This guide compares Sling TV vs. DirecTV Stream. You can either scroll down for in-depth information, or use our Cord-Cutter Express tool to see how all the major streaming services stack up. Just answer a few quick questions and we’ll match you to the perfect streaming service, taking into account all of your watching preferences.
Fact 1: Sling TV Has the Cheapest Plans
Even with a few recent price hikes, Sling TV is still one of the cheapest streaming services on the market. Before you sign up, you should know that 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.
DirecTV Stream (formerly known as AT&T TV Now) has better local broadcast affiliate coverage, but it’s also a lot more expensive. Instead of two different base plan options, DirecTV Stream offers one-size-fits-all plans that are designed to accommodate various entertainment budgets. The more you spend, the more channels you get.
Let’s take a closer look at what Sling TV and DirecTV Stream have to offer in the way of subscription plans.
If you’re willing to settle for a thinner selection of channels, the Orange plan or the 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.
Another cost-related benefit to Sling TV that’s worth mentioning here is that Sling TV has the best special deals out of all the streaming services. For example, Sling TV is currently offering a promotion where you get $25 off your first month, making your initial month just $10. Other deals let you get free streaming hardware by pre-paying for several months of service in advance.
Great Value$40.00/ month
Sling Orange + Blue
DirecTV Stream recently changed its entire subscription menu and increased prices across the board. The cheapest is the Entertainment plan. It costs $70 per month, but comes with around 65 channels, and you get Showtime, EPIX and Cinemax free for the first three months. Choice has more than 90 channels and it costs $85 per month, but comes with HBO Max, plus the other three streaming services in the Entertainment package.
Fact 2: DirecTV Stream Has More Available Channels
DirecTV’s vast resources and connections in the TV industry may have helped it gain an advantage over Sling TV when it comes to available channels. The sheer number of channels you can get through DirecTV Stream is pretty impressive. Sling TV also has lots of channels, but not quite as many.
Ordering more DirecTV Stream channels is a very straightforward process. The more you pay, the more channels you get. 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. That’s just about as much as you probably pay to your cable company if you haven’t cut the cord.
Sling TV’s base plans are cheap, but they have a small number of channels compared to DirecTV Stream’s more expensive but more robust entry-level plans. If you want more channels through Sling TV, you have to buy 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 $30. 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, and then get the Lifestyle Extra add-on.
In other words, some Sling TV subscribers have to spend twice as much every month just to get one additional channel!
Fact 3: DirecTV Stream Has Better Discounts and Deals
Though Sling TV and DirecTV Stream are both competitive when it comes to promotions, DirecTV Stream tends to have better deals and discounts.
With various DirecTV Stream promo codes, you can get:
- 3 months of Showtime free.
- 3 months of HBO Max free.
- 3 Months of Cinemax free.
- Regional sports for free.
- $15 off for signing up for an Entertainment package.
With Sling TV promo codes, you can get:
- $25 off your first month
- A free Air TV Mini (if you prepay for 2 months of service).
- AirTV Anywhere and HD antenna bundle for just $99 (if you prepay for 3 months)
Fact 4: Sling TV Has a Better Sports Lineup
Here’s a quick look at how Sling TV’s sports lineup compares to DirecTV Stream’s.
Below is a selection of some of the best sports channels you can get with Sling TV:
- 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 some of the sports channels that you can get with DirecTV Stream:
- ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS and ESPNU.
- Golf Channel, MLB Network, NBA TV, NHL Network.
- Olympic Channel.
- Sportsman Channel.
- SEC Network.
Both DirecTV Stream and Sling TV offer a solid sports lineup, but Sling TV is the better deal overall.
However, there is one caveat: you’re 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 regional sports networks via Sling TV depending on where you live. DirecTV Stream has much better local TV coverage.
Related: What’s the Best Service for Streaming Live Local TV?
Fact 5: DirecTV Stream Has Full HD Channels
DirecTV Stream currently has five 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.
“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.
Fact 6: DirecTV Stream Unlocks More Cable TV Apps
DirecTV Stream 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 Stream lets you unlock over 50 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 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 Stream plan, or have the free trial.
Sling TV only works with a smaller selection of 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.
If you have a big family that you want to share your account with or roommates, TVE apps can help. None of the streaming services will limit your access to TVE. They only limit the amount of streams you can access simultaneously through their main app. That means that if you encounter a “too many streams” error because too many people are using your account, you can use a TVE app instead as a workaround.
Fact 7: DirecTV Stream Has Better Recording Features
All the most popular streaming services have some type of cloud recording feature. Cloud DVR (Digital Video Recording) lets you record TV content and access your recordings though the internet.
Even with a recent upgrade to Sling TV‘s DVR, DirecTV Stream has the edge here. All DirecTV Stream subscribers get 500 hours of recording time. And, you can upgrade for just $10/month and get unlimited DVR hours. In contrast, Sling TV subscribers only get 10 free hours, with an optional $5 paid upgrade that expands the limit to 50 hours.
Fact 8: DirecTV Stream Has Better 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 Stream, on the other hand, lets you stream to twenty different screens at once while on your home network. Outside of your home network, you can still stream on three different devices. There are some network exclusions, including the NHL Network, STARZ and Showtime.
Fact 9: DirecTV Stream Has a Bigger On-Demand Library
DirecTV Stream has more than 40,000 titles, offering a huge selection of on-demand content that is available at your fingertips.
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/Blu-ray players. DirecTV Stream does not. That makes sense, since DirecTV Stream is relatively new compared to Sling TV. DirecTV Stream does have several compatible apps that you can stream on, and you can check the most updated list here. If DirecTV Stream continues developing apps, it should catch up soon. But for now, Sling TV has the edge here.
Fact 11: They Both Have Week-Long Free Trials
If you’re still not sure which is right for you, try them both out yourself and see what you think.
Sling TV Vs. DirecTV Stream: Which Is Better?
Unless you’re a sports junkie, DirecTV Stream is a better deal in almost every category. And even though Sling TV has more sports channels, DirecTV Stream has several 60fps sports channels.
Aside from sports, the only other aspect of Sling TV that’s clearly better than DirecTV Stream is app support. Sling TV has a handful of apps that DirecTV Stream 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, DirecTV Stream offers more channels. Still, Sling TV is a much more affordable option, so if you’re looking for the basics of television without overpaying, it’s a good choice overall. Another thing to think about is price hikes. Both services recently raised their prices, but DirecTV Stream‘s price hike was far more dramatic.
Alex Munkachy is a freelance writer, game developer and hobby robotics enthusiast. You can find his blog about robotics news and reviews at robotfanatics.com.