Sling TV vs. DIRECTV NOW

When it comes to channel selection, Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW are more comparable than we first thought.

Best for Most
See Full Review
Runner up
See Full Review

Sling TV vs. DIRECTV NOW

Product Recommended Rating
Sling TV Best for Most 4 / 5
DIRECTV NOW Runner up 3.5 / 5

OVERVIEW: We pitted Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW against each other to see which is better at streaming TV. We tested Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW on a number of devices and watched more Steven Universe than we care to admit. Though DIRECTV NOW and Sling TV both have pros and cons—we reviewed pricing, channels, features, and more—we picked Sling TV as the overall winner.

Sling TV vs. DIRECTV NOW—quick comparison

We threw a quick comparison table together so you could see the differences (and similarities) between the two streaming TV services.

Sling TV vs. DIRECTV NOW

Sling TVDIRECTV NOW
Price$25–45/mo.*$35–70/mo.
Channels20–121**60–126
Simultaneous streaming1–4 2
Cloud DVRYes (up to 50 hrs. for $5/mo.)No (but coming soon)
Add HBO$15/mo.$5/mo.
iOSYes Yes
AndroidYesYes
DetailsFree Roku DealGet 7-day trial

* Does not include add-on package pricing.
**This range includes channel add-ons which Sling calls Extras (e.g. Sports Extra, Kids Extra, Best of Spanish TV Extra, etc.).  

It’s a close call, but Sling TV wins it

Sling TV

When it comes to channel selection, Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW are more comparable than we first thought. However, Sling TV really stands out with its Cloud DVR and flexible pricing.

DIRECTV NOW currently doesn’t offer Cloud DVR, and that gives Sling TV a huge advantage because it can record movies and shows, while DIRECTV NOW can’t. Sling TV also offers more than twenty add-ons (sports channel package, movie channel package, etc.), which can seem like overkill, but we prefer having the add-on option instead of paying for a bunch of channels we never wanted in the first place (*cough* looking at you cable and satellite TV).

Info box icon Info box icon

What’s a Cloud DVR?

What’s a Cloud DVR?

A Cloud DVR is an add-on service that lets you record movies or shows to watch at your leisure. It functions much like a traditional DVR, like a TiVo, but there’s no physical device and you’ll need a reliable, decent internet connection to watch your recorded content (there’s currently no offline viewing feature, which we would really appreciate for road trips, airplanes, etc.).

Comparing pricing and plans with Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW

The price never tells the whole story, and the same goes for Sling TV’s and DIRECTV NOW’s.

Paying only for the channels you want is arguably the biggest selling point of streaming TV service, and though Sling TV doesn’t do that perfectly, it comes closer than DIRECTV NOW.

Sling TV advertises an “industry leading low price,” but that low price (Sling TV’s Orange plan) gives you fewer channels than DIRECTV NOW—40 channels fewer, to be specific.1 While DIRECTV NOW’s lowest-priced plan (Live a Little) gives you more than 60 channels total, it’s almost twice the price of Sling TV’s lowest-priced plan (Orange): $35 a month compared to $20 a month.

We keep getting the names of DIRECTV NOW’s plans mixed up with sizing options at Cold Stone Creamery,2 but if you’re looking for a deeper dive into each plan, you can check out our full-length review of DIRECTV NOW.

Sling TV plans

PlanPriceChannelsDetails
Sling Orange$20/mo.25+Free Roku Deal
Sling Blue$25/mo.45Free Roku Deal
Orange + Blue$40/mo.50Free Roku Deal

For some reason Sling TV decided to name its streaming TV plans after colors. It’s confusing, but we nail the details down in our full-length review of Sling TV if you want to find out more.

Looking at the two of these services, if you’re all about penny-pinching, then there’s no denying the appeal of Sling TV’s Orange plan. It offers ESPN, Cartoon Network/Adult Swim, Comedy Central, AMC, and more for $20 a month. We’d be more than willing to fork over an Andrew Jackson a month for the upcoming Rick & Morty season on Cartoon Network/Adult Swim, so we think Sling’s low-priced Orange plan will catch the attention of most eyeballs and wallets.  

DIRECTV NOW plans

PlanPriceChannelsDetails
Live a Little$35/mo.60+Free Trial
Just Right$50/mo.80+Free Trial
Go Big$60/mo.100+Free Trial
Gotta Have It!$70/mo.120+Free Trial

Sling TV may be the bargain-basement streaming TV service, but you could make a case that DIRECTV NOW offers just as much (if not more) value. DIRECTV NOW’s $35-a-month Live a Little plan has more channels per dollar than Sling TV’s Orange plan. So if you think there’s more value in quantity, maybe you’ll prefer DIRECTV NOW’s lower-tiered plans.

Are Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW truly à la carte TV?

Not quite, but one TV streaming service is getting close.

Sling TV boasts that it offers à la carte TV and, well, in this case it’s more a half-truth. If it were truly à la carte (definition: according to a menu or list that prices items separately), you’d be able to choose each and every channel you want. That’s not the case with Sling TV, but with its add-ons you could easily argue it’s more à la carte than DIRECTV NOW.

Sling TV boasts that it offers à la carte TV and, well, in this case it’s more a half-truth.

Sling TV lets you choose from more than twenty-eight service add-ons, each ranging from $5 to $15 a month. Some add-ons are exactly what they sound like—for example, the Sports Extra add-on includes sports channels such as ESPNU, ESPNEWS, SEC Network, NBA TV, and more. Other add-ons run the gamut from kids programming (Disney Junior, Nicktoons, etc.) and movie channels (Showtime, STARZ, etc.) to international channels (French television anyone?),

To compare, DIRECTV NOW does have three add-on options, but they’re just for single, premium channels (HBO, Showtime, STARZ, etc.), and nothing comparable to something like the Sports Extra from Sling TV

Do Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW have the channels I want?

It can be a little overly complicated finding the channels you want on a given plan from Sling TV or DIRECTV NOW. For example, ESPN is on Sling TV’s Orange plan ($20/mo.) but not the more expensive Blue plan ($25/mo.)? But overall, Sling TV’s and DIRECTV NOW’s channel selections feel surprisingly similar to each other’s.

Despite having most of the same channels, DIRECTV NOW and Sling TV still have a handful of exclusives. If one of those exclusive channels is a deal breaker (e.g., Pac-12 Network), we recommend starting there. To make it easier to find that must-have channel, we put together this channel comparison table for Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW. Every possible channel available from each service is here.

ChannelsDIRECTV NOWSling TV
A Wealth of EntertainmentYesNo
A&EYesYes
ABCYesYes*
AMCYesYes
American HeroesYesNo
Animal PlanetYesNo
AudienceYesNo
AXS TVYesYes
Baby FirstYesNo
Baby TVNoYes
BBC AmericaYesYes
BBC World NewsYesYes
BeIN SportsYesYes
Benfica TVNoNo
BETYesYes
ChannelsDIRECTV NOWSling TV
Bloomberg TVYesYes
BoomerangYesYes
BravoYesYes
Big Ten NetworkYesNo
Campus InsidersNoYes
C-SPANYesNo
C-SPAN2YesNo
Cartoon NetworkYesYes
CentricYesNo
CGTNNoYes
Chelsea TVNoNo
ChillerYesNo
Cine Sony TelevisionNoNo
CMTYesYes
CNBCYesYes
ChannelsDIRECTV NOWSling TV
CNBC WorldYesNo
CNNYesYes
Comcast SportsNoNo
Comedy CentralYesYes
Comedy TVYesNo
Cooking ChannelYesYes
Cozi TVNoNo
Destination AmericaYesNo
DiscoveryYesNo
Discovery Family ChannelYesNo
Discovery LifeYesNo
Disney ChannelYesYes
Disney JunioYesYes
Disney XDYesYes
DIY NetworkYesYes
ChannelsDIRECTV NOWSling TV
E!YesYes
Eleven SportsNoNo
El ReyYesYes
EPIXNoYes
EPIX2NoYes
EPIX Drive-InNoYes
EPIX HitsNoYes
ESPNYesYes
ESPN2YesYes
ESPN Buzzer BeaterNoYes
ESPN Goal LineNoYes
ESPNEWSYesYes
ESPNUYesYes
EuronewsNoYes
FMYesNo
ChannelsDIRECTV NOWSling TV
FamilyNetNoYes
Fandor FestivalNoYes
FLAMANoYes
Food NetworkYesYes
The Football ReportNoNo
FoxYesYes*
Fox Business NetworkYesNo
Fox DeportesNoNo
Fox LifeNoNo
Fox News ChannelYesNo
FOX Sports 1YesYes
FOX Sports 2YesYes
France24NoYes
FreeformYesYes
FuboTV NetworkNoNo
ChannelsDIRECTV NOWSling TV
FuseYesNo
FusionYesYes
FXYesYes
FX Movie ChannelYesNo
FXXYesYes
fyi,YesYes
GalavisionYesYes
Golf ChannelYesYes
GolTVNoNo
GSNYesYes
Hallmark ChannelYesYes
Hallmark Movies & MysteriesYesYes
HBOYesYes
HGTVYesYes
HISTORYYesYes
ChannelsDIRECTV NOWSling TV
HLNYesYes
IFCYesYes
Investigation DiscoveryYesNo
Justice CentralYesNo
LifetimeYesYes
Lifetime Movie NetworkNoNo
LMNYesYes
Local NowNoYes
LogoYesYes
Motors TV HDNoYes
MLB NetworkYesNo
MSNBCYesYes
MTVYesYes
MTV2YesYes
MTV ClassicYesNo
ChannelsDIRECTV NOWSling TV
Nat Geo WILDYesYes
National Geographic ChannelYesYes
NBA TVYesYes
NBCYesYes*
NBCSNYesYes
NBC UniversoNoNo
NDTV 24X7NoYes
News18NoYes
NewsyNoYes
NHL NetworkNoYes
Nick Jr.YesYes
Nickelodeon/Nick at NiteYesNo
NicktoonsYesYes
One American NewsYesNo
Outdoor ChannelNoYes
ChannelsDIRECTV NOWSling TV
OWNYesNo
OxygenYesYes
PAC-12 NetworkNoYes
PIXLNoYes
Primeira Liga TVNoNo
RevoltYesNo
RFD-TVYesYes
RT NetworkNoYes
ScienceYesNo
SEC NetworkYesYes
SEC Network+NoYes
ShowtimeNoYes
Showtime 2NoYes
Showtime BeyondNoYes
Showtime ExtremeNoYes
ChannelsDIRECTV NOWSling TV
Showtime NextNoYes
Showtime ShowcaseNoYes
Showtime WomenNoYes
Showtime WestNoYes
SpikeYesYes
SproutYesNo
Sportsman ChannelNoYes
STARZNoYes
STARZ ENCORE ActionYesNo
STARZ ENCORE BlackYesNo
STARZ ENCORE EastYesNo
STARZ ENCORE FamilyYesYes
STARZ ENCORE ClassicYesYes
STARZ ENCORE SuspenseYesNo
STARZ ENCORE WestYesYes
ChannelsDIRECTV NOWSling TV
STARZ ENCORE WesternsYesNo
SundanceTVYesYes
SyfyYesYes
TBSYesYes
TCMNoYes
TeenNickYesYes
The BlazeNoYes
TelemundoYesNo
TelexitosNoNo
Tennis ChannelYesNo
TLCYesNo
TNTYesYes
Travel ChannelYesYes
Tribeca ShortlistNoYes
TruTVYesYes
ChannelsDIRECTV NOWSling TV
TV LandYesYes
TVGYesNo
TV OneYesNo
TyC SportsNoNo
UniMásYesYes
UniversoYesNo
UnivisionYesYes
Univision Deportes NetworkYesYes
USA NetworkYesYes
Universal ChannelNoNo
VelocityYesNo
ChannelsDIRECTV NOWSling TV
VH1YesYes
VibrantNoYes
VicelandYesYes
WE tvYesYes
World Fishing NetworkNoYes
Weather ChannelYesNo
WeatherNationYesNo
Z Living HDNoYes

*Not available in select regions.

You might have noticed there are a few exclusive channels. Sports fans, especially college sports fans, may want to know that you can only find the Pac-12 Network on Sling TV. However, DIRECTV carries Big Ten Network, and Sling TV doesn’t, so there’s that too.

If you’re a horror fan, Chiller, the horror and thriller channel, is on DIRECTV NOW but not Sling TV. DIRECTV NOW also has the Discovery Channel, whereas Sling TV does not. Also, if you’re a fan of of silver-screen gems, Turner Classic Movies is available only on Sling TV.

The Sling TV viewing experience

Are there commercials on Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW?

Just so there are no surprises, you should know both Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW bombard you with commercials.

Both are streaming TV services, not purely on-demand streaming like Netflix, so with live TV comes commercials, just like clouds come with rain. Still, we were surprised when both Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW hit us with commercials while we watched on-demand programming.

To be fair, not all programming has commercials, but you can never quite tell what does and doesn’t have advertising. For example, when we watched Game of Thrones, we didn’t experience any commercials because HBO is an ad-free, premium add-on. However, when we put on a movie or show from a channel that airs commercials, we weren’t sure what we’d get.

We have two examples of you-don’t-know-if-there-are-commercials programming. When we watched Steven Universe on demand, DIRECTV NOW had ads from Cartoon Network (the same network that broadcasts Steven Universe) and we could skip forward or backward (through the show, but not the Cartoon Network promos). When we watched Steven Universe on Sling TV, there were no ads, but we could NOT skip forward or backward.

DIRECTV NOW interface

When we watched The Simpsons on demand, DIRECTV NOW showed us prerecorded ads from sponsors and no fast forward or skip features were available. To our surprise, Sling TV did the exact same thing as DIRECTV NOW with The Simpsons.

The don’t-know-if-you’re-gonna-get-a-commercial thing was a nuisance, but the experience varied more by channels than streaming TV service, so it’s hard to say who comes out the winner. But we do know the know the loser: it’s us, the viewers . . . but hey, at least it’s not as bad as traditional cable or satellite TV commercials.

Of course, if you fork over the extra $5 a month on Sling TV, you can record (most of) your shows and movies and skip commercials, but be aware you’ll need a solid internet connection to watch anything on Sling’s Cloud DVR.

What devices can I watch Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW on?

If you’re a gadget fiend and want to know what you can watch Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW on, here’s a list of devices and system requirements.

ComputersSling TVDIRECTV NOW
WindowsYes (Win 7 & 10) Yes (via web browser)
MacYes (Lion 10.7 and higher)Yes (via web browser)
Phones and tablets
iOSYes (9 and higher)Yes (9 and higher)
AndroidYes (4.4 and higher)Yes (4.4 and higher)
Amazon FireYes (4.4.2 and higher)Yes (4.4.2 and higher)
TV and video players
Apple TVYes (4th generation)Yes (4th generation)
RokuYes (LT and higher)Yes
ChromecastYesYes (2nd generation and higher)
Amazon Fire TVYesYes
Gaming consoles
Xbox OneYesNo
PS4NoNo

There were more differences in device compatibility when Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW first launched, but as time goes on, the two services are becoming more and more available on a slew of devices. The only notable exceptions are gaming consoles: Sling TV works on the Xbox One but DIRECTV NOW does not. However, DIRECTV NOW hints that it may become available on the console in the future (currently, it has no date set).

As for the PS4, it won’t support Sling TV or DIRECTV NOW. Sony (PlayStation/PS4) has its own streaming TV service, the PlayStation Vue, so it makes sense it won’t let others play with its hardware.

Are Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW still buggy?

DIRECTV NOW’s bugs were hard to ignore when we first reviewed the service, and though it’s made improvements since then, we still experienced error screens aplenty. In fact, as we jumped between DIRECTV NOW and Sling TV, the difference between the two services became more and more apparent.

The Sling TV experience was different. We didn’t come across any bugs—not once.

We tried to watch shows like Bob’s Burgers multiple times on DIRECTV NOW, but each time we received an “error 40” screen. We even closed DIRECTV NOW and tried again later, but there was still the mysterious error 40 screen. Though we tried multiple times to check in and watch Bob and his family’s wacky antics, we were stopped by that same error 40 screen. It wasn’t just Bob’s Burgers either; we couldn’t watch Into the Badlands on AMC or America’s Got Talent on NBC, two very different shows on two very different network channels.

The Sling TV experience was different. We didn’t come across any bugs—not once. We know Sling TV is far from perfect (we know there are bugs out there, even if we didn’t run into them), but we didn’t experience any service interruptions this time around. When we clicked on a show or movie, it started. We didn’t deal with buffering either—and that’s all we really want in life.

Sling TV vs. DIRECTV NOW summary

We’ve been reviewing cable and satellite TV service for some time, so naturally, we’re excited about streaming TV. Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW are two of the biggest streaming TV services out there, and both have pros and cons. When comparing the two this time around, we were surprised how similar their channel offerings were. However, there were still some big differences outside of that—Sling TV has Cloud DVR (50 hrs. for $5/mo.) and more flexible pricing with its add-ons, and DIRECTV NOW still has some bugs to work out.

Our recommendations

  • If you’re a penny-pinching cord-cutter, it doesn’t get any cheaper than Sling TV’s Orange plan. If money isn’t an issue, then get the Orange + Blue plan.
  • DIRECTV NOW still needs to work out some bugs, but because there’s a 7-day free trial, we say give it a shot and see if it works best for you.
  • Both Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW are easy to sign up for and cancel. We’ve done it numerous times, and it never takes more than few minutes for either service.

We miss something?

If you still have questions about Sling TV or DIRECTV NOW, ask us in the comments section below. We’ll do our best to satisfy your curiosity.

Sources

1.    Sling TV, “Sling TV À LA CARTE TV™
2.    Cold Stone, “FAQs: What are Cold Stone portion sizes?

  • Michael R. Grothe

    if your an AT&T customer you can stream direct tv on your phone no data usage

  • rjj

    do either include the NFL network ?

  • rjj

    do either include the NFL channel

    • Don Lewis

      yes, both services offer nfl

  • Michael Ice-Mike Nyanti

    Do Directv Now offer “bein Sports”?

  • Christina

    Can you use your sling tv account to sign into other applications like you can with direct tv now? Such as NFL ap or history channel ap?

    • Joseph Molion

      Some channels offer Sling as a provider for their on line stream… not sure which ones though.

  • Christina

    Can you use your sling sign in info to sign into other applications like you can with direct tv now?

    • John C Davis

      No. I have checked out almost every streaming service and DTV now is the only one listed. I love the HBO and Showtime stand alone apps for free with the cheap subscription price through DTV now. Stars does not allow you to use their free with subscription app. Hope this helps.

  • SkipCycle

    You missed a very important feature with your review. DirectTV Now lets you view both NBC and ABC, but Sling would not let me view either where I live. That’s huge, because ABC over the air is an almost impossibility to watch with an antenna. CBS isn’t on either service, but I can at least use an antenna to bring in pretty good reception.

  • anterfr

    i’ve had sling tv for 6 months and have found it nearly impossible to watch. the guide is terrible. the apple tv app is so buggy i’m constantly having to restart the app. using the cloud DVR is almost pointless as half the shows don’t allow you to DVR and they’re not available and i get an error screen. i use my sling tv account to sing in to all the individual channel apps and have more success. I’ve been using the DirectTV now app and will be switching to it, cutting off hulu, the CBS app, and all the others.

  • Bibs

    As another pointed out, you missed some networks…NBC and ABC were mentioned…I have NBC on Sling, but not CBS, which is a big deal for football fans. One thing you didn’t mention at all was the shows that are available On Demand. I’ve had Sling for two months now – one of the best features it has is all the available On Demand content (TBS for example has a wealth of old shows available On Demand). I set up a free trial of DirecTV last night just so I could watch New Year’s Rockin Eve…So far, in comparing Sling & DTV side by side, Sling blows DTV away with the available On Demand content. Also worth noting that every time I’ve used DTV so far, it’s stopped to buffer several times…this rarely happens on Sling. The channel lineup on DTV’s basic plan is pretty decent – if it had more On Demand and worked better, I’d keep it and dump Sling Blue. I’ll probably just get the CBS Now service for my NFL fix which is only for another month of playoff games…hopefully by next September there will be more availability…

  • Mike

    During the 1st quarter of 2018. It’s in beta right now.

  • Mike

    It’s in beta right now. Their plans are to add it in the 1st quarter of 2018.

  • Mike

    Directv Now does offer Turner Classic Movies, by the way. Also, it wasn’t pointed out in the article, but Directv now is also the only service that offers MLB network. (Sling does not). They both have NFL network.
    The one main difference that I have noticed is that Directv Now’s guide is much more user friendly. It is in alphabetical order. Sling’s is not. (In fact, I actually haven’t figured out the order of the channels yet).
    Plus Directv now has ABC, NBC, FOX and CBS. Sling (in my area) only offered FOX and NBC.

    • Cecil Brian Hengeveld

      It is a total mystery to me how Sling orders their channels. The guide for an old guy like me is difficult to use. My daughters, on the other hand, took to it naturally. Like Netflix.

  • Cecil Brian Hengeveld

    Overall I prefer the functionality and channel selection of Directv Now to Sling. Sling has it beat in performance by quite a large margin. I’ve experienced some buffering with Sling. But full blown errors and inability to watch certain channels with Directv. That said, I think I’m still going to go with Directv because of the functionality and gamble that performance improves over time. I like the guide better. It’s a better “surfing” platform than Sling. Pet peeve on all of these services, CAN WE GET A “LAST CHANNEL” BUTTON?

    Another factor in my decision for Directv. Delay time. I hope this isn’t impacted by new DVR functionality. And I only care during football season. I timed both Sling and Directv against Verizon Fios cable. I found that Directv tended to be 30 seconds behind the cable feed where Sling was a full minute or more. Not a big deal perhaps. For me, I don’t need to be getting a text from a friend or an update from my phone before seeing the action on tv. Knowing about a TD before seeing it on the screen is a deal breaker for me. In fact, I may get myself an HD Antenna to address that challenge even if I do get Directv.

  • Little Guy

    I have Direct TV Now, I was wondering if they still have the NFL Network as one of there programming networks. I have enjoyed it so far, but that is one of the big questions I have as an huge football fan.

  • Jeff Stull

    I have Sling. It is often barely watchable. It loads slow – freezes and buffers. My internet is fairly slow but I am able to watch Netflix- tubi and other apps with no problems. Would Directv now work better for me?

  • Carmen Jackson

    I have tried both Sling tv and Directv Now and I have experienced bugs with both services. I have Directv Now and I am deciding whether I should go back to Sling TV. With Sling Tv I had the sling orange/blue along with 4 add-ons not including the Cloud DVR. And with Directv Now I have the Gotta Have It package> I am glad that I came across this website which by the way is helping me to decide which company I will go with after I do a little bit more home work because honestly I do not find much difference except that I can record tv with sling

  • Dora April

    Another awesome thing about DirectTv Now is if you have an account with you can stream from other premium streaming devices like HBO, Starz and Showtime just by logging in with your DirectTV Now account which means you can stream from more devices despite DirectTv Now’s 2 device limit. Also if you have AT&T for your wireless service you get HBO free anyways.

  • Kevin Daniels

    What is the best streaming service for multiple tv,s

  • BonnieCoach

    DirecTV NOW DOES have CBS!

  • BonnieCoach

    Here’s the great thing…No Contracts! You can change anytime.

  • Billy Martin

    I just signed up with Direct tv now. I planned to put four homes on their service. My billing zip is my office where I receive all my mail. I will not be able to get ANY network channels at any house – ABC CBS NBC. I would have to get four Visa cards to match the locations and the bills would be mailed to houses without mail service. The billing zip has to match the device location. I am out of business with Direct. Does anyone know a streaming service that would solve my problem. Thanks.