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Sling TV vs. DIRECTV NOW

Best for deals

Price: $25–$40/mo.

(4.24 /5)

Best for channels

Price: $50–$135/mo.

(4.24 /5)

Update: As of August, 2019, DIRECTV NOW has been rebranded by its parent company as AT&T TV NOW. It looks like, for now, prices and plans are identical. Stay tuned for more details.

The bottom line

We prefer Sling TV’s lower starting prices, frequent deals, and usability over DIRECTV NOW. But its channel lineups are confusing even though they’re much cheaper than DIRECTV.

That said, DIRECTV NOW did prove to be better than Sling TV in a couple of categories like local channels, included premium channels, and original shows and movies.

Sling TV vs. DIRECTV NOW pros and cons

Sling TV

👍 Lower prices
👍 User-friendly channel guide
👎 Confusing channel lineups

DIRECTV 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.

For DIRECTV NOW:

And for Sling TV:

Promotions as of 8/19/19. Promotions are not guaranteed and are subject to change.

How are Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW different?

What’s your thing? Price or channel count?

Sling TVDIRECTV NOW
Price$25–$40/mo.$50–$135/mo.
Live channels30–50+45–125+
Max. cloud DVR50 hrs.20 hrs.
Compatible devices169
Max. multiple streams43
Free trialNone7 days
Price
Sling TV$25–$40/mo.
DIRECTV NOW$50–$135/mo.
Live channels
Sling TV30–50+
DIRECTV NOW45–125+
Max. cloud DVR
Sling TV50 hrs.
DIRECTV NOW20 hrs.
Compatible devices
Sling TV16
DIRECTV NOW9
Max. multiple streams
Sling TV4
DIRECTV NOW3
Free trial
Sling TVNone
DIRECTV NOW7 days

Data as of 8/16/19. 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 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. DIRECTV 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

PackageChannel countStarting price
Sling Orange30+$25/mo.
Sling Blue40+$25/mo.
Sling Orange and Blue50+$40/mo.
PackageSling Orange
Channel count30+
Starting price$25/mo.
PackageSling Blue
Channel count40+
Starting price$25/mo.
PackageSling Orange and Blue
Channel count50+
Starting price$40/mo.

Data as of 8/16/19. 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 $25, 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 $40 by simply getting Sling Orange and 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 DIRECTV NOW customers. Sling TV packages are a bit tricky, but they still work well for those who want to save money.

DIRECTV NOW prices and plans

PackageChannel countPrice
PLUS45+$50/mo.
MAX60+$70/mo.
ENTERTAINMENT65+$93/mo.
CHOICE85+$110/mo.
XTRA105+$124/mo.
ULTIMATE125+$135/mo.
OPTIMO MÁS90+$86/mo.
PackagePLUS
Channel count45+
Price$50/mo.
PackageMAX
Channel count60+
Price$70/mo.
PackageENTERTAINMENT
Channel count65+
Price$93/mo.
PackageCHOICE
Channel count85+
Price$110/mo.
PackageXTRA
Channel count105+
Price$124/mo.
PackageULTIMATE
Channel count125+
Price$135/mo.
PackageOPTIMO MÁS
Channel count90+
Price$86/mo.

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

DIRECTV 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 DIRECTV NOW’s biggest con. They offer less channels for the money than most cable and satellite TV packages.

The only upside is that HBO is included with the PLUS and MAX packages. 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 DIRECTV 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. DIRECTV NOW fees and extra charges

Sling TV fees and extra charges

FeesAmount
Cloud DVR add-on$5/mo.
FeesCloud DVR add-on
Amount$5/mo.

As of 8/16/19. Subject to change.

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.

DIRECTV NOW fees and extra charges

FeesAmount
Third stream$5/mo.
FeesThird stream
Amount$5/mo.

As of 8/16/19. Subject to change.

DIRECTV 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. DIRECTV NOW channels

Missing channels

Sling TVDIRECTV NOW
    • HBO
    • Fox News
    • CBS Sports Network
    • Nickelodeon
    • El Rey
    • NFL Network
    • NFL SUNDAY TICKET
    • MLB Bases Loaded
    • COZI TV
    • COMET
Sling TV
    • HBO
    • Fox News
    • CBS Sports Network
    • Nickelodeon
    • El Rey
DIRECTV NOW
    • NFL Network
    • NFL SUNDAY TICKET
    • MLB Bases Loaded
    • COZI TV
    • COMET
Sling TV
DIRECTV NOW

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 DIRECTV 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

Sling TVDIRECTV NOW
    • A&E
    • Discovery Channel
    • E!
    • Food Network
    • HISTORY
    • AMC
    • Bravo
    • ESPN
    • Fox News
    • Disney Channel
Sling TV
    • A&E
    • Discovery Channel
    • E!
    • Food Network
    • HISTORY
DIRECTV NOW
    • AMC
    • Bravo
    • ESPN
    • Fox News
    • Disney Channel
Sling TV
DIRECTV NOW

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

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 with included premium channels, go with DIRECTV NOW PLUS or MAX packages. When you think about it, PLUS is only $10 more a month and you’ll get five more channels, including HBO. So, getting PLUS is roughly five dollars a month cheaper than getting Sling Orange and Blue and adding HBO NOW just for Game of Thrones and Barry.

We wouldn’t recommend DIRECTV 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.

Sports channelSling TVDIRECTV NOW
ESPN
ESPN2
ESPN3X
ESPN ClassicX
ESPN News
ESPN Deportes
ESPNU
FS1
FS2
Golf Channel
NFL NetworkX
NBA TV (Sports Pack add-on)
MLB Network (Sports Pack add-on)
NHL Network (Sports Pack add-on)
Big Ten NetworkX
SEC NetworkX
CBS Sports NetworkX
NBC Sports Network
GolTVX
Olympic Channel
StadiumX
Sports channelESPN
Sling TV
DIRECTV NOW
Sports channelESPN2
Sling TV
DIRECTV NOW
Sports channelESPN3
Sling TV
DIRECTV NOWX
Sports channelESPN Classic
Sling TVX
DIRECTV NOW
Sports channelESPN News
Sling TV
DIRECTV NOW
Sports channelESPN Deportes
Sling TV
DIRECTV NOW
Sports channelESPNU
Sling TV
DIRECTV NOW
Sports channelFS1
Sling TV
DIRECTV NOW
Sports channelFS2
Sling TV
DIRECTV NOW
Sports channelGolf Channel
Sling TV
DIRECTV NOW
Sports channelNFL Network
Sling TV
DIRECTV NOWX
Sports channelNBA TV
Sling TV (Sports Pack add-on)
DIRECTV NOW
Sports channelMLB Network
Sling TV (Sports Pack add-on)
DIRECTV NOW
Sports channelNHL Network
Sling TV (Sports Pack add-on)
DIRECTV NOW
Sports channelBig Ten Network
Sling TVX
DIRECTV NOW
Sports channelSEC Network
Sling TVX
DIRECTV NOW
Sports channelCBS Sports Network
Sling TVX
DIRECTV NOW
Sports channelNBC Sports Network
Sling TV
DIRECTV NOW
Sports channelGolTV
Sling TVX
DIRECTV NOW
Sports channelOlympic Channel
Sling TV
DIRECTV NOW
Sports channelStadium
Sling TV
DIRECTV NOWX

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

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

Also, Sling offers ESPN Bases Loaded, ESPN Goal Line, and ESPN Classic Boxing.

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

Coach’s corner

If you’re a college football fan, DIRECTV NOW will do a better job of rounding out your coverage.

Local channels

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

DIRECTV 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 DIRECTV 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 their AirTV 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

Included HBO keeps us interested.

Sling TVDIRECTV 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*
HBO
Sling TVN/A
DIRECTV NOWIncluded or $15/mo.
SHOWTIME
Sling TV$10/mo.
DIRECTV NOW$11/mo.
CINEMAX
Sling TV$10/mo.
DIRECTV NOWIncluded or $11/mo.
STARZ
Sling TV$9/mo.
DIRECTV NOW$11/mo.
EPIX
Sling TV $5/mo.
DIRECTV NOWN/A*
Sling TV
DIRECTV NOW

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

By now in this review, you should know that DIRECTV NOW gives you HBO for free with both PLUS and MAX packages. MAX throws CINEMAX in as well. But once you upgrade to any of the higher-priced packages, you’ll have to pay for those premium channels listed in the table.

It’s weird that DIRECTV 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 seperate HBO NOW subscription, so don’t despair Thronies.)

Subscribers who want DIRECTV NOW’s wider channel lineup and local channel access may be willing to pay extra for the premium channels.

Sling TV vs. DIRECTV NOW original shows and movies

Popular original shows

Sling TVDIRECTV NOW
    • N/A
    • Loudermilk
    • You Me Her
    • Condor
Sling TV
    • N/A
DIRECTV NOW
    • Loudermilk
    • You Me Her
    • Condor

Unlike most streaming services these days, Sling TV doesn’t produce any original shows or movies. DIRECTV NOW, however, owns the AUDIENCE Network, which makes several original series. It’s no Netflix, but shows like the darkly funny, foul-mouthed Loudermilk are a nice little bonus for signing up for DIRECTV NOW service.

Sling TV vs. DIRECTV 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.

Sling TVStoragePrice
Cloud DVR add-on50 hrs.$5/mo.
Sling TVCloud DVR add-on
Storage50 hrs.
Price$5/mo.

As of 8/16/19. Subject to change.

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.

Beta cloud DVR for a second-rate service?

DIRECTV NOWStoragePrice
All packages20 hrs.Included
DIRECTV NOWAll packages
Storage20 hrs.
PriceIncluded

As of 8/19/19. Subject to change.

Twenty hours is just enough 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.) It’s not 50 hours, but it’s free—so Sling TV isn’t the cheapest streaming service on all accounts.

Here’s the catch: after 30 days, DIRECTV NOW’s DVR will delete anything you’ve saved. Again, if cloud DVR storage is your thing, keep looking.

Multiple streams

Don’t cross streams.

Sling TVMultiple streamsOffline viewing
Sling Orange1N/A
Sling Blue3N/A
Sling Orange and Blue4N/A
Sling TVSling Orange
Multiple streams1
Offline viewingN/A
Sling TVSling Blue
Multiple streams3
Offline viewingN/A
Sling TVSling Orange and Blue
Multiple streams4
Offline viewingN/A

As of 8/16/19. Subject to change.

If you go with the Sling Orange and 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 DIRECTV NOW?

DIRECTV NOWMultiple streamsOffline viewing
All packages2DVR only
Multiple streams add-on ($5/mo.)3DVR only
DIRECTV NOWAll packages
Multiple streams2
Offline viewingDVR only
DIRECTV NOWMultiple streams add-on ($5/mo.)
Multiple streams3
Offline viewingDVR only

As of 8/19/19. Subject to change.

DIRECTV 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, DIRECTV NOW has offline viewing in the bag. Anything you store on your cloud DVR through DIRECTV NOW can be watched offline, which makes DIRECTV 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!

Compatible devicesSling TVDIRECTV NOW
Amazon Fire TV
Amazon Fire tabletX
Android mobile devices
Android TVX
Apple TV
Chromecast (through casting)
iOS mobile devices
iPod Touch
LG TV Smart TVs (select models)X
Mac computers
Nintendo SwitchXX
PlayStation 3XX
PlayStation 4XX
Roku devices
Samsung Smart TVs (select models)
Vizio SmartCast TV (select models)X
WiiXX
Wii UXX
Windows computers (select models)X
Windows 10 phonesX
Xbox 360XX
Xbox OneX
Compatible devicesAmazon Fire TV
Sling TV
DIRECTV NOW
Compatible devicesAmazon Fire tablet
Sling TV
DIRECTV NOWX
Compatible devicesAndroid mobile devices
Sling TV
DIRECTV NOW
Compatible devicesAndroid TV
Sling TV
DIRECTV NOWX
Compatible devicesApple TV
Sling TV
DIRECTV NOW
Compatible devicesChromecast
Sling TV
DIRECTV NOW (through casting)
Compatible devicesiOS mobile devices
Sling TV
DIRECTV NOW
Compatible devicesiPod Touch
Sling TV
DIRECTV NOW
Compatible devicesLG TV Smart TVs (select models)
Sling TV
DIRECTV NOWX
Compatible devicesMac computers
Sling TV
DIRECTV NOW
Compatible devicesNintendo Switch
Sling TVX
DIRECTV NOWX
Compatible devicesPlayStation 3
Sling TVX
DIRECTV NOWX
Compatible devicesPlayStation 4
Sling TVX
DIRECTV NOWX
Compatible devicesRoku devices
Sling TV
DIRECTV NOW
Compatible devicesSamsung Smart TVs (select models)
Sling TV
DIRECTV NOW
Compatible devicesVizio SmartCast TV (select models)
Sling TV
DIRECTV NOWX
Compatible devicesWii
Sling TVX
DIRECTV NOWX
Compatible devicesWii U
Sling TVX
DIRECTV NOWX
Compatible devicesWindows computers (select models)
Sling TV
DIRECTV NOWX
Compatible devicesWindows 10 phones
Sling TV
DIRECTV NOWX
Compatible devicesXbox 360
Sling TVX
DIRECTV NOWX
Compatible devicesXbox One
Sling TV
DIRECTV NOWX

As of 8/19/19. Subject to change.

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

Better luck next round, DIRECTV 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…

Sling TVDIRECTV NOW
Video resolution720p720p
Video resolution
Sling TV720p
DIRECTV NOW720p

As of 8/19/19. Subject to change.

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 DIRECTV NOW struggles with service reliability.

When we logged on to test the service, DIRECTV 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?

DIRECTV 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.

DIRECTV NOW channel guide on a desktop computer.

DIRECTV 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 DIRECTV 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. DIRECTV NOW commercial-free packages

Sling TVDIRECTV NOW
    • N/A
    • Only through DVR
Sling TV
    • N/A
DIRECTV NOW
    • Only through DVR

As of 8/19/19. Subject to change.

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 DIRECTV 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.

But if you can get past DIRECTV NOW’s login problems and price barrier, its premium channels, local channels, and off-line viewing might make it worth it.

Sling TV vs. DIRECTV NOW FAQ

What other streaming services are there?

There are quite a few other live TV streaming services. For example, PlayStation Vue and YouTube TV are some of the top services out there. They’re great for all you viewers who want unlimited DVR storage.

How do other livestreaming services compare to Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW?

If you want more info on PlayStation Vue, Hulu + Live TV, YouTube TV, Philo, or fuboTV, check out 2019’s Best Live TV Streaming Services. (Spoiler alert: PlayStation Vue has the best streaming reliability ranking.)

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