Sling TV hands on impressions - is ESPN worth $20 per month?

Is ESPN worth $20 per month to you? That's really the question you need to ask yourself before subscribing to Sling TV. The service comes with nine channels in addition to ESPN and ESPN2. It may also appeal to news addicts (CNN), families (Disney, ABC Family, Cartoon Network) or fans of mediocre dramas and reruns (TNT, TBS), but the focus is clearly on live content, especially sports.

Sling TV impressions on iPhone and Mac

I tested Sling TV on my iPhone and Mac, both of which require an app download. Other devices currently supported are iPad, Android, Windows PCs, and Roku, with the Xbox One, Fire TV, and Google Nexus Player coming soon. No support for Apple TV or Chromecast, but that may not be an issue (more on that in a sec).

The experience is very simple and straightforward. Content starts playing as soon as you open the app and there are navigation bars to select channels or see what is currently airing. This simple setup works well for eleven channels, but may be a bit of a nuisance if more channels are added in the future. There is also a section with access to movie rentals, which I didn't try.

Sling TV also includes access to ESPN's live streaming platform, watchESPN. Despite what some other reviews stated, I was only able to access content airing on ESPN, ESPN2, or ESPN3 on watchESPN (not ESPNU, ESPNews, ESPN Deportes, SEC, Longhorn, etc.). watchESPN is a nice inclusion, especially since they have apps for Apple TV, Chromecast, and several other devices.

There are some limitations

Some channels offer pausing and rewind controls, but not ESPN, TNT, TBS, or CNN. I also ran into some service interruptions mid-morning, but it came back online after a few minutes and I didn't experience any hiccups in primetime.

Sling TV has a one-stream limit, which blocked me from streaming on multiple devices after a few seconds - even if one of the streams was through watchESPN and the other through the Sling TV app. This should prevent sharing of passwords with friends, but may alienate families.

The channels also have some content restrictions. For example, ESPN's broadcasts of Monday Night Football are not available on smartphones, because Verizon own those rights. There may be other content restrictions.

Is ESPN worth $20 per month?

The service works well for streaming a small selection of live content, especially for sports fans. ESPN carries just about every major sport other than the NHL, and TNT (NBA, March Madness, PGA Championship) and TBS (MLB, March Madness) also carry some popular sporting events. Beware that most cable bundles carry much more on FOX/FOX Sports, NBC/NBC Sports, CBS/CBS Sports, NFL Network, NBA TV, and regional sports networks. An antenna will give you live access to ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC, but there is not replacement for the other channels (yet).

Personally, I'm ok with that and will probably subscribe to Sling TV later this year when it's time for the MLB playoffs and football. One of the best 'features' of Sling TV is that you can cancel the service or sign up at any time, a big improvement over cable. Try a free trial today, and for a limited time get a free Roku Stick or Amazon Fire TV Stick or 50% off other devices when you prepay for 3 months.