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Sling TV vs. AT&T TV NOW

Which streaming service is better? Compare channel lineups, pricing, cloud DVRs, and more.

Best for kids

Price: $30.00–$45.00/mo.

Channels: 30–50+

Editorial star rating: 3.89/5.00

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HBO Max included

Price: $65–$135/mo.

Channels: 45–125+

Editorial star rating: 3.52/5.00

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Bottom line: Is Sling TV or AT&T TV NOW better?

We prefer Sling TV’s lower starting prices, kids and sports programming, frequent deals, and usability over AT&T TV NOW. But its channel lineups are confusing even though they’re much cheaper than AT&T TV NOW.

Sling TV vs. AT&T TV NOW pros and cons

Sling TV

👍 Free device offers for new subscribers
👍 Lower prices
👍 Good kids programming
👎 Confusing channel lineups

AT&T TV NOW

👍 Included premium channels
👍 Convenient off-line viewing
👎 Limited cloud DVR

Deals and promotions

Why yes, we have hunted down some delicious deals and promotions for you.

AT&T TV NOW: free HBO Max for 30 days ($15 value)

Sling TV: free AirTV mini ($79.99 value)

How are Sling TV and AT&T TV NOW different?

What’s your thing? Price or channel count?

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Sling TVAT&T TV NOW
Editorial star rating3.89/5.003.52/5.00
Price$30–$45/mo.$65–$135/mo.
Live channels30–50+45–125+
Max. cloud DVR50 hrs.500 hrs.
Compatible devices169
Max. multiple streams43
Trial7 days7 days

Data as of 09/22/20. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

On one side of the scale, we have Sling TV with affordable pricing and better features in just about every category. Budget-conscious TV lovers will love Sling TV.

On the other side, we have AT&T TV NOW (formally DIRECTV NOW) with more channels, but at cable-like prices. (Some are more expensive than regular DIRECTV packages—yikes!)

Those aren’t the only things that make these services different from each other, though. So we’ll break them down feature by feature for you.

Sling TV vs. AT&T TV NOW prices and plans

Hold onto your remotes—it’s going to get a little confusing here. These streaming services have very different package layouts.

Sling TV pricing and plans

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PackageChannel countStarting price
Sling Orange30+$30/mo.
Sling Blue40+$30/mo.
Sling Orange & Blue50+$45/mo.

Data as of 09/22/20. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Okay, this is where things get weird. You can get Sling Blue or Sling Orange for $30, but you’ll get different channels with each package because they don’t build on each other. What that means is you’ll have to choose between FOX Sports and ESPN, but get the same channel count with both packages. Could you be more annoying, Sling?

That said, you can have all the channels from both of these packages for $45 by simply getting Sling Orange & Blue.

Also, don’t let the package format turn you off right away though. Sling TV customers tend to be happier with their channel options than AT&T TV NOW customers. Sling TV packages are a bit tricky, but they still work well for those who want to save money.

AT&T TV NOW prices and plans

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PackageChannel countPrice
PLUS45+$65/mo.
MAX60+$80/mo.
ENTERTAINMENT65+$93/mo.
CHOICE85+$110/mo.
XTRA105+$124/mo.
ULTIMATE125+$135/mo.
OPTIMO MÁS90+$86/mo.

Data as of 09/22/20 Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

AT&T TV NOW has changed a lot over the last year. It used to be our favorite live TV streaming service. But the times they are a changin’.

As you can see, expensive packages are AT&T TV NOW’s biggest con. They offer fewer channels for the money than most cable and satellite TV packages.

The only upside is that HBO is included with the MAX package. That’s usually a $15 upgrade with most streaming packages.

It’s nice when each package fits neatly into the next one up, like a Russian doll set—but AT&T TV NOW packages aren’t that clear-cut.

Not every channel in PLUS is in MAX, and not every channel in MAX is in ENTERTAINMENT. So before you unsubscribe from cable, double-check where your favorite channels fall among the packages so you can be sure to get the right one.

What’s killing cable?

The truth is that most people don’t think cable is worth the price anymore. They watch only a handful of channels on their cable bundle but pay for all of them.

Choose your TV streaming service well, and you could save a tidy sum over the course of several months. That new speaker system isn’t going to pay for itself.

Sling TV vs. AT&T TV NOW fees and extra charges

Sling TV fees and extra charges

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FeesAmount
Cloud DVR add-on$5/mo.

The cloud DVR add-on is an optional fee. We’ll cover the pros and cons of the DVR itself further down—just know that it doesn’t come included with your package price like other streaming services.

Whether you opt in for this add-on or not, it sure is nice not to have to pay installation fees.

AT&T TV NOW fees and extra charges

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FeesAmount
Third stream$5/mo.

AT&T TV NOW’s multiple streams add-on is the same price as Sling TV’s cloud DVR add-on and is also optional.

If you’re debating between these two TV streaming services, you’ll just have to decide what you can do without and what you are willing to pay extra for.

Sling TV vs. AT&T TV NOW channels

Missing channels

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Sling TVAT&T TV NOW
    • HBO
    • FOX News
    • CBS Sports Network
    • Nickelodeon
    • El Rey
    • NFL Network
    • NFL SUNDAY TICKET
    • MLB Bases Loaded
    • COZI TV
    • COMET

Data as of 8/16/19. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

The fact of the matter is that AT&T TV NOW has way more channels than Sling TV, but it’s still missing some.

The one channel DIRECTV fans will probably miss the most is NFL SUNDAY TICKET. You heard right: you’ll need regular DIRECTV service to get that one.

Sling, on the other hand, is missing HBO. No, they don’t even include it as an add-on. Really, you’ll want to study up on the channel lineups to see if either service has the channels you watch the most.

Popular channels

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Sling TVAT&T TV NOW
    • A&E
    • Discovery Channel
    • E!
    • Food Network
    • HISTORY
    • AMC
    • Bravo
    • ESPN
    • FOX News
    • Disney Channel

If you want general entertainment and a few niche channels, Sling TV will probably be best for you. It covers a broad base even with its cheapest package. If you want more niche channels for kids, movies, and sports, you’ll have to look to the add-ons.

But if you want a broad channel base, go with the AT&T TV NOW MAX package, which includes HBO. We wouldn’t recommend AT&T TV NOW’s more expensive packages, though. At that point, you may as well not cut the cord because you’ll get more channels for roughly the same price from your cable company.

Sports channels

Both these services go high in the live TV streaming draft.

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Sports channelSling TVAT&T TV NOW
ABC*

Big Ten Network

CBS*

CBS Sports Network

ESPN

ESPN2

ESPN3

ESPN Classic

FOX†

FS1

FS2

NBC†

NBC Sports†

NFL Network

Stadium

Telemundo*

TNT

*Sling TV: Antenna required 

Sling TV: Select markets only. Antenna may be required.

On the face of it, AT&T TV NOW seems to be a better deal for sports fans. But remember that even though Sling TV will make you pay for the Sports Extra pack, Sling TV starts cheaper than AT&T TV NOW.

That said, Sling TV is better for sports based on its lower starting price plus the affordability and content of the Sports Extra packs (there’s one for Orange and one for Blue, and each costs $10 a month).

With Sports Extra, you’ll get channels like ESPN Bases Loaded, ESPN Goal Line, Golf Channel, MLB Network, NBA TV, Outside TV, and Pac-12 Network.

So, if you want most of ESPN for cheap, go with with Sling TV. If you like AT&T TV NOW so far and hate add-ons as much as referees, go with AT&T TV NOW.

Coach’s corner

If you’re a college football fan, AT&T TV NOW will do a better job of rounding out your coverage.

Local channels

Sling TV may have won in the price category, but AT&T TV NOW uses the home-team advantage to win in this one.

AT&T TV NOW has slightly better local channel access than Sling TV simply because it has more FOX, ABC, NBC, and CBS affiliates. So if you’re dedicated to the local news or sports channels, you’ll probably prefer AT&T TV NOW.

Want more local channels?

Sling TV’s local-channel problems don’t have to be your problem if you buy an antenna (or take advantage of Sling’s antenna offer). After your purchase and an easy installation, your antenna will pick up all on the live broadcasting of your regional sports channels, news channels, and more.

Premium channels

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Sling TVAT&T TV NOW
HBON/AIncluded or $15/mo.
SHOWTIME®$10/mo.$11/mo.
CINEMAX®$10/mo. Included or $11/mo.
STARZ®$9/mo.$11/mo.
EPIX $5/mo.N/A*

By now in this review, you should know that AT&T TV NOW gives you HBO for free with its MAX package. But once you upgrade to any of the higher-priced packages, you’ll have to pay for HBO. What gives?

It’s weird that AT&T TV NOW would take away free premiums once you’ve agreed to pay more. More money, more problems?

We can’t overlook Sling TV missing HBO, but the add-on price for the rest of the premium channels is quite good. (Also, you could just get a separate HBO Max subscription, so don’t despair Thronies.)

Subscribers who want AT&T TV NOW’s wider channel lineup and local channel access may be willing to pay extra for the premium channels.

Sling TV vs. AT&T TV NOW specs and features

If you like your channel options with either streaming service, the differences in specs and features might be the key to your decision.

Cloud DVR

Fifty hours is pretty…lackluster.

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Sling TVStoragePrice
Cloud DVR add-on50 hrs.$5/mo.

Here’s where Sling TV gets simple. You want DVR storage? It’s just an extra $5 a month for 50 hours of storage. That’s almost enough time to watch all the MCU movies to date.

But it pales in comparison to heavyweights like YouTube TV, which gives you unlimited cloud DVR storage for nine months included with your service. If binge-watching recorded TV is your thing, Sling ain’t gonna cut it.

Get one of the best cloud DVRs out there.

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AT&T TV NOWStoragePrice
All packages500 hrs.Included

Five hundred hours is plenty of time to binge-watch all of the extended Lord of the Rings movies and The Hobbit trilogy. (Whether or not The Hobbit should have been a full trilogy is not a debate we’re not going to get into.)

Here’s the catch: after 30 days, AT&T TV NOW’s DVR will delete anything you’ve saved. That said, if cloud DVR storage is your thing, AT&T TV NOW will do the trick for most folks.

Multiple streams

Don’t cross streams.

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Sling TVMultiple streamsOffline viewing
Sling Orange1N/A
Sling Blue3N/A
Sling Orange & Blue4N/A

If you go with the Sling Orange & Blue plan, it’s not four streams across the board. You can stream up to three Blue channels and one Orange channel at the same time. Really, Sling?

For example, you, your partner, and your former college roommate can all watch Syfy shows at the same time on separate devices since Syfy is a Sling Blue channel. But no one can watch ESPN while you’re travelling down memory lane watching Disney Channel’s Duck Tales, since those are Sling Orange channels.

Sling TV hasn’t gotten into offline viewing yet, so make sure you have enough data or bandwidth to cover all your on-the-go streaming.

How many streams fit in the “NOW” of AT&T TV NOW?

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AT&T TV NOWMultiple streamsOffline viewing
All packages2DVR only
Multiple streams add-on ($5/mo.)3DVR only

AT&T TV NOW will give you two simultaneous streams for free, and one more for a $5-per-month upgrade.

We suggest trying to make it work with two streams—buy the third only if civil war erupts, and change services if you want a fourth stream.

Unlike Sling TV, AT&T TV NOW has offline viewing in the bag. Anything you store on your cloud DVR through AT&T TV NOW can be watched offline, which makes AT&T TV NOW the better option for on-the-go viewing.

Compatible devices

It would be a real bummer to subscribe to either of these services and then go download the app only to find that it doesn’t work with your favorite device. So, make sure to double-check this table before purchase.

Windows-phone holdovers and gaming geeks beware!

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Compatible devicesSling TVAT&T TV NOW
AirTV Mini, AirTV Player

Amazon Fire TV

Amazon Fire tablet

Android mobile devices

Android TV

Apple TV

Chromecast

iOS mobile devices

iPod Touch

LG TV Smart TVs (select models)

Mac computers

Nintendo Switch

Oculus Go

PlayStation 3

PlayStation 4

Roku devices

Samsung Smart TVs (select models)

Vizio SmartCast TV (select models)

Wii

Wii U

Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 computers (with updated Chrome browser)

Windows 10 phones

Xbox 360

Xbox One

In total, Sling TV works with seven more devices than AT&T TV NOW (like Android TV and Windows 10 phones). On top of that, there isn’t a single device that AT&T TV NOW works with that Sling TV doesn’t support, too.

Better luck next round, AT&T TV NOW.

Best streaming devices

Are you in the market for a streaming device too? Wondering which streaming devices are compatible with your favorite apps or phone? Check out our guide to streaming devices.

Video quality

And now for the beauty pageant portion…

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Sling TVAT&T TV NOW
Video resolution720p720p

 A word to the wise: a lack of internet bandwidth will take down the video quality of any streaming service, no matter how many p’s the service supports. Make sure you have enough internet for all the devices in your home, or you might just feel you are watching one of your mom’s VHS tapes.

Keep in mind that AT&T TV NOW struggles with service reliability. When we logged on to test the service, AT&T TV NOW took hours to accept our login and then took even more time to let us watch anything. Either they were waiting for Rip Van Winkle II to wake up, or its system has some serious bugs.

That said, once online, AT&T TV NOW tends to have even better video quality than Sling TV in terms of less buffering, freezing, and loading failures.

That info may sway you; it also might not. All we’re saying is that Key & Peele pull off some truly hilarious facial expressions, and it would be a shame not to see them with the best video quality.

When we logged on to test the service, AT&T TV NOW took hours to accept our login and then took even more time to let us watch anything.

Either they were waiting for Rip Van Winkle II to wake up, or its system has some serious bugs.

That said, once online, DIRECTV NOW tends to have even better video quality than Sling TV in terms of less buffering, freezing, and loading failures.

That info may sway you; it also might not. All we’re saying is that Key and Peele pull off some truly hilarious facial expressions, and it would be a shame not to see them with the best video quality.

Having issues with your stream?

AT&T TV NOW suggests a minimum of 150 Kbps for internet speed and Sling TV recommends at least 3 Mbps (we seriously recommend at least 20 Mbps though, to save you from bad connections).

No one likes to have their show interrupted by a bad connection, so check out our best internet providers guide.

Channel guide

Every live TV streaming service needs a channel guide, but which one is better at guiding?

Sling TV channel guide on a desktop computer.

The Sling TV channel guide has just about everything you could ask for: channel scrolling, time scrolling, and channel categories. It’s so much like traditional cable channel guides, cord-cutters should have an easy transition.

There’s even a view that lets you see next week’s schedule. This way, you can scope out what shows will be on for the next week and plan around your night out to the movies.

AT&T TV NOW channel guide on a desktop computer.

AT&T TV NOW’s channel guide starts the same, but as soon as you click on one of the genre tabs, you get a listing of only the current showings and what’s happening for the next couple hours, but you can’t scroll sideways to see further than that.

Also, once in a genre tab, you can get back to the initial view only by exiting the channel guide altogether and then coming back—not AT&T TV NOW’s finest hour.

The date change tool in the right, top corner is a little different than Sling’s week-out view. This date change tool lets you look forward at the next four days and back at what was on for the last three days. This way, when you wonder “What was that new show I was watching yesterday?,” you can check.

Commercials

Sling TV vs. AT&T TV NOW commercial-free packages

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Sling TVAT&T TV NOW
    • N/A
    • Only through DVR

After a point, commercials stop being a convenient time to take a bathroom break and more like the summer mosquitoes you just can’t get away from.

Unfortunately, unless you go with another service, your only safe haven is the cloud DVR from AT&T TV NOW. You’ll be allowed to fast-forward the commercials on the DVR content. It’s not a perfect mosquito net (only 20 hours of storage kinda sucks), but it’s something.

Our final take

If we had to choose, we’d go with Sling TV. Honestly, it has better prices and deals, decent reliability, and a more user-friendly channel guide. And, again, it’s the best streaming service for kids.

But if you can get past AT&T TV NOW’s login problems and price barrier, its premium channels, local channels, and off-line viewing might make it worth it.

Sling TV vs. AT&T TV NOW FAQ

What other streaming services are there?

There are quite a few other live TV streaming services. For example, YouTube TV is one of the top services out there. It’s great for all you viewers who want unlimited DVR storage.

How do other livestreaming services compare to Sling TV and AT&T TV NOW?

If you want more info on Hulu + Live TV, YouTube TV, Philo, or fuboTV, check out Best Live TV Streaming Services.

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