DIRECTV NOW vs. Sling TV

Sling TV was the first major ‘€œskinny bundle'€ OTT service: a streaming service that strips down bloated cable packages to a slimmer selection of key channels, streams them live, and charges far less than cable and satellite companies do. But Sling was far from the last service to offer these things – and the latest, DIRECTV NOW, has really impressed us.

So which service is right for you: Sling TV or DIRECTV NOW? Here's our breakdown of the major differences between the two.

For our comparison of Sling TV and PlayStation Vue, click here.

Channel Selection and Packages

A lot of the skinny bundles offer the same channels at this point (in much the same way that different cable providers do). But one interesting difference between Sling TV and PlayStation Vue is found in the way the packages are organized.

Like PlayStation Vue (and unlike Sling TV), DIRECTV NOW offers tiers of service. Each higher tier has all of the channels from the prior one, plus some new ones.

Sling TV, on the other hand, has three different base packages. Two differ because they lack either Disney properties (like ESPN) or FOX ones (like FX and FS1). The largest base package has all the channels from the other two, but that's the end of the hierarchy – all additional channels can be added genre by genre through Sling TV's add-on packages.

Sling TV channel list
Sling TV's Orange + Blue package is its largest package. Sling Orange and Sling Blue each have only a portion of these channels. More channels are sold in “add-on” packages.

For a complete list of Sling TV's channels, check out our Sling TV channel guide.

The add-on packages make Sling TV the more   la carte of the two options – it's a choose-your-own adventure type of service. DIRECTV NOW, on the other hand, has the cheapest price per channel – with the understanding that your selection of channels won't be quite as tailored to your interests.

As far as specific types of content, Sling TV has a clear advantage in foreign-language content thanks to its add-on packages. Both services do quite well with sports, though a base package and Sling TV's Sports Extra add-on is the most cost-effective path to total coverage. DIRECTV NOW has the most affordable diverse package, as we'll see in a moment.

Pricing

Sling TV's base packages are priced at $20, $25, and $40/month, respectively.

The $40/month one – with 50+ channels and both Disney and FOX properties – is the most comparable to DIRECTV NOW's smallest package. Sling TV's add-on packages are $5 each, except for premium channels like HBO, which are more expensive.

DIRECTV NOW's packages are priced at $35, $50, $60, and $70/month. You can add HBO or Cinemax for $5/month – cheaper than on Sling TV.

For my money, DIRECTV NOW's $35/month base package is the most cost-effective OTT skinny bundle package available. But if you're looking to build out a larger package and only want certain types of content, it's worth doing the math and adding up some add-on packages to see if Sling TV will work better for your budget.

User Experience

DIRECTV NOW running on iOS

DIRECTV NOW's interface is quite similar to Sling TV's, so there's not too much to differentiate the two services here. Both services allow you to go back and watch programming from the past couple of days on demand. In our review, we were impressed by DIRECTV NOW's content discovery features, which made selecting movies on demand very easy.

Streaming Quality

Sling TV didn't have the best streaming quality when it first came out, but it's been very good lately. DIRECTV NOW, aside from a day one hiccup, has been fantastic on the streaming quality front. I'd give a slight edge to DIRECTV NOW here, but you really can't go too wrong with either of these skinny bundles these days.

Sling TV vs. DIRECTV NOW: Which Should You Get?

Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW are both fantastic services, but one or the other might suit you better depending on what kind of experience you're hoping to get.

For foreign language content, Sling TV is the clear bet. Other niche viewers will find that Sling TV's add-on packages push them in that direction, too. Sling TV is also the best custom skinny bundle solution. DIRECTV NOW is much less flexible.

If you're looking for an affordable all-around package and don't care about customization, DIRECTV NOW's smallest package is your best bet. Premium channel fans will also want to look at DIRECTV NOW – while HBO is available on Sling TV, too, it's much cheaper on DIRECTV NOW.

Of course, you can try both services out for yourself – they both have free trials!

To check out Sling TV's free trial, click here.

For DIRECTV NOW's free trial, click here.

17 thoughts on “DIRECTV NOW vs. Sling TV

  1. webslappy says:

    What you don’t mention in the comparison is what devices these services work on. DirectTV Now doesn’t run on Roku so that’s a deal breaker for some like me that would like the trial to compare it to my current provider, Sling TV.

    1. Cordcutting.com says:

      You’re right, we should have addressed that! DirecTV Now’s Roku channel should be coming soon.

  2. Steve Pagac says:

    On DirecTV Now it says min $70 a mo. I asked the CS rep on chat and he confirmed this. What do you think?

    1. Cordcutting.com says:

      If you check DirecTV Now’s site, it’s $35 for the cheapest package.

      The most expensive package is $70 per month.

      You’re right that there’s a small text on DirecTV Now’s site that says: “After free trial, auto-billed (min. $70/mo.) unless canceled.” However, that’s not true, and if you click “See details” under that text, it says: “renews monthly (currently min. $35/mo.).”

  3. Jerry E. Cox says:

    Maybe some day I can just get 45 preferred channels in my native language – without Cinemax or HBO. That might be serious value. This packaging is cute, but alternatively, how about letting me trade off 10 for one preferred.

  4. CordKutter says:

    DirectTV Now can only be streamed on 2 devices. Sling does 3 except for the Disney channels. That is a deal breaker.

    https://help.directvnow.com/hc/en-us/articles/212457823-Error-Message-60-Too-Many-Streams

  5. Mark says:

    You also didn’t compare the On Demand content (across comparable channels) between DirecTV Now and Sling TV. In testing both services since Christmas, I’ve found DirecTV Now to be SORELY lacking in the On Demand department. They may list a show, but they are often WEEKS behind schedule (for FX’s new Taboo show, Sling has all 5 current episodes On Demand, but DirecTV Now just has 2 – or are missing episodes. Particularly frustrating is the fact that DirecTV Now may be missing episodes in the MIDDLE of a current season (e.g., they’ll have episodes 2,3,4,7, and 9). The DirecTV Now customer service will quickly blame content providers, but it seems odd that a behemoth like AT&T can’t get comparable carry contracts to Sling. DirecTV Now offers more of a “show sampler” than On Demand – and maybe that is why they can charge less for more channels.

    And speaking of customer service… DirecTV Now is horrible. Around Christmas, the only avenues for help were Twitter (slow, cookie-cutter answers that seemed to be just cut-and-paste based on keywords in your question) or self-help forums. Chat help was horribly broken, and there is no phone contact. At least Sling TV’s Twitter help was faster to respond, had real answers and got involved to the point of discussing my particular account in direct message. They at least gave the impression that they gave a damn, unlike DirecTV Now.

  6. Sam Bowden says:

    You didn’t include the best service which is PlayStation Vue. DirecTV Now was horrible during my trial – constant buffering problems and an Error 40 problem which would prevent any streaming. Plus no Roku app. I may give it a try after it matures and they have a Roku app, but for now PlayStation Vue is the way to go.

  7. Sally says:

    DirecTV Now 72 hour rewind hasn’t worked in months!

    Paying for service I am not getting.

  8. jame says:

    Cough PlayStation Vue…

    Should have reviewed all three, since each has its own ups and downs. Till recently Vue was the best hands down of the three till Viacom pull all its channels, and it sounds like it might do the same on the other two as well as the new management wants to push cable because it pays better than OTT.

  9. Gail says:

    We’ve had problems off and on with DirecTV Now. However, we got in on the initial offering for $35 which is now $70. We’ve found that clearing the cash on the app usually clears up any problems. Also, restarting the modem and router at least once a week keeps it running just fine. We love it! We use an antenna for local channels. We get all of our favorite channels on DirecTV Now. We also use MagicJack for our phone. Instead of $204 to the cable company for cable, internet, and phone company for a ton of channels we don’t even watch, we’re paying well under $100 a month for everything we need. Thanks to you folks, we’ve become quite Cordcutting smart! We’re 67 and 79!

  10. Brad B says:

    I got in on an early January deal for the DirecTV “Go Big” package for $35/mo. and a free gen 3 Amazon Fire TV Stick. Before the January 19, 2017 app update it crashed frequently and required me to re-enter my password. Since then, it has been almost flawless. I’m getting over a 100 cable channels plus 2 local channels (Fox & NBC) for $35/mo. and I’m cutting U-verse off when my contract expires March 8th.

    By the way, while you can only use DirecTV Now on two devices at a time, you can load it on as many compatible devices as you want. There are only two of us in the house so the two concurrent downstreams at a time are not an issue for us. I had already cut U-verse down to one TV in the house so this allowed me to add the cable channels back to the bedroom.

  11. Elaine Berkopec says:

    I’ve had DirecTV Now for a few weeks, and now that Sling TV offers a la carte choices at a lower or comparable price, I plan to switch when my paid period is up. DirecTV Now constantly buffers and freezes, especially in the evenings.

    I did the free trial with Sling a while ago, but didn’t want it because it was too heavy on sports channels that I don’t watch. The new a la carte menu has more to offer at a better price for non-sports fans like me.

  12. Melissa L says:

    We cut the cord quite a few years ago because cable and satellite were outrageously expensive, with garbage channels that we were forced to pay for. As a current Sling TV subscriber, I did a comparison between my current Sling TV subscription and what it would cost to get the same channels on DirecTV Now. First things first, Sling TV now has a DVR service, which works great, and DirecTV Now does not. Next, DirecTV does not offer the movie channels I currently get with Sling TV. For $5.00 a month. With Sling TV’s Blue package (which is a great channel lineup), their 4 Extras deal, the Hollywood Extra package, and the cloud DVR, I only pay $45.00 a month. In a comparison to DirecTV Now, Sling’s package channel lineups are better. To get the just some of the same channels that I have now on Sling TV, it would be $60.00 a month, with no DVR service. So, I could add HBO for $15.00 a month on Sling TV, it would bump me up to what DirecTV Now charges for their basic $60.00 a month package, and I would have less options than I do with Sling. So, in my opinion, Sling TV wins hands down, at this time. Their a la carte take on their packaging is a much better idea, and you get more (of what you actually want) for your money. You don’t have as many garbage channels forced on you. And, it really is less expensive when you break it down.

    1. Ann says:

      Excellent comparison review… Thanks a lot!

  13. Castrator says:

    CUT Bill Cosby’s BALLS OFF!!!

  14. Thomas Parks says:

    To start I was with DirecTV for 20 yrs. I finally got the nerve to cut them off. I was paying too much money for satellite service. A friend told me about Roku with Sling TV. Did research on Sling/DirecTV Now. Currently trying out DirecTV Now for a few months. So far I’m happy with the decision cutting satellite TV. Spending less than half for wireless TV.

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