In the past, the only way to get the cable channels you wanted was by subscribing to pay TV provider, like DirecTV or Spectrum. But today, the prevalence of cord-cutting has led to online-only, subscription-free internet TV services such as YouTube TV and Sling TV.
Not sure which cable alternative is right for you? You’ve come to the right place. Keep reading, and learn about the top 8 things you need to know about YouTube TV and Sling TV.
An overview of YouTube TV and Sling TV
Both YouTube TV and Sling TV are internet TV services that allow you to watch live TV without a cable subscription. You simply sign up for one of the services, then you can watch live TV channels like ESPN, Fox News, and any other channel included in your package – on any supported device. Let’s take a brief look at each service and its features now.
Sling TV is the oldest internet TV provider out there. It launched way back in 2015 – which is an eternity in the world of internet TV streaming. Today, it boasts a high number of subscribers, due to its many available streaming apps and customizable selection of cable channels.
One of the reasons that Sling TV is popular is that it’s quite cheap. You can pick from the Sling Orange package, or the Sling Blue package. If you want more channels, you can combine both Sling Blue and Sling Orange.
One of the best features of Sling TV is its customizability. Sling TV advertises their service as “A la carte” TV. You can choose from an enormous variety of “extras”, which provide you with extra channels tailored to your interests.
For example, if you wanted more comedy channels, you could add the “Comedy Extra” package. This includes Game Show Network, MTV, Logo, and 7 other channels for Sling Blue subscribers.
Or, if you’re a sports fan, you can get Sling Orange and add the Sports Extra package, which comes with NBA TV, ESPNU and ESPNews, and much more.
Sling TV is not without its downsides. First, the subscription plan is somewhat confusing. Sling Orange and Sling Blue offer different channels, but there is a fair amount of overlap. You will pay to get some channels twice.
In addition, some important channels are “locked” into one package. You can't get ESPN, for example, unless you subscribe to Sling Orange. It’s not available in Sling Blue.
To further add to the confusion, you can only get particular channels from “extras” if you have the right subscription plan. For example, the Sports Extra package for Sling Blue comes with:
- Golf Channel
- Olympic Channel
- NFL RedZone
- MLB Network
- MLB Network Strike Zone
- Tennis Channel
- NBA TV
- Pac-12 Network
- NHL Network
- beIN Sports
- Big Ten Network
However, the exact same Sports Extra package for Sling Orange comes with:
- ACC Network
- ACC Network Extra
- Longhorn Network
- SEC Network
- SEC Network+
- MLB Network
- MLB Network Strike Zone
- Tennis Channel
- NBA TV
- Pac-12 Network
- NHL Network
- beIN Sports
As you can see, it’s very hard to tell what you do – and don’t – get with Sling TV. This makes it a less-than-ideal option for those looking to keep things simple.
You also can only stream on 1 device at a time with Sling Orange. Sling Blue lets you stream on up to 3 devices, though.
The DVR also isn’t the best. By default, you get 50 hours of free DVR storage, but you can upgrade to 200 hours of space if you pay an extra monthly fee.
YouTube TV was launched in early 2017, and it has quickly expanded into one of the most popular internet TV services out there, thanks to its relatively affordable price tag, good features, and solid lineup of channels.
YouTube TV offers only one subscription plan. You get 85+ channels, depending on your geographical location. For the price, you get plenty of great channels. You get sports coverage from ESPN and ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNews, Fox Sports 1 and 2, MLB network, and more.
You also get entertainment coverage from networks like FX, AMC and IFC, as well as news coverage from Fox News, Newsy and CNBC, among others.
Besides its good lineup of channels, YouTube TV boasts some great features for cord-cutters.
First, you can watch YouTube TV on up to 3 devices at once, which puts it on-par with Sling Blue, and makes it much better than Sling Orange.
You also can make up to 6 different user accounts with YouTube TV, which makes it a good choice for families, or housemates who are sharing a subscription. You also get a great DVR included with your YouTube TV subscription.
YouTube TV recently jumped in price. While this was accompanied with some new features and some new channels, the service has gone up launch, and it will likely continue to grow in price. This isn't the fault of YouTube TV, though. Cable carriers continue to raise the cost of their programming, so most internet TV services have to raise prices to stay profitable.
Sling TV is much less expensive
Sling TV is a much cheaper service than YouTube TV if you pick the Sling Orange or Sling Blue subscription. Even if you do opt for the Sling Blue + Orange subscription, you’ll save money compared to YouTube TV, and get a lot of the same channels.
YouTube TV has only one subscription. It’s cheaper than cable, and you get a lot for your money – 85+ channels, compared to the 50+ channels of Sling Orange + Blue. However, if you really want to save money and replace cable on a budget, Sling TV may be a better option for you, as long as it has the channels that you need.
YouTube TV’s DVR blows Sling out of the water
YouTube TV has the best DVR out of all internet TV streaming services. It’s not even close.
With your YouTube TV subscription, you get unlimited DVR storage for up to 9 months. You can record as many shows, sporting events, and movies as you want – with absolutely no restrictions. The recordings only expire after 9 months. This service costs no additional fee.
Compared to Sling TV, YouTube TV has a much better DVR. Sling TV gives you a free 50 hours of DVR storage, which is hardly enough if you record a lot of TV and like to watch your favorite shows later. And if you want more storage, you’ll have to pay $5/month to get 200 hours of DVR space.
If DVR storage is important to you, YouTube TV is a much better choice, compared to Sling TV. You’ll be able to save more of your shows to watch later, and share accounts with others in your household more easily.
Device Support For Sling TV & YouTube TV Is About The Same
For the most part, major internet TV providers like Sling TV and YouTube TV support the same devices. Whether you choose Sling TV or YouTube TV, you’ll be able to stream on:
- Android phones and tablets
- iOS devices (iPhones, iPads)
- Web browsers
- Amazon Fire TV
- Apple TV
- Xbox One
There are some differences, though. Sling TV also supports:
- Portal by Facebook
- Select Samsung and LG smart TVs
- AirTV Player
YouTube TV has more smart TV support, though. It supports smart TVs from Samsung, LG, Sharp, VIZIO and Hisense.
Overall, though, device support for both of these services is about the same unless you’re using a more niche device. All of the major players like Amazon Fire TV and Roku are supported by both services.
YouTube TV offers fewer customization options
YouTube TV doesn’t have that many customization options. Mostly, you’re limited to simply adding a few premium networks to your package, such as:
- Acorn TV
- AMC Premiere
- FOX Soccer Plus
- NBA League Pass
- Sundance Now
In contrast, Sling TV lets you add a huge variety of “a la carte” channels. From lifestyle to sports channels, and even international channels and foreign-language channels, you can pick and choose the packages that are right for your lifestyle.
There are more than a dozen additional channel packages available, and you can see them all on the Sling website, and build the perfect bundle for your needs.
YouTube TV offers HBO
Sorry, Game Of Thrones fans. If you have Sling TV, winter isn’t coming any time soon. However, as of this year, YouTube TV now offers a HBO Max add-on at an additional fee, making it the better option if you want access to all the shows the channel offers like Sex and the City and Game Of Thrones.
Sling TV used to support HBO, but it dropped support for the channel in late 2019. That's not a huge deal, of course, since you can always sign up for HBO NOW. But still, it would be nice to have the option to watch HBO within Sling TV, rather than on a separate service.
Sling TV and YouTube TV both have good sports coverage
In terms of sports coverage, Sling TV and YouTube TV are about even. To get both ESPN and Fox Sports Networks, you’ll need to get Sling Orange + Blue, because ESPN only comes with Sling Orange and Fox Sports only comes with Sling Blue.
YouTube TV has slightly more sports channels than Sling TV, but it is slightly more expensive. One thing to note, though, is that YouTube TV still has support for Fox Regional Sports Networks (RSNs), while Sling TV does not.
Dish Network, the parent company of Sling TV, is in a dispute with Fox Sports, and has dropped support for Fox RSNs. If you watch baseball or basketball, it’s likely that YouTube TV will be a better choice for you, due to this issue.
YouTube TV is better for families and account-sharing
YouTube TV is a much better choice if you’re going to be sharing your account between multiple family members.
This is because you can stream on 3 devices at once with no limits – unlike Sling Orange which only lets you stream on 1 device at a time.
Even if you get Sling Blue + Orange and unlock 3-device streaming with Sling Blue, that only applies to Blue channels. You can still only stream Sling Orange channels (such as ESPN) on a single device.
In addition, YouTube TV lets you create 6 individual account logins for different users. These users get their own recommendations, DVR queue, and other features.
And of course, the DVR of YouTube TV is much better if you are part of a larger household. The 50 hour DVR that Sling TV comes with by default will run out pretty fast if you're sharing your account with family members. But because YouTube TV gives you 9 months of storage, you don’t have to worry about that.
Sling TV and YouTube TV both offer a free trial
Here’s a final fact – you can try Sling TV with a free 3-day trial and YouTube TV with a free 7-day trial now. YouTube TV and Sling also both regularly run promotions for free streaming devices – check out their websites for details.
You can try YouTube TV for 7 days for free by visiting its website. And if you’re interested in Sling TV, get your 3-day free trial now.
Our takeaway: Choose what works for you
Well, the answer is… it depends! It depends on what you want. If you just need a few channels and don’t care about DVR service, a low-cost Sling TV Blue or Orange subscription may be right for you.
In contrast, if you need more channels, YouTube TV may be a better choice, even though it’s more expensive. Here are some questions to ask yourself when choosing between the two.
Are you interested in international channels?
Sling TV offers many more additional channels in their “International” extra add-on. This will cost you an additional fee per month, but if you need Spanish-language programming or channels from Brazil, the Middle East, or China and Europe, it’s definitely worth it.
How many channels do you need?
If you’re looking for 85+ channels, YouTube TV is a better choice than Sling Orange, Sling Blue, or Sling Blue + Orange. You get a better variety of programming, with no “channel overlap.”
However, if you are only interested in a particular channel – such as ESPN – getting the Sling TV package that has it may be a better choice, especially if you’re on a budget.
Will you be sharing your account with family members?
Sling Orange accounts can’t be shared at all, and all Sling TV accounts lack basic features like individual user accounts. If you plan to share your internet TV with family members or housemates, YouTube TV is a much better option, compared to Sling TV.
Eric Liston • Author
Eric Liston is a content writer based in Columbus, Ohio. Since 2015, he’s been writing about technology, cord-cutting, and helping everyday people save money. He also has expertise writing about medicine, dentistry, insurance, and a variety of other industries. No matter what he’s writing, his focus is always on simplifying complex concepts and making them approachable for everyone. When he’s not slamming away on his keyboard at his home office, you’ll find Eric reading sci-fi novels, improving his disc golf game (he just hit his first 400-foot drive) and playing video games on his gaming PC.
Kelsey Reynolds • Editor
Kelsey Reynolds is Flixed’s content lead. She is based in Minneapolis. Kelsey holds a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Minnesota, and has spent her career writing and editing content about marketing, education, emergency preparedness, science, cannabis, and entertainment. When she’s not at her computer, Kelsey can usually be found working in her garden or walking her two dogs in the park.