Cable and satellite TV services come with high monthly bills, strict requirements and leasing costs for equipment setup, and annoying channel packages. So if you’re looking to escape to the freedom of a livestreaming TV service, you’ve probably come across both DIRECTV NOW and Sling TV.
Both have the potential to save you some money, but they can look pretty similar: both are owned by satellite companies (DIRECTV and DISH, respectively), both are cheaper than the satellite services offered by their parent companies, and both give you a smaller selection of channels.
We’ve compared those satellite parent companies before – DISH for Sling TV, and DIRECTV for DIRECTV NOW -, but how do their streaming services compare against each other? Will it be the same outcome (DISH winning out), or DIRECTV do something better here?
DIRECTV NOW vs. Sling TV: Packages + Pricing
|Provider||Plans||Number of channels||Price||View plans|
|Sling||Orange + Blue||56||$40/mo.||View plans|
|DIRECTV NOW||PLUS||40+||$50/mo.||View plans|
|DIRECTV NOW||MAX||50+||$70/mo.||View plans|
|DIRECTV NOW||ENTERTAINMENT||65+||$93/mo.||View plans|
|DIRECTV NOW||CHOICE||85+||$110/mo.||View plans|
|DIRECTV NOW||XTRA||105+||$124/mo.||View plans|
|DIRECTV NOW||ULTIMATE||125+||$135/mo.||View plans|
If you’re just looking for the most volume of channels for a cheaper price than cable or satellite, than DIRECTV NOW is the easy choice of the two. Even their lowest-tier option (PLUS) gives you about the same number of channels as Sling’s 2nd-tier option (Blue). Going beyond that, DIRECTV NOW gives you more packages than Sling’s 3 options, escalating quickly to a number of channels well beyond Sling’s best offer (Orange + Blue).
Sling Orange gives you about 34 channels, while Blue gives you 49, and Orange + Blue gives you 56. Orange and Blue are the same price – but you get different channels, with Orange providing more sports. These are just base packages, though – to add more, you nab add-on packages for $5 extra per package per month – so the price can quickly climb, although you get some decent customization.
In contrast, DIRECTV NOW starts you off a little higher for both price and channel count, but things are more straightforward: although there’s some substitution of channels between packages (like Sling), it’s pretty minimal – each tier just adds more channels on, for a little bit higher price. Simple.
Premium add-ons are either $5 or $8 a month, or are included. Sling’s, on the other hand, are higher.
While Sling TV’s most expensive package is still cheaper than DIRECTV NOW’s cheapest, even with a $5 DVR added on, you’re going to miss out on some locals. We’ll discuss premiums, locals, and DVRs a little later.
For us, Sling has the cheaper overall price, but DIRECTV NOW gives you the better package options – so it’s a toss-up.
If you aren’t sure about either provider, both DIRECTV NOW and Sling TV offer 7-day free trials, so you can try them both out – no problem. It’s all online, so there’s no equipment to setup or send back – just cancel before the 7 days are up and you won’t pay a dime.
DIRECTV NOW vs. Sling TV: Channels
|Provider||Package||Channels (Sling TV, DIRECTV NOW)|
|Sling TV||Orange||ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPN 3, TNT, TBS, CNN, AMC, HGTV, Comedy Central, History, A&E, IFC, Food network, BBC America, Investigation Discovery, Travel channel, Cartoon Network, epix Drive-in, Lifetime, Viceland, axsTV, fuse, Newsy, Freeform, Bloomberg Television, Motortrend, Disney Channel, Cheddar Business, Cheddar News, ACC, Shortlist, local now, Stadium, Comet|
|Sling TV||Blue||TNT, TBS, CNN, AMC, HGTV, Comedy Central, History, A&E, IFC, Food network, BBC America, Investigation Discovery, Travel channel, Cartoon Network, epix Drive-in, Lifetime, Viceland, axsTV, fuse, Newsy, Freeform, Bloomberg Television, Motortrend, Disney Channel, Cheddar Business, Cheddar News, ACC, Shortlist, local now, FOX (select markets), NBC (select markets), TLC, Fox sports (select markets), ABC Sports (select markets), FX, NFL Network, MBCSN, FXX, FS1, FS2, USA, NickJr., Syfy, bravo, National Geographic, National Geographic Wild, Bet, Tru, E!, Paramount|
|Sling TV||Orange + Blue||ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPN 3, TNT, TBS, CNN, AMC, HGTV, Comedy Central, History, A&E, IFC, Food network, BBC America, Investigation Discovery, Travel channel, Cartoon Network, epix Drive-in, Lifetime, Viceland, axsTV, fuse, Newsy, Freeform, Bloomberg Television, Motortrend, Disney Channel, Cheddar Business, Cheddar News, ACC, Shortlist, local now, Stadium, Comet, FOX (select markets), NBC (select markets), TLC, Fox sports (select markets), ABC Sports (select markets), FX, NFL Network, MBCSN, FXX, FS1, FS2, USA, NickJr., Syfy, bravo, National Geographic, National Geographic Wild, Bet, Tru, E!, Paramount|
|DIRECTV NOW||PLUS||Local live channels, HBO, HBO Family, HBO Latino, ABC, AccuWeather, Audience, BET, Boomerang, Bravo, Cartoon Network, CBS, Cheddar, CNBC, CNBC World, CNN, Comedy Central, CW, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD, E!, ESPN, ESPN2, Fox, Fox Business Network, Fox News Channel, Fox Sports 1, Freeform, FX, FX Movie Channel, FXX, Hallmark Channel, HLN, MSNBC, MTV, My Network TV, Nat Geo WILD, National Geographic Channel, NBC, NBCSN, Nick Jr. Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite, Ovation, Revolt, SYFY, TBS, TCM, Telmundo, TNT, TruTV, Universal Kids, USA Netwrok, VH1,|
|DIRECTV NOW||MAX||Many of the previous channels, plus Regional sports networks, Cinemax, BTN, CMT, ESPNEWS, ESPNU, Fox Sports 2, Golf Channel, Longhorn Network, MSG, MSG+, Olympics Channel, Paramount, SEC Network, TV Land, YES Network|
|DIRECTV NOW||ENTERTAINMENT||Many of the previous channels, plus A&E, AMC, Animal Planet, AXS TV, BabyFirst, BBC America, C-SPAN, C-SPAN2, DIscovery, Food Network, Galavision, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, HGTV, History, Investigation Discovery, Lifetime, Motor Trend, MTV2, One American News, REELZ, RFD-TV, TeenNick, TLC, Univision, Viceland, WE tv|
|DIRECTV NOW||CHOICE||Many of the previous channels, plus more regional sports, A Wealth of Entertainment, BTN, ComedyTV, Cooking Channel, Fuse, Fusion, Game Show Network, IFC, Justice Central, MLB Network, Nicktoons, OWN, Pop, Science, SNY, SundanceTV, Tennis Channel, Travel Channel, TV One, UniMas, Up, The Weather Channel|
|DIRECTV NOW||XTRA||Many of the previous channels, plus more regional sports, American Heros, Aspire, BBC World News, BET Her, CBS Sports Network, Destinaion America, Discovery Family Channel, Discovery Life, DIY Network, FM, FX Movie Channel, fyi, LMN, Logo, MTV Classic, Nat Geo WILD, NBA TV, NHL Network, Sportsman Channel, TVG, Universal Kids, Universo|
|DIRECTV NOW||ULTIMATE||Many of the previous channels, plus more regional sports, El Rey, STARZ ENCORE Action, STARZ ENCORE Black, STARZ ENCORE Classic, STARZ ENCORE East, STARZ ENCORE Family, STARZ ENCORE Suspense, STARZ ENCORE West, STARZ ENCORE Westerns, Univision Deportes Network,|
We mentioned channels briefly, but it’s a pretty important topic to cover more in-depth. DIRECTV NOW gives you the greater volume and variety of channels built into each package, so it can be easier to look at DIRECTV NOW’s channel list and see which package has most of what you want.
On the flip side, it’s not as customizable as Sling TV - DIRECTV NOW might give you most of the channels you want, but with a bunch you don’t care about, and for a higher price than might be necessary.
Sling TV’s add-on packages give you that customization, if that’s what you need – and there’s a lot of options:
- World news
- A La Carte options
Sling is especially better than DIRECTV NOW when it comes to international channels. But again, for every package or channel that you add with Sling, you increase the monthly price by at least $5 – so you can quickly be paying more than DIRECTV NOW for the same kinds of channels, after all.
|Provider||Number of local affiliates|
With livestreaming TV services (or any TV provider, for that matter), local channels can be a mixed bag. What you get depends on where you live. But, DIRECTV NOW is much more likely to get you access to a lot stations than Sling TV – just check out the table above if you don’t believe us.
Plus, Sling doesn’t have PBS or CBS at all, while DIRECTV NOW does.
Like Sling TV, but they don’t have locals you want? Grab an HD antenna! Sling TV recognizes their limitations and offers free over-the-air broadcasts with the AirTV antenna when you prepay for 3 months of service.
|Channel||Sling TV||DIRECTV NOW|
|HBO||N/A, formerly $15/mo.||Included|
|CINEMAX||N/A, formerly $10/mo.||$11/mo./included in MAX|
Sling TV just can’t beat DIRECTV NOW on premiums. For one, Sling is missing HBO and CINEMAX – huge holes in their lineup – due to a dispute. Upgrade to DIRECTV NOW’s 2nd-tier package and you get CINEMAX thrown in for free, too.
The only places where Sling has the advantage are in STARZ ($9/mo to DIRECTV NOW’s $11), and EPIX (DIRECTV NOW doesn’t have it). So unless you really like EPIX, DIRECTV NOW is the one to go with here.
|Sling TV only||DIRECTV NOW only|
|Sports channels||NFL Network, NFL RedZone||BIg Ten Network, MLB Network, CBS Sports Network|
Both providers give you ESPN and ESPN 2 – so no worries there. But, if you need something more, DIRECTV NOW will be the one to go with – unless you want NFL Network or NFL Red Zone, then pick Sling TV.
DIRECTV NOW’s other big advantage here is NFL SUNDAY TICKET – they have it, Sling TV doesn’t. There is a kicker though – it’s only available in certain cities.
On Demand content
|Provider||Number of on demand titles|
|Sling TV||70,000 titles|
|DIRECTV NOW||40,000 titles|
For volume of on demand titles, Sling TV takes the category: 70,000 titles across 400 channels and in 22 different languages, to DIRECTV NOW’s 40,000 titles. That said, DIRECTV NOW’s on demand lineup includes titles from HBO - so although smaller overall, you may actually find more of what you’re looking for with DIRECTV NOW.
This is one where you’ll have to take a look and decide for yourself – what’s more important to you: volume, or potential quality?
This is an easy one: Sling TV doesn’t have any original series shows on them. DIRECTV NOW, however, has some original shows on AT&T’s “AUDIENCE” channel. So they have shows like Loudermilk, You Me Her, and Mr. Mercedes.
It doesn’t matter what package you grab, this channel will be included with your DIRECTV NOW subscription.
Both providers have a variety of other types of content: Sling TV has some Pay-per-View options, as well as some classic and first-run movie rentals. DIRECTV NOW reports that they’re working on PPV content, but they don’t have any rentals right now.
Sling TV also does something unique: cancel your subscription, and you won’t be entirely cut off right away. You’ll still be able to watch some channels and shows, like TBS, TNT, Food Network, HGTV, TruTV, and the History Channel.
DIRECTV NOW vs Sling TV: User Experience + Interface
But when you do that, you get a big ol’ pause button on screen – which happens anytime you move your mouse (when using a computer). Navigation can be confusing, too.
Sling is a little better, with the controls sitting at the bottom of the screen, but still not great – check out our Sling TV review for more – but we’re going to give it the win here anyway.
Resolution + Streams
|Sling TV||DIRECTV NOW|
|Number of simultaneous streams|| || |
While both providers offer HD streaming, Sling goes up to 1080p, and DIRECTV NOW only goes to 720p. Neither offer 4K as of right now, though.
Alongside better quality, Sling TV offers more options for simultaneous streams: 1, 3, or 4. DIRECTV NOW just gives you 2 right away, then makes you pay an extra $5 bucks a month for an additional stream.
|Device||Sling TV||DIRECTV NOW|
|Amazon Fire TV||Yes||Yes|
|iPhone and iPad||Yes||Yes|
Device compatibility is pretty on par between the two, although Sling does have a little edge over DIRECTV NOW by offering Android TV. Most of the popular platforms are available, however, for both – so it shouldn’t be too much of an issue for most people.
We suggest Apple TV for your streaming. It’s available for both providers, plus you’ll be able to access iTunes if you want to rent or buy movies.
DIRECTV NOW vs Sling TV: DVR + Cloud
|Sling TV Cloud DVR||+$5/mo.|| |
|DIRECTV NOW True Cloud DVR||Included|| |
Both providers give you a Cloud DVR – but neither one is very exciting. You’d be better off going with YouTube TV or PlayStation Vue for a DVR and cloud storage.
But, DIRECTV NOW gives the DVR for free, with 20 hours of recording ability, plus 30 days storage, after which they automatically delete. If you want a DVR with Sling, you’ll have to pay an extra $5 bucks a month - but the upside is that you get 50 hours, and you can keep your recordings forever.
So we’ll give this category to Sling TV.
So which one is better for you? Hopefully by now, you’ve got a good idea of that – but to refresh, here’s a list of pros and cons:
Recap - Our choice
For budgeters and those less-concerned about premiums, Sling TV is the one to go with. And if you’re worried about not getting locals, take advantage of their free HD antenna.
For HBO-lovers, sports fans, and a wider channel selection, go with DIRECTV NOW. Overall, it’s the better option.