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Sling TV vs DIRECTV NOW: Which Live Streaming Service is Best?

Wondering which is better, Sling TV vs DirecTV Now? In this guide, we'll break it down and compare DirectTV Now vs Sling TV in great detail.

Winner

Our Rating

Starting At $40/mo
Our Rating
User Experience
Average
Value
Amazing
Total Channels
Great
DVR
Just Okay
Runner-up

Our Rating

Starting At $25/mo
Our Rating
User Experience
Average
Value
Average
Total Channels
Amazing
DVR
Okay

There are a lot of streaming services out there, but Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW are two of the most popular. Both services are owned by satellite TV companies (DISH and DIRECTV respectively), so it makes sense for most first-time cord-cutters to flock to these somewhat familiar names.

But the big question is . . .which is better? Sling TV or DIRECTV NOW?

The Overall Winner: DIRECTV NOW

In the end, we think DIRECTV NOW takes home the prize. Here’s how these two live TV streaming services compare.

DIRECTV NOW logoSlingTV logo
Price$40-$75/mo.*$20-$40/mo.*
Live channels available60-120+*30-50+*
Max. DVR hours20 hrs.50 hrs.
Max. picture quality720p1080p
Compatible devices1225
Max. simultaneous streams34
Free Trial Free Trial
Price
Live channels available
Max. DVR hours
Max. picture quality
Compatible devices
Max. simultaneous streams
DIRECTV NOW logo SlingTV logo
$40-$75/mo.* $20-$40/mo.*
60-120+* 30-50+*
20 hrs. 50 hrs.
720p 1080p
12 25
3 4
Free Trial Free Trial
*Not including add-ons. Additional channels and features may be available for additional fees.

Here’s the thing: on paper, it looks like Sling TV should be the winner. What can we say? Sling’s packages are split up in a way that makes it seem like the service offers more than it does. Crafty, right? But when you dig in deep and actually examine the offerings of each service, particularly at the basic package level, it’s really no contest.

DIRECTV NOW packages include more channels than Sling TV’s, its DVR beats Sling TV’s by a mile, and its interface is easier and more intuitive for long-time cable users. And though DIRECTV NOW’s packages tend to be more expensive, the actual value you get is through the roof.

Below, we break these two services down into a more detailed, section-by-section comparison, but in general, we think you’re more likely to enjoy DIRECTV NOW than Sling TV.

Price: DIRECTV NOW vs. Sling TV

DIRECTV NOW packages

PackagesChannel CountPrice
Live a Little60+$40/mo.
Just Right80+$55/mo.
Go Big100+$65/mo.
Gotta Have It120+$75/mo.
Channel Count Price
60+ $40/mo.
80+ $55/mo.
100+ $65/mo.
120+ $75/mo.

Sling TV packages

PackagesChannel CountPrice
Sling Orange30+$25/mo.
Sling Blue45+$25/mo.
Sling Orange + Blue50+$40/mo.
Channel Count Price
30+ $25/mo.
45+ $25/mo.
50+ $40/mo.

Winner: Sling TV

Okay, technically Sling TV is cheaper than DIRECTV NOW, so we had to pick it as the winner for this category. Our hands are tied. But though DIRECTV NOW rates tend to be a bit higher to start, we actually think it’s a much better deal overall. Here’s why.

Most TV providers have a pretty easy-to-understand package structure. You start small and then get more channels in each package upgrade. But that’s not how Sling TV operates.

Sling TV splits up the channels everyone wants between its Sling Orange and Sling Blue packages. That means ABC, ESPN, and the Disney Channel are included in one package, while Fox, NBC, and FX are included in the other. You say you want both the Disney Channel and Nick Jr.? Well then, your only choice is Sling TV’s most expensive option, the $40-per-month Sling Orange + Blue package.

Told you Sling TV was crafty.

Realistically, DIRECTV NOW is a much better deal. Even Sling Orange + Blue won’t get you as many channels as DIRECTV NOW’s Live a Little package—which costs $5 less.

Long story short: In the battle of Sling vs. DIRECTV NOW, we ultimately had to declare Sling TV the winner for price, but take it with a grain of salt. Sling TV definitely makes sense for cord-cutters who want the cheapest price and don’t really care about getting every channel. But DIRECTV NOW’s packages deliver better value, even if they’re a bit more expensive.

If you want more information, try checking out our Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW reviews. You can read up on Sling TV’s pros and cons, see detailed DIRECTV NOW plan comparisons, and even find out how each service stacks up against other competitors like PlayStation Vue.

Do Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW offer any deals?

You bet. Both Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW offer ways to save on their services or the devices you need to use their services. Here are a couple of our favorites.

Channels: DIRECTV NOW vs. Sling TV

DIRECTV NOW logoSlingTV logo
Included channels135+50+
Total channels (with add-ons)139+266+
Included channels
Total channels (with add-ons)
DIRECTV NOW logo SlingTV logo
135+ 50+
139+ 266+

Winner: DIRECTV NOW

When we look at channels, the first thing we consider is whether both services offer the channels everybody wants to watch. Fortunately, DIRECTV NOW and Sling TV both deliver the most popular major networks, so now we have to compare them based on sheer channel count.

When you look at the total number of channels available with Sling TV vs. with DIRECTV NOW, you’d think Sling TV would come out on top. But no—in the end, we had to give this one to DIRECTV NOW because it offers more included channels than Sling TV.

What do we mean by that? Well, Sling TV offers more channels overall than DIRECTV NOW, but about 80% of those channels are available only when you fork over extra cash for add-ons. In fact, when all is said and done, you’d wind up paying exactly $266 per month for all 266 channels.

The DIRECTV NOW channel lineup, on the other hand, is all included as part of the service packages. The only channels you’ll pay extra for are premium channels like HBO.

What’s more, DIRECTV NOW doesn’t chop up your channels like Sling TV does. With Sling TV, you have to pay for a more expensive package just to get ESPN, NBCSN, and Comedy Central all on the same package. DIRECTV NOW includes all the most popular networks as part of its basic $40-per-month package, so you wind up paying less for more channels.

Ultimately, in the DIRECTV NOW vs. Sling TV war, this battle goes to DIRECTV NOW.

Which is better for watching sports channels?

If we had to choose either Sling TV or DIRECTV NOW for watching sports, we’d probably choose DIRECTV NOW. As we’ve already mentioned, Sling TV splits up the most popular channels, so ESPN, FOX, and the NBC sports networks are divided between Sling Orange and Sling Blue.

While there is no dedicated DIRECTV NOW sports package, you can get most of what you need to watch sports with your basic Live a Little package. If you’re a diehard fan who wants more in-depth coverage on the NFL Network, NBA TV, or ESPNU, you can get most of those with DIRECTV NOW’s Just Right package ($55 per month).

What channels do you get with DIRECTV NOW and Sling TV?

That’s a big question. Both Sling TV’s and DIRECTV NOW’s channel lineups include most major broadcast networks as well as the most popular cable networks. DIRECTV NOW’s lineup is a little sparser in terms of international channels, but Sling TV’s packages don’t include as many cable networks as DIRECTV NOW’s.

For more information on the Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW tv channels offered, we recommend checking out our 2018 Sling TV review and our DIRECTV NOW 2018 review.

Local channels: DIRECTV NOW vs. Sling TV

DIRECTV NOW logoSlingTV logo
ABC affiliates648
CBS affiliates380
FOX affiliates7017
NBC affiliates4611
Total local channels21836
ABC affiliates
CBS affiliates
FOX affiliates
NBC affiliates
Total local channels
DIRECTV NOW logo SlingTV logo
64 8
38 0
70 17
46 11
218 36

Winner: DIRECTV NOW

One thing most people don’t know is that streaming services don’t offer all local channels across the country. Like cable TV, streaming services have to reach agreements with each local ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC affiliate in your area in order to offer those stations.

Some streaming services have made it a priority to offer local channels, while others see it as an extra expense. That’s basically the situation with DIRECTV NOW and Sling TV.

DIRECTV NOW offers the third-highest number of local channels across the nation of any streaming service. Sling TV, on the other hand, offers only a handful of local channels in order to keep prices low for its customers.

In other words, you’re more likely to be able to stream ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC with a DIRECTV NOW plan than a Sling TV plan.

If you’re interested in local channels, you can also try an antenna . If you want to keep costs low, you could always supplement your Sling TV service with an antenna. Antennas are cheap (just check current prices on Amazon), don’t have any monthly fees, and look a heck of a lot better now than the old rabbit ears on your grandma’s TV. There’s just one catch: no DVR.

DVR: DIRECTV NOW vs. Sling TV

DIRECTV NOW logoSlingTV logo
Included with package20 hrs.0 hrs.
Available with add-on-50 hrs.
DVR add-on price-$5/mo.
Included with package
Available with add-on
DVR add-on price
DIRECTV NOW logo SlingTV logo
20 hrs. 0 hrs.
- 50 hrs.
- $5/mo.

Winner: DIRECTV NOW

If you’ve ever had cable before, you’re probably familiar with DVR. Basically, it’s a recording device that allows you to schedule recordings and watch them at a later point.

Streaming services also offer DVRs, but there is a slight difference. Instead of recording your shows on a physical device (or set-top box), streaming services utilize cloud DVRs. Cloud DVRs record your shows and store them on the cloud. That means you get the advantage of being able to watch your TV shows from your mobile devices, but it also means you have to deal with more limited storage space than you typically get with a cable DVR.

So when considering DIRECTV NOW vs. Sling TV, which is better?

With Sling TV, you can get only 50 hours’ worth of cloud DVR storage. All you binge-watchers out there will know firsthand that 50 hours aren’t much. Plus, they don’t come with your package—you have to pay an extra $5 per month for Sling TV’s DVR add-on.

DIRECTV NOW, on the other hand, does offer included cloud DVR storage. Granted, it’s only 20 hours, so it’s pretty limited.

DIRECTV NOW’s DVR does have one other advantage that no other streaming service can offer: it automatically skips commercials. Every other cloud DVR on the market makes you fast-forward through commercials yourself, but DIRECTV NOW’s DVR will skip the commercials automatically anytime you watch recorded content. That a huge deal, particularly if you are a heavy DVR user.

Premium channels: DIRECTV NOW vs. Sling TV

DIRECTV NOW logoSlingTV logo
HBO$5/mo.$15/mo.
Cinemax$5/mo.$10/mo.
EPIX-$5/mo.
Showtime$8/mo.$10/mo.
STARZ$8/mo.$9/mo.
DIRECTV NOW logo SlingTV logo
$5/mo. $15/mo.
$5/mo. $10/mo.
- $5/mo.
$8/mo. $10/mo.
$8/mo. $9/mo.

Winner: DIRECTV NOW

DIRECTV NOW’s international options aren’t as robust as Sling TV’s, but what add-ons it does have, it does right.

As you can see from the table above, DIRECTV NOW add-ons are cheaper than Sling TV’s. In fact, for some channels, Sling TV charges twice or even three times as much as DIRECTV NOW.

That makes DIRECTV NOW a clear choice for Game of Thrones fans, movie buffs, and premium-channel junkies in general.

Streaming Quality: DIRECTV NOW vs. Sling TV

DIRECTV NOW logoSlingTV logo
Picture resolution720p1080p
Streaming quality (our rating)3/53/5
Picture resolution
Streaming quality (our rating)
DIRECTV NOW logo SlingTV logo
720p 1080p
3/5 3/5

Winner: DIRECTV NOW

When judging streaming quality, there are two major things that we take into account: picture quality and smoothness.

As you can see above, Sling TV clearly offers higher quality picture resolution. But there is a caveat here. Sling TV’s 1080p resolution is available only on on-demand streaming. So if you’re watching live TV, Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW are more or less the same in terms of picture quality.

In terms of smoothness, we actually find DIRECTV NOW a more reliable option than Sling TV. Sling TV tends to be glitchy (we’re talking “Help! It won’t stop fast-forwarding!” kind of glitchy), and with it, you’re more likely to experience frequent buffering breaks, longer load times, and drops in resolution, particularly if you’re on a slower speed internet plan.

DIRECTV NOW certainly isn’t exempt from its share of glitchiness and buffering, though. And while we do consider it a touch more reliable than Sling TV, the difference is small enough that we’ve rated them both a 3 out of 5 for streaming quality.

It’s a close call, but we gave the win for this category to DIRECTV NOW. Sure, Sling TV offers 1080p resolution when watching on-demand content, but DIRECTV NOW’s 720p resolution is still HD. We’d rather just avoid the frustration that comes along with Sling TV’s glitchy stream.

Device compatibility: DIRECTV NOW vs. Sling TV

DIRECTV NOW logoSlingTV logo
Amazon Fire TV
Amazon Fire tablet
Android phones
Android tablets
Android TV
Apple TV
ChannelMaster DVR+
Chromecast
iPad
iPhone
iPod Touch
LeEco
LG TV Smart TVs (select models)
Mac computers
Nintendo Switch
PlayStation 3
PlayStation 4
Roku
Roku TV
Samsung Smart TVs (select models)
Sharp AQUOS
Sony Bravia
Vizio SmartCast TV
Windows computers
Windows 10 phones
Xbox 360
Xbox One
Xbox One S
Xbox One X
Amazon Fire TV
Amazon Fire tablet
Android phones
Android tablets
Android TV
Apple TV
ChannelMaster DVR+
Chromecast
iPad
iPhone
iPod Touch
LeEco
LG TV Smart TVs (select models)
Mac computers
Nintendo Switch
PlayStation 3
PlayStation 4
Roku
Roku TV
Samsung Smart TVs (select models)
Sharp AQUOS
Sony Bravia
Vizio SmartCast TV
Windows computers
Windows 10 phones
Xbox 360
Xbox One
Xbox One S
Xbox One X
DIRECTV NOW logo SlingTV logo

Winner: Sling TV

You need an internet-enabled device in order to enjoy livestreaming on your big screen. The trick is that there are a lot of devices out there. The right device (or devices) for your home will depend on your price range, preferred operating systems (e.g. Apple users will likely prefer an Apple TV), etc.

What does that mean for our battle royale between Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW? Well, the more devices a service is compatible with, the more people will be able to actually use it. That makes Sling TV a clear winner in this round.

While DIRECTV NOW is available on all the most popular streaming devices (Roku, Chromecast, Android TV, and Apple TV), Sling TV is available on those plus more niche devices like the ChannelMaster+ DVR. Sling TV is also compatible with all Xbox One devices, which makes it a better overall choice for gamers.

Do I need a dish for DIRECTV NOW or Sling TV?

The beauty of streaming services is that they do away with the old-school satellite dishes and set-top boxes you need with a cable package. Instead, you can choose from a range of streaming devices, which you buy outright rather than renting from a TV provider.

Both DIRECTV NOW and Sling TV are compatible with the most mainstream devices, including Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, and Amazon Fire TVs. However, Sling TV offers more options for cord-cutters looking to stream directly on their Smart TVs or other niche devices.

We’ve got you covered. Check out our streaming device reviews to get all the info you need on the most popular streaming devices.

User experience: DIRECTV NOW vs. Sling TV

DIRECTV NOW logoSlingTV logo
Channel guide
Live playback features
Commercial skipping
Max. simultaneous streams34
Usability (our rating)4/52/5
Channel guide
Live playback features
Commercial skipping
Max. simultaneous streams
Usability (our rating)
DIRECTV NOW logo SlingTV logo
3 4
4/5 2/5

Winner: DIRECTV NOW

Let’s breeze through the rest quickly, shall we?

Channel guide

Both DIRECTV NOW and Sling TV offer channel guides. In general, we prefer the DIRECTV NOW channel guide to Sling TV’s simply because it looks the same on every device. Whether you’re watching on your Roku or on your phone, the DIRECTV NOW guide will have the same, simple, easy-to-use design.

Sling TV’s guide, on the other hand, is practically unusable if you’re watching via laptop or desktop. There’s no way to compare channel lineups, so you’re stuck just looking at a single channel at a time. It involves a lot more work to figure out what’s on, and it’s not very intuitive at all.

Point to DIRECTV NOW.

Playback features

Both services also offer playback features on live TV, so you can (theoretically) rewind, fast-forward, and pause while watching the big game. However, in the course of our product testing, we’ve found Sling TV’s playback options to be a bit glitchier, and pausing, fast-forwarding, and rewinding are available only when watching select shows. So that’s another point in favor of DIRECTV NOW.

Commercial skipping and interface

As we’ve already mentioned, DIRECTV NOW is the only streaming service to offer commercial skipping on recorded content, so that’s another win for DIRECTV NOW. And in general, we find DIRECTV NOW’s interface to be a bit more user friendly than Sling TV’s (its guide is a bit more familiar for long-time cable users). Add two more wins to DIRECTV NOW’s column.

Simultaneous streams

The only area DIRECTV NOW lacks in this category is in its simultaneous streams. With DIRECTV NOW, you can watch TV on only three devices at a time regardless of whether you’re taking advantage of live TV or on-demand service.

Sling TV, on the other hand, offers up to four simultaneous streams when you get a Sling Orange + Blue package. That makes it the better service for large households, as you can easily watch Grey’s Anatomy in the living room while your spouse streams Game of Thrones upstairs and your kids stream Mickey Mouse Clubhouse from their tablet.

Despite this advantage, Sling TV doesn’t quite claim the user experience category. DIRECTV NOW is simply better in too many other areas.

Other frequently asked questions

DIRECTV vs. DIRECTV NOW—Why is there a price difference?

So this goes to the heart of the question: what is the difference between DIRECTV and DIRECTV NOW?

DIRECTV is a satellite company, which means it delivers your TV service by satellite via a big dish that’s installed on the side of your house. DIRECTV owns DIRECTV NOW, but it’s not the same thing.

DIRECTV NOW is an internet streaming service, meaning your TV channels are delivered via your internet connection. This service tends to be cheaper than DIRECTV for a couple of reasons. First, it requires less infrastructure and hardware to get your TV signal to you. Second, DIRECTV NOW is a more streamlined service with fewer channel offerings. That makes your service less expensive overall (hence why so many people are switching to DIRECTV NOW from cable).

Is Sling TV or DIRECTV NOW free if I’m already a DISH or DIRECTV customer?

Unfortunately, no. Though DISH owns Sling TV and DIRECTV owns DIRECTV NOW, both streaming services run totally separate from their respective parent companies. Thank goodness, right?

Think of it this way. Both DISH and DIRECTV know more and more of their customers are opting to ditch cable. Rather than seeing those customers go to competitor services (like PlayStation Vue or YouTube TV), DISH and DIRECTV created their own streaming services to pick up funds from as many cable defectors as possible. Neither company has anything to gain by luring its own customers away from more lucrative cable plans, so it wouldn’t make sense for either company to offer incentives for you to switch.

That being said, if you opt to switch from DIRECTV to DIRECTV NOW or from DISH to Sling TV, you’ll probably save considerably. If you want to see just how much, a great cord-cutting tool can help you calculate your cost savings.

DIRECTV NOW for the win!

So which should you get: Sling or DIRECTV NOW? DIRECTV NOW took six out of eight categories, so we feel pretty dang confident in naming it our winner. That being said, we also acknowledge that Sling TV may be a better fit for you if you’re all about those savings. You gotta do what’s right for you.

So what now? If you’re convinced that DIRECTV NOW is the service for you, the next step is to go and sign up. But we wouldn’t recommend canceling your cable service immediately. For as much as we love DIRECTV NOW, we know it’s not for everybody.

Fortunately, DIRECTV NOW doesn’t lock you into a contract, and you have a 7-day free trial period to make sure it really does work for you. If it does, then you can go ahead and cancel that cable plan and start enjoying your savings!

We’ve barely skimmed the surface of all there is to know about Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW. To find out more about Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW options, including all the pros and cons of Sling TV and complete DIRECTV NOW package comparisons, we recommend checking out our in-depth Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW reviews. Stream on!

We’ve barely skimmed the surface of all there is to know about Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW. To find out more about Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW options, including all the pros and cons of Sling TV and complete DIRECTV NOW package comparisons, we recommend checking out our in-depth Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW reviews. Stream on!

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