These days, consumers are faced with more and more options when it comes to watching TV. The days when cable providers dominated the industry are long gone, and users now have a plethora of cord-cutting options. Online streaming services like DIRECTV NOW and Sling TV provide a more affordable, more flexible alternative to cable TV – but how do these two services stack up? In this guide, we’ll compare Sling TV vs DIRECTV NOW for our readers.
Similarities Between DIRECTV NOW and Sling TV
First and foremost, some basics on what characteristics these services share:
- Both are more affordable than cable
- Both are non-contract, meaning you can cancel at any time
- Both work on a wide variety of devices, from mobile phones to streaming players like Apple TV and Roku
- Both offer several channel packages to choose from to customize your selection
- Both don’t require cable or satellite – all you need is a reliable internet connection
- Both are 100% safe and legal ways to stream live TV
- Both offer a free 7-day trial – click here for Sling TV’s trial and here for DIRECTV NOW’s trial
So, both of these services certainly share some similarities. But there are also some key differences – let’s take a look.
Sling TV vs DIRECTV NOW: At a Glance
For the quick-and-dirty comparison, consider these general guidelines:
For budget-minded streamers, Sling TV is a great option. Sling has plans from just $25/mo, compared to DIRECTV NOW’s $40/mo.
For selection-minded streamers, DIRECTV NOW is a great choice. DIRECTV NOW’s base package has 65+ channels, compared to Sling’s 23-40+ channels (depending on package).
With that said, there’s more to it than just that! Keep reading for the full DIRECTV NOW vs Sling TV comparison.
DIRECTV NOW vs Sling TV: Pricing
If cost is a key factor for you, here are the basics:
Sling TV has plans from $25 per month. That covers 23-40+ channels (there are two basic packages, each costs $25/mo but offers different options). You can also combine both packages for $40 per month, giving you 45+ channels. From there, you can also add-on many channel packs, most of which are just $5/mo for anywhere from 4-10+ additional channels. In short, Sling has a lot of customization options! See our Sling TV Price guide for details.
DIRECTV NOW has plans from $40 per month. That covers 65+ channels, so you’re definitely getting a bigger base package compared to Sling TV. From there there are 3 other larger packages, for $55, $65 and $75/mo, respectively, with up to 125+ networks in the largest package. DIRECTV NOW offers fewer customization options, but may be a better value for folks wanting a wider channel selection. See our DIRECTV NOW Price guide for details.
Things to consider:
- Sling’s base packages are significantly cheaper, but significantly smaller
- Sling charges $5/mo for a DVR feature; DIRECTV NOW includes it free
- Sling’s packages are quite cheap, but quickly become on-par or more expensive than DIRECTV NOW once you start adding on channel packs
- Sling has far more cheap ($5/mo) customization options, allowing you to fine-tune your channel lineup affordably
- DIRECTV NOW has fewer customization options, forcing you to buy larger channel packages to get specific channels
- DIRECTV NOW may offer better value if you want a lot of channels
Bottom line: Sling is a great choice for those wanting fewer channels, with more flexibility in choosing those channels. DIRECTV NOW is a great option for those wanting a wide channel selection.
DIRECTV NOW vs Sling TV Channels
Both of these services offer some great channel packages that cover a wide variety of entertainment preferences. There are many different options, with too many to list here – for full details, see our DIRECTV NOW channel list and Sling TV channel list articles.
At a glance, here’s an overview of the Sling TV vs DIRECTV NOW channels:
Sling TV’s starting packages offer either 23+ or 40+ networks, depending on which you choose. From there, you can expand your selection with tons of add-on packages (such as a package of all sports channels). Sling offers a more a la carte approach, allowing you to pick and choose which networks you want.
DIRECTV NOW’s starting package offers 65+ networks. From there, you can subscribe to the larger packages, which offer up to 125+ networks in total. While it has more channels than Sling, DIRECTV NOW is a bit less customization. You can subscribe to the larger packages, but you can’t pick and choose specific types of channels to subscribe to.
For more details, let’s look at some specific aspects of the channel selection of these two services.
Coverage of Local Channels
If you’re looking to stream local channels, DIRECTV NOW offers a clear advantage over Sling TV.
DIRECTV NOW covers ABC, NBC, FOX, and CBS is hundreds of markets around the US, as well as The CW and MyTV in a handful of markets. These local channels are not available nationwide, but DIRECTV NOW does offer them in most major TV markets. You can check what’s available in your area during the signup process.
Sling TV offers only FOX and NBC, and even coverage of those channels is pretty minimal. FOX is live in 15+ markets, with NBC live in 10+. That compares to DIRECTV NOW’s offering of 100+ and 80+ markets, respectively.
So, if local channels are important to you, we recommend DIRECTV NOW.
Coverage of Sports Channels
If you want to watch sports online, both of these services bring a lot to the table. There’s no clear winner in this category.
On Sling TV, networks like ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, ACC Network, FS1, FS2, and NBCSN are all available in one of the base packages. For more selection, the Sports Extra package adds NBA TV, SEC Network, ESPNU, ESPNews, NHL Network, and more for just $5-$10 per month, depending on your base package.
On DIRECTV NOW, ESPN, ESPN2, FS1, NBCSN and more are available in the base package. For more selection, some of the larger packages offer CBS Sports Network, Big Ten Network, GOLF Channel, MLB TV, NBA TV, and many more.
Both services also offer NBC Sports and FOX Sports regional networks, in select areas. These are important for keeping up with your favorite local teams.
One last thing to note for sports fans: since DIRECTV NOW covers more areas for NBC/FOX/CBS/ABC, it’s a great option for sports whose games air on those networks. For instance, DIRECTV NOW is a great way to watch football online, as those local networks are essential for NFL games.
Coverage of Premium Channels
For premium channels, both services offer similar channels, but DIRECTV NOW is cheaper.
DIRECTV NOW offers HBO or Cinemax for $5 each per month. Showtime and Starz are just $8/mo.
Sling TV offers HBO for $15/mo, Cinemax for $10/mo, Starz for $9/mo, and Showtime for $10/mo. Also available on Sling are some lesser-known premiums, like EPIX, CuriosityStream, Docurama, and more!
So, while Sling TV carries more premium channels, the main popular ones cost more than they do on DIRECTV NOW. With that said, DIRECTV NOW’s base packages are more expensive than Sling’s, so it’s not so cut-and-dry in comparing prices.
Coverage of Entertainment Channels
When it comes to general entertainment networks, both Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW offer a lot of great options. Comparing Sling TV vs DIRECTV NOW in terms of their channel selection is tricky, simply because of how many different packages there are. There are tons of great channels on these two networks, so instead of listing them all here, we’ll just try to summarize the differences:
DIRECTV NOW offers more channels overall, with 125+ available. There really aren’t many channels you can’t find on DIRECTV NOW. With that said, you’ll pay a premium for the larger packages, with the biggest plan costing $75 per month.
Sling TV offers fewer channels overall, but more customization options. For instance, the “Lifestyle Extra” add-on from Sling adds channels like VH1, Hallmark, FYI, BET, DIY Network, and more for just $5 per month. This customization-friendly offering is great for people who want to pick and choose their networks.
Sling TV vs DIRECTV NOW: Device Compatibility
Both of these services work over the internet, meaning there’s no cable box or built-in device to use the service on. Instead, you’ll need your own streaming device, whether that’s a computer, mobile phone, or streaming player. How do DIRECTV NOW and Sling TV compare in terms of device compatibility?
BOTH services work on these devices:
- Apple TV
- Android mobile devices (phones & tablets)
- Amazon Fire TV
- iOS mobile devices (phones & tablets)
- Select Samsung Smart TVs
In addition, Sling TV works on these devices:
- Amazon Fire Tablets
- Nvidia Shield
- Xbox One
- Select LG smart TVs
Bottom Line: In this category, Sling TV is a clear winner. Sling covers far more devices than DIRECTV NOW – although, the most popular streaming devices are covered by both services.
DIRECTV NOW vs Sling TV: Features
We know the basics about these two services, but what do they offer in terms of unique features?
DVR recording refers to the ability to record live TV to watch later.
Both services offer DVR recording. Both DVRs function in similar ways – they don’t require a physical device, and instead just store your recordings in the Cloud.
DIRECTV NOW includes a free DVR feature with 20 hours of storage allowed.
Sling TV charges $5/mo extra, but includes 50 hours of storage.
Simultaneous streaming refers to the number of devices that can be watching a service at once. Each device can be watching a separate channel. Services with lax simultaneous streaming rules are great for families and households with roommates.
DIRECTV NOW offers 2 simultaneous streams for free. A third can be added on for $5/mo.
Sling TV offers 1 stream in Sling Orange, and 3 in Sling Blue. So it depends which package you choose.
On-demand viewing refers to non-live TV, which can be viewed at any time by accessing a media library.
Both services offer on-demand viewing. Rules and program availability vary by channel, but overall the offerings are similar.
TV Everywhere App Authentication
TV Everywhere Apps are apps offered by specific channels, which allow users to watch that channel’s programming while on-the-go. For instance, ESPN offers a WatchESPN app. In order to use these apps, you must login and “authenticate”, proving that you have paid access to that channel. Streaming services allow you to login and authenticate for certain apps.
DIRECTV NOW offers app authentication for many popular 3rd-party apps, including WatchESPN, CBS Sports, MLB At Bat, and many more.
Sling TV offers app authentication for some 3rd-party apps, including WatchESPN, NFL Mobile, and many more.
In the end, DIRECTV NOW definitely offers more TV everywhere apps than Sling TV does.
Bottom line: In terms of features, DIRECTV NOW and Sling TV are fairly similar. For DVR, DIRECTV NOW includes it free (Sling charges $5/mo). For simultaneous streaming, DIRECTV NOW probably comes out on top with 2 streams included. For on-demand, selection is similar (but based on the channels in your package, so keep that in mind). For TV-everywhere apps, DIRECTV NOW offers more options.
Which Service is Right for Me?
Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer. Neither service is better than the other. Each have their own pros and cons to consider.
The purpose of this Sling TV vs DIRECTV NOW comparison is to help you make an informed decision. We can’t make that decision for you. We can, however, give you the information and give you some broad recommendations.
Sling TV is great for folks who want a budget-friendly package with lots of customization options. If you want to pick and choose your channels, Sling’s affordable base package and ample add-on selection make that easy.
DIRECTV NOW is great for folks who want a wide selection of channels, with a cable-like experience (without the cable TV pricetag!) If you want the most selection possible, along with ample bonus features, DIRECTV NOW is a great choice.
Both services are still expanding and growing over time, offering more value to customers. DIRECTV NOW recently added DVR and other features, while Sling TV recently made their DVR available on more devices. These are just a few examples of how these services continue to change for the better!
Still unsure? Here’s the good news: BOTH services offer free trials, so you can try them out risk-free. You could even try them both and do your own Sling TV vs DIRECTV NOW comparison! Follow the links below to start your free week-long trial of each service: