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Sling TV vs. AT&T TV NOW

The battle of the cable alternatives comes down to one factor: who gives the most bang for your buck.

Best for Sports

Our Rating

Starting At $25/mo
Our Rating
Live channels
30+
Cloud DVR hours
50+
Multiple streams
1-4
HBO® Included

Our Rating

Starting At $50/mo
Our Rating
Live channels
65+
Cloud DVR hours
20
Multiple streams
2

Update:

On 8/27/2019, DIRECTV NOW rebranded itself as AT&T TV NOW. Not only that, but the service recently bumped its prices up across its packages. Woof and double woof!

First take: Is Sling TV or AT&T TV NOW better?

For most people looking to cut the cord, Sling TV is the better choice.

With plans costing half the price of AT&T TV NOW’s cheapest, you get nearly the same number of channels plus the option to mix and match add-ons based on what you actually watch.

Though AT&T TV NOW sweetens the deal with free HBO®, it’s not enough to make up for their expensive prices and shrunken channel lineup of yesteryear.

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

Sling TV

👍 Affordable plans
👍 Deep DVR storage
👎 Limited local channels
👎 Limited premium channels

AT&T TV NOW

👍 Free HBO
👍 High-quality video
👎 Prices as high as cable
👎 Limited DVR storage

Deals and promotions

Sling TV

Sling TV offers a free seven-day trial to dip your toes into the stream (get it?). If you decide you like it, you can pick from one of three deals below.

1. You can get 40% off your first month’s bill, bringing the price down to $15 or $25 depending on the plan you pick.

2. If you prepay your first two months, you’ll get a free antenna so you can watch your all of your local channels. It’s a good deal, since Sling TV barely offers any locals at all, and the antenna is basically a necessity to get the most out of your service.

3. If you prepay the first three months, you’ll get the antenna plus an AirTV player, both bundled for $70. This saves you $105 from the cost of purchasing both separately.

AT&T TV NOW

AT&T TV NOW is pretty stingy in the deals department. Like with Sling TV, you can try two of AT&T TV NOW’s packages—PLUS or MAX—free for seven days. But that’s the only enticing offer on the table, though you’re welcome to put your slick negotiating skills to the test.

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

Budget-friendly options versus included premium channels.

Sling TVAT&T TV NOW
Price$25–$40/mo.$65–$135/mo.
Live channels30–5045–125
Max. cloud DVR50 hrs. (not included)20 hrs.
Compatible devices189
Max. multiple streams43 (first 2 included)
Free trial7 days7 days
Try Sling TVTry AT&T TV NOW

Sling TV clearly appeals to the budget, while AT&T TV NOW appeals to the buffs (of movies and sports, that is).

While their basic plans have roughly the same number of channels, Sling TV is half the price of AT&T TV NOW. Sling TV also offers more in the way of cloud DVR storage, device compatibility, and simultaneous streams.

Sports and movie lovers will appreciate AT&T TV NOW’s included HBO and CINEMAX® subscriptions and wide range of regional sports networks. Budget-conscious streamers, meanwhile, will prefer Sling TV’s affordable basic and add-on plans.

Prices and plans: How much is AT&T TV NOW vs. Sling TV?

Sling TV pricing and plans

PackagesPriceChannel count
Sling Orange$25/mo.30+
Sling Blue$25/mo.45+
Sling Orange & Blue$40/mo.50+

Though priced exactly the same, Sling TV’s Orange and Blue plans offer different flavors of channel lineups: Orange includes Disney and ESPN, where Blue offers FOX and NBC. To get all available channels, you’ll want the combined Orange & Blue plan—the Neapolitan ice cream of the pack.

Honestly, most viewers will likely prefer the combined Orange & Blue plan, especially since it’s only another $15 per month ( and still knocks the pricey socks off of its competitors). It’s also still $10 less than AT&T TV NOW’s cheapest plan, and includes four more channels than PLUS.

Sling TV also tries to give you a similar number of choices you’d find in a traditional cable package (which typically has 100+ channels) by offering a variety of “Extra” add-on packages ranging from $5 to $10 per month.

Some examples include:

  • News Extra (incl. BBC World News and HLN)
  • Sports Extra (incl. MLB Network and ESPNU)
  • Lifestyle Extra (incl.. VH1 and Cooking Channel)
  • Kids Extra (incl. Disney Junior and TeenNick)

You can even bundle these add-ons in the “Total TV Deal,” which combines all seven Extra plans plus the Cloud DVR add-on for $20 more per month. While this is still cheaper than AT&T TV NOW’s MAX plan, other providers like YouTube TV include a bigger basket of channels for cheaper than what you’d pay for Orange & Blue plus the Total TV Deal. If a beefier lineup is important to you, consider shopping around.

AT&T TV NOW pricing and plans

PackagesPriceChannel count
PLUS$65/mo.45+
MAX$80/mo.60+
ENTERTAINMENT$93/mo.65+
CHOICE$110/mo.85+
XTRA$124/mo.105+
ULTIMATE$135/mo.125+
OPTIMO MÁS$86/mo.90+

A subscription to AT&T TV NOW starts at $65 per month and begins with two base packages, PLUS and MAX. You’ll get some of the most popular lifestyle and entertainment channels, news networks, and sports channels, including a variety of regional channels that Sling TV doesn’t offer (check out the Sports section below for more details).

Once you get into the higher-tier plans, AT&T TV NOW’s channel lineup is far more robust than Sling TV’s, even with its combined Orange & Blue plan. You’d need to add the Comedy Extra, Sports Extra, Kids Extra, News Extra, and Lifestyle Extra add-ons to your Sling TV plan to equal the channels in AT&T TV NOW’s CHOICE plan.

But even still, all of those options added together come to just $70 per month. Compared to the AT&T TV NOW CHOICE plan at $110, Sling TV is far more affordable (if more annoyingly piecemeal).

Consider, too, that the cheapest plan from AT&T TV NOW, at $65, includes just 45 channels, while Sling TV’s Blue plan offers 49 channels for less than half the price.

Cord-cutting savings

Since most of AT&T TV NOW’s prices are on par with those of traditional cable companies, Sling TV is where cutting the cord really makes a difference. Even if you include multiple “Extra” add-ons, you’ll still be well under the mark of most cable packages.

Channels: What’s on Sling TV vs. AT&T TV NOW?

Missing channels

Sling TVAT&T TV NOW
ABCNFL SUNDAY TICKET
CBSNFL Network
Fox NewsPac-12 Network
NickelodeonCOZI TV
Animal PlanetSmithsonian Channel
See full channel lineupSee full channel lineup

Sling TV only carries major networks NBC and FOX, leaving local ABC and CBS channels out in the cold. This explains why they push their free antenna—viewers still feel like they’re getting all of their major local channels through Sling TV’s livestreaming service, when in fact they’re simply taking advantage of free access to local broadcast channels they’d get without Sling TV.

Since it came onto the scene in 2016, AT&T TV NOW has dropped a large swath of its most popular channels—including those under the Discovery, Viacom, and AMC networks (so wave goodbye to The Walking Dead). Not only that, it also raised the prices of its plans, offering fewer options for a higher cost.

Popular channels

Sling TVAT&T TV NOW
AMCHBO
TNTFX
TBSThe CW
See full channel lineupSee full channel lineup

Some popular channels that overlap both the Orange and the Blue plans from Sling TV include AMC, HGTV, HISTORY, and Food Network. For others, like E! and National Geographic, you’ll have to upgrade to the combined Orange & Blue plan. (Confused yet? Orange, Blue, and Orange and Blue are three separate plans.)

AT&T TV NOW’s base packages (PLUS and MAX) include all of the major networks, plus fan favorites like HBO, Comedy Central, NBC Sports, FX, and MTV. Some of the popular channels included in Sling TV, however, are only present in AT&T TV NOW’s higher-tier (read: more expensive) plans, like Food Network, HISTORY, and Travel Channel.

Sports channels

Grab the nachos and pull on that jersey: it’s game time.

Sports channelSling TVAT&T TV NOW
ACC Network Extra
beIN Sports
beIN Sports Connect
BTN
CBS Sports Network
ESPN
ESPN2
ESPN3
ESPNEWS
ESPNU
Fox Sports 1
Fox Sports 2
Golf Channel
Longhorn Network
Motor Trend
MLB Network
MLB Strike Zone
MSG
MSG+
Nautical Channel
NBA TV
NBCSN
NFL Network
NFL RedZone
NFL SUNDAY TICKET
NHL Network
Olympic Channel
Outdoor Channel
Outside TV
Pac-12 Network
SEC Network
SEC+
Sportsman Channel
Stadium
Stadium Plus
Tennis Channel
Willow Cricket HD
Willow Extra
World Fishing Network

Thankfully, both Sling TV and AT&T TV NOW are good options to get the sports you want to watch, though you may find yourself paying extra for the privilege.

For both services, some sports channels only appear in specific plans, and many of them are only available in higher-tier or add-on plans. For example, while Sling Orange offers ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPN3, Sling Blue provides FS1 and FS2 plus your local and regional FOX and NBC broadcasts.

To get all of them, you’ll need to upgrade to the Orange and Blue plan. Additionally, many of Sling TV’s sports channels are not part of its standard plans—you’ll need to add the $10 Sports Extra add-on to take advantage of NFL Network, beIN Sports, Golf Channel, and others.

On the AT&T TV NOW side of court, most of the sports channels require a subscription to the more expensive CHOICE, XTRA, or ULTIMATE plans. That said, the MAX plan, will get you most basics like ESPN, FOX Sports 1 and 2, and the NBC networks if regional and specialty channels aren’t your thing.

The most surprising no-shows, though? NFL Network and NFL SUNDAY TICKET. Considering DIRECTV is owned by AT&T and the primary carrier of these channels, it’s confusing (and disappointing) that its livestreaming little sister has been left on the bench.

So which livestreaming option is a slam dunk? Most of AT&T TV NOW’s sports channels appear in the MAX plan and above—and MAX starts at $80 per month, whereas the Sling TV Orange and Blue plan is $40 less for an equivalent sports lineup.

When you start upgrading to specialty sports channels, you’ll pay at least $110 per month for AT&T TV NOW’s CHOICE plan to get channels offered by Sling TV for just $50 per month, if you combine the Orange and Blue plan with the Sports Extra add-on.

Considering the far more robust offering of sports channels you can get for just 50 bucks, Sling TV is our clear home run.

Local channels

The lack of local channels on Sling TV gives the TKO win to AT&T TV NOW. You’ll only find local FOX and NBC affiliates in Sling TV’s lineup, requiring an antenna to get CBS and ABC channels.

As mentioned previously, they’ll sling you (pun intended) a free one if you prepay for your first two months of service, but it kind of defeats the purpose of subscribing to a livestreaming service to watch channels you could have gotten for free anyway.

AT&T TV NOW provides most local channels, including ABC and CBS, as well as some regional sports networks—which Sling TV also has very few of.

Want more local channels?

Especially if you decide to Sling it, you’re going to need an over-the-air antenna to get the local channels you love. Check out our recommended antenna option so you don’t miss out on the important stuff . . . like your local weather guy’s seasonal tie collection.

Premium channels

Free HBO versus no HBO? It’s not even a contest.

Sling TVAT&T TV NOW
HBO-Free w/ PLUS and MAX
CINEMAX-Free w/ MAX
SHOWTIME®$10/mo.$11/mo.
STARZ ENCORE®$9/mo$11/mo.
EPIX®$5/mo.-

This is one of the few areas where AT&T TV NOW’s included channels beat out most of its competitors. Both of its base packages, PLUS and MAX, include multiple HBO channels for free. If you go for the MAX package, you also get CINEMAX added to your lineup. For even more variety, you can add SHOWTIME and STARZ ENCORE channels for $11 per month each.

Sling TV, on the other hand, includes no premium channels at all, even in its Orange and Blue plan—and if you’re counting the days until the Game of Thrones spinoff premieres, you’ll find yourself on the wrong side of the Wall, since HBO isn’t even an add-on option.

Where Sling TV tries to undercut the competition is its in pricing—each of the premiums it offers is priced lower than pretty much all other competitors, including AT&T TV NOW (Hulu + Live TV charges $15 for its premium add-ons). But even then, the glaring omission of HBO and CINEMAX as add-on options leaves AT&T TV NOW the clear winner.

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

In this area, it really comes down to what features you prioritize. Both services offer clear video quality, neither support offline viewing, and you won’t find original shows and movies from either provider. AT&T TV NOW has a slightly better multi-device policy right off the bat, but is then surpassed by Sling TV’s mid-tier and premium offerings.

The biggest differences between the two services are in their supported devices and cloud DVR offerings, with Sling TV beating out AT&T TV NOW in both categories due to its vastly larger number of device options and superior storage platform (at a price).

Cloud DVR

Either pay extra for better options or accept skimpy storage.

Service NamePriceStorage
Sling TV$5/mo.50 hrs./unlimited
AT&T TV NOWIncluded20 hrs./30 days

AT&T TV NOW has a long way to go in terms of figuring out its cloud DVR. Offering the most limited DVR package by far of any livestreaming service, you get just 20 hours of storage, and your shows expire a month after you record them. Note that this service is in beta, so here’s hoping that AT&T comes out with a far better cloud DVR option once the official version rolls out.

You can get around AT&T TV NOW’s seriously limited storage with its 72-hour Lookback feature, which lets you watch shows that aired live within the last 72 hours. But again, this feature isn’t supported by all channels—in fact, the list of supported networks is very limited.

Sling TV, on the other hand, more than doubles the storage space offered by AT&T TV NOW, and you get to keep your shows forever. But even though it offers a far better storage structure, we’re seriously miffed that Sling TV is the only livestreaming service that makes you pay extra for DVR.

And if you plan to watch Sling TV from the Xfinity X1, prepare for more bad news: Sling TV’s cloud DVR is not yet available on your device. So watch it live, or resign yourself to all the spoilers.

With both services, some channels don’t allow for DVR recording at all (for example, on Sling TV, you can’t record Disney or ESPN channels). That said, even though it costs extra, Sling TV’s DVR add-on is worth its $5 price tag, as its far superior to the free—and puny—option from AT&T TV NOW.

Multiple streams

Share the streaming love . . . as long as Orange isn’t your color.

Sling TVSimultaneous streamsOffline viewing
Orange1 deviceNo
Blue3 devicesNo
Orange and Blue4 devicesNo

It’s slightly confusing to us why Sling TV’s multiple-streaming options differ between the Orange and Blue plans, since they’re priced exactly the same. Yet if you’re on the Orange plan, you’re restricted to just a single device, while the Blue plan leaps all the way to three devices.

Because subscribing to the Orange and Blue plan basically adds both channel lineups together, it also adds the simultaneous streaming options together too, giving you access to four different devices as once.

But wait, there’s one more catch: even though you have four total streams, you still only get one stream dedicated to Orange channels and three dedicated to Blue channels. Come on, Sling, you’re better than that!

Like most streaming service providers, you need an internet connection to watch your content. There’s currently no capability to download shows and movies for offline viewing, so make sure to buy the Wi-Fi on your next cross-country flight.

Two’s company, three’s a (more expensive) crowd.

AT&T TV NOWSimultaneous streamsOffline viewing
All packagesFirst 2 devices: Included
3rd device: $5/mo.
No

Regardless of the package you choose, AT&T TV NOW provides simultaneous streaming on two separate devices, with the option to add a third device for another $5 per month. Like with Sling TV, you’ll need to wait until you get back online to binge-watch your saved shows on AT&T TV NOW.

Though there isn’t any confusing difference between plans like with Sling TV, the limited number of screens from AT&T TV NOW still puts it at a disadvantage. Even compared to other providers apart from Sling TV, AT&T TV NOW falls short—you get five simultaneous streams on PlayStation Vue, and the option for an unlimited device add-on with Hulu Live.

Compatible devices

From your TV to your tablet, get ready to binge-watch.

Compatible devicesSling TVAT&T TV NOW
Amazon Fire TV
Amazon Fire tablet
Android mobile devices
Android TV
Apple TV
Chromebook
Chromecast
iOS mobile devices
iPod Touch
LG TV Smart TVs (select models)
Mac computers (Safari)
Nintendo Switch
Oculus Go
PlayStation 3
PlayStation 4
Roku devices
Samsung Smart TVs (select models)
VIZIO SmartCast TV (select models)
Wii
Wii U
Windows computers (Internet Explorer)
Windows computers (Microsoft Edge)
Windows 10 phones
Xbox 360
Xbox One

While both streaming services give you a ton of variety in how to watch, Sling TV is compatible with twice as many devices than AT&T TV NOW. This is because AT&T TV NOW isn’t compatible with any gaming consoles or Windows operating systems and browsers—so if you haven’t jumped on the Mac train, you’re out of luck. Both are supported by the “Big As” (Apple, Android, and Amazon), unless you have an Amazon Fire tablet… then, again, your only choice is Sling TV.

An important caveat, though: while Sling TV claims to be compatible with all iOS platforms, when we tried to sign in to the service via an updated Safari browser, we were blocked. We had to switch to Chrome to be able to stream. May the odds be ever in your favor.

Best streaming devices

Wondering which streaming device is best for you? Whether you love Apple or Android, Samsung TVs or LG TVs, we’ll walk you through our guide to streaming devices.

Video quality

Crisp and clear as a summer’s day.

Sling TVAT&T TV NOW
Video resolution720/1080p720/1080p

Overall, viewers will be pleased with the video quality from both AT&T TV NOW and Sling TV. Most shows and channels stream in HD, and the picture appears sharp and clear on higher-resolution screens.

Even watching on an Apple iPhone was a fast and seamless experience for us for both services (we didn’t test Android-powered devices like the Galaxy phone, but we feel pretty solid about getting the same results). The exception may be certain sports channels, which often drop their broadcast resolution to 720p.

With either streaming service, though, keep in mind that your internet speed must do its part to support your viewing. The generation of your chosen device’s hardware (i.e., an older TV versus a newer smartphone) can also be a factor in how smooth your livestream comes through.

We didn’t experience any issues with clarity or buffering on an internet connection of 300 Mbps, and most live TV streaming services suggest at least 25 Mbps for multiple streams. If yours is slower, adjust your expectations accordingly.

Having issues with your stream?

The single most important factor in your viewing quality isn’t your streaming service—it’s your home internet plan. Kick the buffering to the curb and read our guide to the best internet plans for streaming.

Channel guide

With its clean lines, bright theme, and various viewing options, AT&T TV NOW is the hands-down winner of the Battle of the Channel Guides. It’s interactive, intuitive, and colorful, where Sling TV feels dark, drab, and difficult to use.

A screenshot of AT&T TV NOW's menu.

AT&T TV NOW’s introduction menu on a desktop computer.

As we’ve mentioned before about AT&T TV NOW, we really enjoy the lighter user interface. It’s different than the commonly used black background that most other streaming services seem to prefer.

Upon signing in, you’re taken to a clean, easy-to-navigate screen with a carousel that immediately begins streaming from one of your local channels. You can click around the carousel to choose a different channel, or select from any of the tiles below to dig deeper into live and on-demand content.

A screenshot of Sling TV's menu.

Sling TV’s introduction menu on a desktop computer.

Sling TV’s intro menu is significantly different than AT&T TV NOW’s. While there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with its layout, its reliance on tiles and lack of interactive elements leaves us feeling empty after the beautifully laid-out menu within AT&T TV NOW.

That said, you have quick access to live shows currently airing, with a status bar indicating how far into the show you’ll be jumping in. You also have quick access to your most-watched channels directly from this menu; with AT&T TV NOW, you have to choose My Library in the top navigation.

A screenshot of AT&T TV NOW's channel guide.

AT&T TV NOW’s live channel guide is clean, airy, and extremely easy to navigate.

In keeping with the theme started on the intro screen, the AT&T TV NOW live channel guide itself is truly lovely to navigate. The slightly darker gray column and black font makes it easy to see what is airing now, and you can quickly toggle between categories including TV shows, movies, and your favorite channels.

A screenshot of Sling TV's channel guide.

Sling TV’s live channel guide leaves a lot to be desired, defaulting to a boring black and white scheme without real contrast or visual interest.

When looking at Sling TV’s live channel guide in the traditional grid layout, we feel like we’ve entered a dark cave of content. Even the channel logos are rendered entirely in black and white.

You can switch over to the “Channel” layout, but it’s barely better. Instead, you get tiles exactly as shown on the initial menu screen, making it virtually impossible to tell what’s on now versus later, how long a show lasts, etc.

A screenshot of AT&T TV NOW's On-Demand Content.

Keep watching your chosen show while you browse around AT&T TV NOW’s other live and on-demand content.

Feeling adventurous? AT&T TV NOW’s “Browse” menu lets you peruse all of the live and on-demand offerings included in your plan, based on categories like “Action Series” and “Premium TV Drama.” Best of all, your current show shrinks down to a small window in the corner of your screen, so you can keep watching without being entirely distracted by the hilarity of Blackish.

We’d love to show you what the equivalent feature from Sling TV looks like—except they don’t offer one. Ten points to Gryffindor . . . ahem, AT&T TV NOW.

Commercials

For both AT&T TV NOW and Sling TV, all packages include commercials. This isn’t surprising, as nearly all other streaming services repeat this model, with Hulu + Live TV being the lone exception (they offer an ad-free upgrade for its on-demand library . . . showoffs.)

While you can’t fast-forward through live commercials, or those required during on-demand shows, you can skip through them on your recorded DVR content for both services. You can also game the system by pausing your live TV program for a few minutes, then fast-forwarding through the commercials until you return to the live broadcast (but don’t tell them we told you!).

Final cut

For us, it all comes down to getting the most bang for your buck. Even though AT&T TV NOW includes premium channels with its MAX and PLUS plans, the fact that they’re missing so many much-loved entertainment channels just doesn’t justify the higher costs. This is especially true when you compare those lineups to other competitors like Hulu Live or YouTube TV

Though AT&T TV NOW offers more channels overall when compared to Sling TV, the price you pay for them is on par with most cable packages, which defeats the entire purpose of cutting the cord. Of course, there are pros and cons to both Sling TV and AT&T TV NOW, but for most entertainment junkies, Sling TV will do just fine.

Sling TV vs. AT&T TV NOW: FAQ

How can I get Sling TV or AT&T TV NOW for free?

AT&T TV NOW offers a free seven-day trial of its livestreaming service, so you can get a taste for the channel lineups, streaming quality, and device compatibility before you buy.

Sling TV also offers a free seven-day trial, you just may have to dig around their website a bit to find it because they hit you with other free offers (like a free Roku Express) upfront.

How much does AT&T TV NOW cost? What about Sling TV?

AT&T TV NOW’s packages start at $65 per month for 45+ channels, and top out at $135 per month (all without any add-ons). Sling TV’s two base packages start at $25 per month for 30+ and 45+ channels, and its combined package costs $40 per month (also without add-ons).

Can I watch AT&T TV NOW and Sling TV on the go?

Yep! Each livestreaming provider is accessible from multiple devices, including smartphones and tablets, ready to save you from boredom while waiting in line at the DMV.

Which has better video quality, AT&T TV NOW or Sling TV?

Each service offers equal quality for standard channels, though sports channels can often dip to 720p with each provider. When we tested each service on our TVs, laptops, and smartphones, we couldn’t find a major difference between the two.

Do you need internet for Sling TV or AT&T TV NOW?

Yes. Neither service currently offers the ability to download content for offline viewing, meaning you’ll need an internet connection to watch both Sling TV and AT&T TV NOW.

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