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Is Sling TV Just Too Expensive Now?

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Is Sling TV too expensive now is a question many existing subscribers are probably asking themselves more often. With another price increase, and subscriber numbers slipping, Sling didn’t have the best of years in 2022. Still, whether this is all a sign that the affordable live TV service is not so affordable anymore is a lot harder to answer than you might think.

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Streaming has been nothing short of a TV revolution. On top of this, the pandemic helped to fuel usage even more and the rolling out of new features even more quickly. However, live TV streaming has remained one of the areas that hasn’t seen quite as much revolution. It is still expensive, and getting even more expensive each year.

Sling TV has always been marketed as an affordable way to stream live TV over the internet. We also consider it a cheap live TV service here at Streaming Better, but is that still true? Dish, Sling’s patent, recently confirmed that the service ended 2022 with 2.3 million subscribers. While more than DirecTV Stream and fuboTV, and probably even their combined subscriber bases, it is less than what Sling had at the start of 2022.

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In fact, you would have to go back to the start of 2018 to find a year Sling TV started with fewer subscribers than it did in 2023.

  • Q4 2017 – 2.21 million
  • Q4 2018 – 2.42 million
  • Q4 2019 – 2.59 million
  • Q4 2020 – 2.47 million
  • Q4 2021 – 2.49 million
  • Q4 2022 – 2.33 million

To be fair to Sling TV, the service has never really seen massive swings in subscriber numbers, one way or the other. Yes, it has seen fluctuations but, compared to many other services, Sling TV has been pretty reliable in terms of its core subscriber base. That said, it is still hard to ignore that, at a time when Hulu and YouTube keep attracting new users, Sling TV seems to be slowly losing more than usual.

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One reason Sling TV may be finally starting to see some meaningful subscriber decline is the price. After all, the main selling point with Sling TV is that it is cheaper than the competition. While that can mean a subscriber loses out on some of their favorite channels, or has to pay extra to add more, the core selling point with Sling is that its a la carte approach makes its base plan affordable to more people.

Is Sling TV still affordable?

Sling affordable
Image: Sling

Sling TV encountered another price increase in November 2022. That increase took the cost of a Sling Orange or Blue plan up to $40 per month. At this price, Sling is more affordable than the likes of DirecTV Stream (increases in price next week), fuboTV (increased in price in Jan. 2023), and YouTube TV – hasn’t seen an increase in price since mid-2020. The problem for Sling is that the Orange & Blue plan is far more telling of Sling TV’s true price level.

While Sling markets Orange as ‘good for sports and families’ and Blue as ‘good for news’, the Sling Orange & Blue plan is advertised as ‘good for everything.’ In reality, this means that Sling Orange & Blue is the plan which can be best compared with the base packages offered by other services, and at $55 per month, it is starting to seem far less competitive.

On paper, $55 per month beats out the main competition. After all, YouTube TV costs $65 per month, Hulu Live TV costs $70 per month, and fuboTV and DirecTV Stream start at $75 per month. Ignoring the fact that Sling TV offers far less for its $55, the number now feels far too close to YouTube TV’s $65.

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Orange & BlueYouTube TV
$55/mo$65/mo
47 channels100+ channels
50 hours DVRUnlimited DVR
3 streams3 streams

In fact, depending on the home, some may find they can sign up to YouTube TV for even less, making Sling TV’s combined Blue & Orange price seem even less worthwhile. For example, YouTube has been running a promotion for months now that offers the first three months at $55 per month, and this is typically following a 7 or 14-day free trial. Considering Sling TV tends not to offer a free trial, YouTube TV is likely to seem more appealing to begin with, resulting in more signups.

When it comes to T-Mobile customers, it is also possible to sign up to YouTube TV with a rolling $10 discount. Ever since T-Mobile abandoned its T-Vision live TV service, it has been offering customers a $10 discount on either YouTube TV or Philo. Even though the discount is only for one year, it still brings the cost of YouTube TV down to Sling TV’s Orange & Blue level, and that’s a problem.

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A problem, but for how long?

If the choice right now is between signing up to Sling Orange & Blue at $55 or YouTube TV at $55 (even if only for 3 months), there’s no question that YouTube TV is the better deal. The price is the main selling point with Sling TV and once that’s removed from the equation it is hard to make an argument for Sling TV over YouTube TV. However, that may only be a temporary situation.

As mentioned, it is now more than two years since YouTube TV last implemented a price increase, and with the way the market has been evolving of late, that’s a very long time. Even assuming no change had happened with YouTube TV during this time, a price increase would still be overdue. But that’s not the case. With the so-called Mosaic Mode en route, and Sunday Ticket coming soon, YouTube TV keeps adding features and increasing its worth. All of which will need to eventually be paid for.

Sunday Ticket YouTube TV

A YouTube TV price increase is coming, and likely within the next six months. At which point, we may end up back where we started, with Sling TV once again a cheap option for streaming live TV. If history is anything to go by then YouTube TV will increase by either $10 or $15 per month. This would then take the cost to either $75 or $80 per month, and that’s notably different to $55 for Orange & Blue, let alone $40 for either Orange or Blue. Even when applying any limited-time deals or T-Mobile discounts, Sling TV would still be a visibly cheaper option again.

Is Sling TV is just too expensive now? The short answer is, yes, right now it is too expensive. The slightly longer answer, no, not once YouTube TV’s next price increase lands.

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John Finn

By John Finn

John started Streaming Better to help consumers navigate the live TV streaming and subscription service landscape. John has been editing and writing about technology and streaming for online publications since 2014, and believes the best streaming approach is to rotate between services as needed.

John's preferred live TV streaming service right now is YouTube TV although he does tend to switch live TV services multiple times each year to keep up to date with their changes. Outside of live TV, John also actively streams HBO Max (for the shows), Peacock (for Premier League), and Paramount Plus (for Champion's League). However, John is also currently subscribed to Apple TV+, Discovery+, Hulu, Starz, Showtime, and Shudder.

Contact John via email at john@streamingbetter.com or say hi on Twitter

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