hulu with Live TV, YouTube TV, and AT&T TV Now all saw significant price hikes in 2019.
Like those rivals, Sling is blaming the networks and rising programming costs. “Sling doesn’t own the networks you watch — we have to pay programmers for their channels so that we can provide them to you, and the price of programming has been going up. Unfortunately, we have to share those rising prices with you, so we can continue to provide you with the same great experience you’ve come to expect from Sling,” Sling TV president Warren Schlichting explained in a blog post.
Not everyone is willing to keep up the effort. In October, Sony decided to throw in the towel on its internet TV business completely and announced that PlayStation Vue will shut down next month. “Unfortunately, the highly competitive pay TV industry, with expensive content and network deals, has been slower to change than we expected,” Sony said. “Because of this, we have decided to remain focused on our core gaming business.” That tone sounds very... defeated. Turns out disrupting the TV model is still monumentally hard, and the best thing these services have given us is the flexibility to watch in more places and on more devices.
Alongside the higher monthly rate come a few new channels. Fox News, MSNBC, and HLN are being added to Sling Blue. Sling TV is also giving everyone 10 free hours of cloud DVR storage:
Cloud DVR Free Features
• Watch anywhere, anytime – Record multiple shows or movies simultaneously from any Sling device and watch from anywhere in the U.S.
• Fast-forward through ads – Save time with the freedom to pause, rewind or fast-forward recorded content, including commercials.
• Save recordings – Users can keep recordings as long as they choose, with no expiration.
• Record favorite channels – Subscribers can now record the vast majority of channels on Sling, including Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD, Freeform, ESPN, ESPN2, ACC Network, SEC Network, ESPN Bases Loaded, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Goal Line, ESPNEWS and ESPNU. Digital networks, such as ESPN3, ACC Network Extra, SEC Network+ and Local Now, are not eligible for recording on Sling.
• Auto-managed storage – Sling will automatically manage the Cloud DVR space to make room for new recordings when capacity is full, by deleting the oldest “watched” recording.
Most of Sling TV’s add-on channel packs are also going up in price. Per the company’s press release, “Sports Extra is now $15 per month with Sling Orange and Sling Blue; Sports Extra remains $10 as an add-on to Sling Orange or Sling Blue. The 4 Extras Deal is now $12 per month, and the Total TV Deal is now $25 per month with Sling Orange + Sling Blue. Total TV Deal remains $20 per month as an add-on to either Sling Orange or Sling Blue.” Some other things to be aware of there:
Beyond bolstering its Sling Blue service news offerings, Sling is introducing FOX Business Network (FOX Business) into the Sling Blue News Extra. Sling is also updating its sports offerings, with Big Ten Network (BTN) to launch on Sling TV ahead of the 2020-21 college football season. For movies, Sling will launch FXM and will also add FXX, including the linear feed, to Sling Blue Hollywood Extra. Additionally, Nat Geo Wild is joining Sling Blue Heartland Extra.
If you can get by with Sling Blue or Orange — channel lineups are always available on the company’s website — then Sling TV might still make sense over cable or its competitors. Unlike YouTube TV and Hulu’s live TV service, Sling continues to offer Viacom’s networks (if those matter to you). But despite making significant improvements this year, Sling’s user experience is still bested by YouTube, Hulu, and others. With a higher monthly subscription going forward, the app itself will need further refinement to justify the recurring bill. It’s still the most popular streaming TV service out there, but a huge part of that was price.
Where things stand now
As we enter 2020, here are the advertised base prices for the current TV subscription services. PlayStation Vue is omitted for obvious, unfortunate reasons.
- AT&T TV Now (includes HBO): $65
- Hulu with Live TV: $54.99
- FuboTV: $54.99
- YouTube TV: $49.99
- Sling TV (Blue and Orange): $45
- Sling TV (Blue or Orange): $30
- Philo TV: $20