The Sling TV vs. DirecTV Now matchup is an intriguing one on many levels. Sling TV helped pioneer internet TV with its low prices and apps for nearly every next-gen TV device. On the other hand, DirecTV Now blazed a new path when it debuted with better channel packages than any other internet TV service last year.
If you’re stuck and don’t know which internet TV service to buy, here are 11 facts you should know before you make your decision.
Here’s a big picture view of what Sling TV and DirecTV Now bring to the table.
Sling TV’s biggest asset is its low cost subscription packages. Prices start at $20, making it one of the least expensive internet TV subscription services available. Another big benefit is Sling TV’s large selection of apps. Sling TV has apps for just about every next-generation TV platform out there right now.
If you intend to keep your TV costs around $20, you have to be willing to get one of Sling TV’s “TV diet” skinny bundle plans. Both of Sling TV’s base plans are designed to leave cord-cutters hungry for add-ons and expansions. Even though Sling TV’s marketing material says that it’s an “à la carte” service, you can’t pick and choose individual channels. All Sling TV subscribers must buy at least one base plan.
Sling TV debuted in 2015 and was the very first internet TV service to hit the market. According to The Motley Fool, Sling TV has around 2 million subscribers.
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The best thing about DirecTV Now is it’s large menu of channels and generous subscription packages. Instead of asking cord-cutters to sacrifice channels in exchange for lower prices, DirecTV Now lets them have it all. DirecTV Now’s inexpensive bundles and strong channel offerings blow traditional cable services out of the water.
DirecTV Now is still essentially in beta. It doesn’t have a strong selection of apps and it lacks a video recorder. Every other internet TV service debuted with cloud recording functionality, but DirecTV Now currently only has “72 Hour Rewind.” This feature lets you watch episodes of some shows within three days after they broadcast, but it only works with a thin slice of DirecTV Now channels. DirecTV Now plans to add cloud recording capability and many other next-gen features this spring with the debut of the revamped version of the DirecTV Now app.
DirecTV Now is one of the fastest-growing internet TV services. In just one year, DirecTV Now reached the 1 million subscriber mark.
Sling TV Vs. DirecTV Now: an In-depth Comparison
Now that you know the basics, let’s dive into the details. Here are 11 facts you should know about these two leading internet TV services before you sign up.
Fact 1: Sling TV Has the Cheapest Plans
Sling TV’s plans haven’t changed much since 2015. If you’re willing to settle for a thinner selection of channels, the $20 Orange plan or the $25 Blue plan should satisfy your needs. But if you want to give up cable without making a sacrifice, the Orange + Blue plan is your best bet.
Sling TV has yet to make deals with local TV broadcasters in many areas. As a result, the amount of channels that you get may vary depending on where you live.
- Orange: $20 per month, 20+ channels
- Blue: $25 per month, 45+ channels
- Orange + Blue: $40 per month, 53+ channels
DirecTV Now’s cheapest plan costs $35 per month, but it has more channels than Sling TV’s Orange + Blue plan.
- Live a Little: 60+ channels / $35 per month.
- Just Right: 80+ channels / $50 per month.
- Go Big: 100+ channels / $60 per month.
- Gotta Have It: 120+ channels / $70 per month.
Fact 2: DirecTV Now Offers More Bang for the Buck
Like its name suggests, the biggest DirecTV Now plan is Gotta Have It. With Gotta Have It, you get 120+ channels for $70 per month. To get that many channels from Sling TV, you’d have to pay twice as much.
DirecTV Now’s basic “Live a Little” plan has 60+ channels. That’s more than what you get with Sling TV’s deluxe base plan, Orange + Blue.
Ordering more DirecTV Now channels is a very straightforward process. If you decide you want more channels, all you have to do is upgrade to Just Right, Go Big or Gotta Have It. For $5 extra each, you can tack on HBO and Showtime. For $8 more each, you can order Showtime and STARZ.
Sling TV’s subscription plans, however, seem designed to trick you into paying more for less.
If you bought all of Sling TV’s extras, you’d wind up paying well over $110 for around the same number of channels you’d get with DirecTV Now’s deluxe subscription plan.
Sling TV’s base plans max out at 53 channels. If you want more channels than that, you have to buy pricey add-on bundles. Confusingly, the channels you get with each Sling TV bundle varies depending on which Sling TV base plan you have.
For example, let’s say that you cut the cord and buy Sling Orange for $20. You stick with Orange for a few months and then you decide you miss watching one of your favorite cable TV channels, Oxygen.
But there’s no way to get Oxygen with Sling Orange. You have to upgrade to Orange + Blue, then and get the Lifestyle Extra add-on.
In other words, some Sling TV subscribers have to spend $25 more every month just to get one additional channel!
Fact 3: DirecTV Now Has Better Discounts and Deals
Though Sling TV and DirecTV Now are both competitive when it comes to promotions, DirecTV Now tends to have better deals and discounts.
With various DirecTV Now promo codes, you can get:
- $15 recurring discount on any DirecTV Now plan if you have AT&T Unlimited.
- A free Apple TV 4K (if you pre-pay for 3 months of service).
- $25 off your first month.
- 3 free months of Cinemax/HBO.
- $10 off for signing up in a Cricket store.
With Sling TV promo codes, you can get:
- A free Roku Express (if you prepay for 2 months of service).
- A 50% discount on Roku Ultra (if you prepay for 3 months of service).
- $80 off AirTV Player (if you prepay for 3 months of service).
- $105 off an HDTV antenna / AirTV Player bundle (if you prepay for 3 months of service).
- A free HDTV antenna (if you prepay for 1 month of service).
Fact 4: Sling TV Has a Better Sports Lineup
Here’s a quick look at how Sling TV’s sports lineup compares to DirecTV Now’s.
Here’s all the sports channels you’ll get with Sling TV’s $40 Orange+Blue plan and the $10 Sports Extra:
- Fox Regional Sports Networks*, Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports 2.
- NBC Regional Sports Networks*, NBC Sports Network.
- NFL Network, NFL RedZone.
- ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPN Bases Loaded, ESPN Goal Line, ESPNews, ESPNU.
- beIN Sports, Motorsport TV, NBA TV, NHL Network, Outside Television, Pac-12 Network, Stadium, Univision Deportes.
- ACC Network Extra, SEC Network, SEC Network+, Golf Channel.
Here are all the sports channels that come with DirecTV Now’s $75 “Gotta Have It” subscription:
- NBC Sports Network, CBS Sports Network, Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2.
- ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS and ESPNU.
- Golf Channel.
- MLB Network.
- NBA TV, NHL Network.
- Olympic Channel.
- Sportsman Channel.
- SEC Network.
Both DirecTV Now and Sling TV offer a solid sports lineup, but Sling TV is the better deal overall.
However, there is one caveat: your more likely to need a TV antenna to get NBC, CBS, ABC and all the other broadcast network stations if you get Sling TV.
Sling TV has only made deals with a small number of local broadcast stations, so you may not be able to get some broadcast channels via Sling TV depending on where you live. DirecTV Now has much better local TV coverage.
Fact 5: DirecTV Now Has Full HD Channels
DirecTV Now currently has 5 1080p / 60fps “Full HD” channels: CBS, CBS Sports, The Olympic Channel and POP.
Sling TV doesn’t have any information about the picture quality of its channels on its website, but all Sling TV channels seem to be “Standard HD” streams.
In order to qualify as “Full HD,” a stream has to have a resolution of 1080p or better.
“1080p” refers to the number of pixels that a stream can display. 1080p streams can display nearly twice as many vertical pixel lines as “Standard HD” 720p streams.
Here’s a side-by-side comparison of 1080p (Full HD) vs 720p (Standard HD):
“FPS” stands for “frames per second.” The more frames per second, the smoother the stream looks.
High FPS video streams make sports action look much smoother:
DirecTV Now will add some 4K channels to the menu and upgrade most of its channels to 1080p this spring.
Fact 6: DirecTV Now Unlocks More Cable TV Apps
DirecTV Now is far more TV Everywhere compatible compared to Sling TV.
If you don’t have TVE credentials, you can often still use a cable website or app — but you’re often limited to bonus content and short clips. With TVE, you can unlock full episodes of TV shows and live streams of cable TV channels.
DirecTV Now lets you unlock 53 TVE websites/apps:
- Broadcast networks: ABC, Fox Now, NBC.
- News: CNBC, BBC America, MSNBC Now, Viceland.
- Movies: IFC, SundanceTV.
- For kids: DisneyNOW, Nick, Nick Jr.
- Sports: WatchESPN, BTN2GO, NBC Bay Area, NBC California, NBC Chicago, NBC Mid-Atlantic, NBC New England, CBS Sports, Fox Sports Go, MLB.com At Bat, MLB Network, FOX Sports Go, NBC Golf, The Olympic Channel, NBC Sports,
- Arts and education: Nat Geo TV, FYI, History.
- Lifestyle: Lifetime, A&E, BET, CMT, LOGO MAX GO, MTV, WEtv, VH1.
- Entertainment: Freeform, Comedy Central, AMC, FX Now, Oxygen Now, SYFY Now, TV Land, Sprout Now, Bravo Now, HBO GO, Showtime Anytime, USA NOW, Paramount Network.
- Spanish: Telemundo Now, UNIVERSO NOW.
Note: Some of the apps listed above won’t work with DirecTV Now unless you subscribe to the appropriate channel package. For example, you can’t unlock the HBO or Showtime apps unless you pay extra to add them to your DirecTV Now plan.
Sling TV only works with 17 TVE websites/apps:
- Broadcast networks: Fox Now, NBC.
- News: CNBC, MSNBC Now.
- Movies: None.
- For kids: None.
- Sports: Fox Sports Go, Golf Channel, NBC Sports, NFL Network, WatchESPN.
- Arts and education: Nat Geo TV.
- Lifestyle: None.
- Entertainment: Bravo Now, E! Now, FX Now, Oxygen Now, SYFY Now, USA NOW.
- Spanish: UNIVERSO NOW.
Note: Some of the apps listed above won’t work with Sling TV unless you subscribe to the appropriate channel package. If you don’t have the channel, you can’t unlock the app.
Fact 7: Sling TV Has Better Recording Features
With the exception of DirecTV Now, every internet TV service has some type of cloud recording feature. Cloud DVR (Digital Video Recording) lets you record TV content and access your recordings though the internet.
You have to pay $5 extra to unlock Sling TV’s 50-hour DVR. You can’t record ESPN or any other Disney-owned channel.
DirecTV Now is testing an 100-hour DVR, but it’s still in beta. The official DVR will come out this spring and it won’t cost DirecTV Now subscribers any extra money to use it.
Some DirecTV Now channels have an on-demand feature called 72 Hour Playback, which allows you to watch content 72 hours after it airs. However, only a small percentage of DirecTV Now channels are equipped with this feature.
Fact 8: Both Services Have Poor Sharing Features
All the channels on Sling Orange can only be streamed to one device at a time. That means that if you’re watching ESPN in your living room, nobody else in your house will be able to watch any of the other Orange channels until you stop. Up to 3 devices can stream Sling Blue channels simultaneously, though.
DirecTV Now lets you stream to two different devices at once. However, DirecTV Now plans to upgrade to 3 simultaneous streams this spring.
Fact 9: DirecTV Now Has a Bigger On-demand Library
DirecTV Now currently has 25,000 on-demand shows and movies, and it will add 10,000 more titles this spring.
Sling TV doesn’t say how many titles are in its on-demand catalog. Instead, they say they have over 10,000 hours of on-demand content.
Fact 10: Sling TV Has More Apps
Sling TV has apps for Air TV, Amazon Fire tablets, Xbox One and some smart TVs/Blue-ray players. DirecTV Now does not.
- Living room devices: Air TV Player, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast and Roku.
- Smart TVs and Blu-ray players: Certain models from LeEco, LG, Samsung and ZTE.
- Mobile devices and tablets: Amazon Fire tablets, Android and iOS.
- Game consoles: Xbox One.
- Desktop browsers: Chrome.
- Living room devices: Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast and Roku.
- Smart TVs and Blu-ray players: None.
- Mobile devices and tablets: Android and iOS.
- Game consoles: None.
- Desktop browsers: Chrome and Safari.
Fact 11: They Both Have 7-day Free Trials
If you’re still not sure which is right for you, try them both out yourself and see what you think.
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Sling TV Vs. DirecTV Now: Which Is Better?
Unless you’re a sports junkie, DirecTV Now is a better deal in almost every category. And even though Sling TV has more sports channels, DirecTV Now has several 60fps sports channels. Sling TV doesn’t have any.
Aside from sports, the only other aspect of Sling TV that’s clearly better than DirecTV Now is app support. Sling TV has a handful of apps that DirecTV Now lacks. Of course, if you don’t have the devices that work with those apps, that doesn’t matter.
Though Sling TV’s subscriptions do start at a lower price point compared to DirecTV Now, DirecTV Now offers more channels and more bang for the buck. At the moment, Sling TV has better recording features, but that will change this spring when DirecTV Now finally releases its DVR.