Sling TV and YouTube TV are both popular choices for cord-cutters and similar in some ways. They are both streaming services that offer month-to-month contracts. But whereas YouTube TV offers a complete cable replacement service, Sling TV is more a la carte, allowing you to piece together your desired plan. We provide all the details below.
In a hurry? Sling TV is one of our favorite streaming services and it offers a great deal with $10 for the first month. YouTube TV is generally a solid option for a full cable TV replacement service but with its recent squabbles with Roku, NBCUniversal, and especially Disney, you are probably better off with Hulu + Live TV.
When considering the seven or so current major live TV streaming services, there are the “full service” guys — Hulu + Live TV, DIRECTV STREAM, YouTube TV, and FuboTV — and then there are the lower-cost options — Sling TV, Philo, and Vidgo.
The first group all offer over 75 of what we usually call cable channels for at least $60/mo with some kind of DVR multi-screen viewing included and add-on options. They attract users based on variations of channel lineup and features.
The second group has to find a hook to provide to customers to make up for whatever it gave up to bring the price down, and for Sling TV, that’s customization.
YouTube TV takes basically the same approach cable companies do — assume you want the most channels and are willing to pay for them. Because you have options when it comes to streaming services, they have to keep their prices competitive, but that’s about it.
YouTube TV is a particularly egregious example of this. They started at $40/mo and have increased their channel selection, while substantially hiking their rates three times since then. On the other hand, YTTV does offer one of the most varied channel lineups as well as one of the best DVR plans.
Sling TV, the original live streaming TV service, has a completely different model. Sling gives you a smaller, much cheaper base package and lets you build your own plan based on the channels that you want.
This is great if you want a highly personalized, smaller channel lineup, or simply don’t want that many channels. But if you do watch a lot of channels — or your household does — it can end up costing even more than one of the bigger plans.
Sling is also one of only a handful of streaming services that offer decent-sized Spanish-language options. Sling Latino has six packages of its own, which you can get singly or combine with each other, or pair “The Best of Spanish TV” with base English packages Sling Blue or Orange for a custom bilingual package.
YouTube TV offers very little Spanish-language programming options.
There are a number of things that distinguish Sling TV and YouTube TV.
YouTube TV is, at $64.99 for its base package, on the pricier side of streaming services.
You can add on the Sports Plus package for $10.99/mo, which gives you NFL RedZone, beIn Sports, Fox Soccer Plus, GOL TV, Stadium, TVG, and 10 lesser sports channels.
Its premium channels all vary in price, from Law & Crime at $2/mo and CuriosityStream at $3/mo all the way up to HBO Max for $15/mo. The two sports passes, as you’d expect, are the most expensive: MLB.tv at $27/mo and NBA League Pass at $39.99/mo (more on those below).
You can add HBO Max, Starz, and Showtime as a bundle for $29.99/mo, saving $5 over getting them each separately. And you can upgrade your features with 4K Plus for $19.99/mo.
SlingTV, on the other hand, starts at $35/mo for either its Blue or Orange base package or $50/mo for both. Extras (add-on bundles of 5-10 channels) run $6/mo, except for AMC+ ($7/mo) and the Sports Extra ($11/mo). (Sports Extra is $15/mo if you have the Orange & Blue plan, but it comes with more channels.)
Sling usually cuts you a break on multiple Extras with offers like the 4 Extras package (Kids, News, Lifestyle, Comedy) for $13/mo (you’re basically getting two free). Or you can get the Total TV Deal which is all the Extras plus their upgraded DVR service for $21/mo ($27 if you order Orange & Blue).
Premiums start at $3/mo for CineMoi or ScreamFlix and go up to $10 for Showtime or BET+, with most being under $6. Sling Latino packages are $10 each, but if you get two or more, you get $5 off.
One limitation: Sling TV does not offer HBO Max, but you can, of course, get it independently.
Sling TV and YouTube TV both do a good job of keeping their channel selection well-rounded, with something for everyone.
Sling Orange has over 30 channels, Sling Blue over 40, and together (because they mostly overlap), over 50. Then there are over a hundred more channels spread out over its Extras and Premiums. And that’s not even counting their dozens of Latino and international channels.
YouTube TV has roughly 100 channels in its base plan, and more than 40 add-on channels. So it has a lot more channels in its base package, but, overall, it actually has fewer total channels available than Sling TV offers.
YouTube TV takes a similar approach to local network stations that the other biggies do. It offers ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, The CW, Telemundo, and Univision. It also includes PBS (it’s the only streaming service that does — perhaps because you can usually stream you local PBS affiliate for free in the PBS app).
Local channels are a big part of what drives up streaming cost. Of course, you could get all these channels for free with an antenna.
Sling Orange does not provide any local channels. The Blue package offers NBC and Fox in select locations (roughly 40% of US households). This is because Sling has a secret weapon: the digital antenna.
By hooking up an HD antenna through an AirTV device, you can view all your local channels in the Sling TV app. And to make this really easy, Sling has long offered an antenna and AirTV 2 (a $150 value) for $50, if you pay for 3 months of service upfront.
Sling’s clear message is that you shouldn’t pay for channels (in the form of inflated monthly subscription costs) that are literally called “free-to-air” — and to remind you that you don’t have to.
Sling TV has a solid lineup of general sports channels regardless what plan you choose. Both plans provide Stadium, TBS, TNT, and USA. Only the first is sports-only but the others all present a lot of must-see sports. And USA is going to air even more starting in 2022 as NBCSN is closed and much of its content moved there.
Sling Blue also offers Fox, NBC, Fox Sports 1 (FS1), and NFL Network. Sling Orange offers ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPN3 as well as MotorTrend, which covers some motorsports. Regardless of which plan you get, the Sports Extra add-on includes NBA TV, MLB Network, MBL Strike Zone, NHL Network, beIN Sports, Pac-12 Network, Tennis Channel. The package-specific channels in Sports Extra are:
- Big Ten Network
- Fox Sports 2 (FS2)
- Olympic Channel
YouTube TV also has a good general sports lineup — it has the same channels Sling Blue and Orange have, plus others like CBS Sports Network, NBA TV, and MLB Network. Its Sports Plus add-on gives you some more specialty cable channels, most important being NFL Redzone. And it has a small number RSNs.
YTTV has Sportsnet NY (Mets) and NBC Sports Regional channels (Washington, Boston, Chicago, California, Bay Area, Philadelphia). These stations carry the local pro baseball, basketball, hockey, and soccer games that the national networks don’t have access to.
Note that you have to live in these stations’ coverage areas. You might be a big Wizards fan but if you don’t live in the DC area, you will not be able to get NBC Sports Washington to watch them play.
RSNs are a major point of contention among TV providers and sports leagues, because a lot of TV providers — not just streaming ones — are getting rid of them due to rising costs. No one is safe, but Hulu + Live TV offers the exact same RSNs as YouTube TV. If you live in a different area you will have to look to FuboTV or more like DIRECTV STREAM to get coverage.
NBA League Pass
Fans of the NBA in general can sign up for the NBA League Pass on either Sling TV or YouTube TV. Sling has a cheaper, ad-supported pass for $29/mo that is restricted to one stream at a time or the NBA Team Pass for $18/mo.
YouTube TV has only the Premier League Pass, which is $39.99/mo but is ad-free and can be watched on two devices at once.
MLB.tv is a similar service provided by the MLB for baseball fans and available through YouTube TV but not Sling. Rates vary throughout the year. In the off-season, it’s $24.99/mo and you get access to Liga Dominicana (Dominican Republic baseball), documentaries, game archives, and live Spring Training.
Unfortunately, with either sports pass, you won’t be able to see the games of your home region on it (because they’re blacked out, which is why you need the regional sports networks). But if that’s not a big deal for you, it’s a great way to catch all the other games.
Sling TV is the only live TV streaming service to offer pay-per-view (PPV) events such as boxing, MMA, wrestling, and concerts. You can purchase events through your account or in the app (on some devices). A new PPV channel for the event will appear in your guide.
Two featured events from 2021 were the boxing matches Canelo vs Plant (Nov 6) Undisputed Super Middleweight World Championship and Davis vs Cruz (Dec 5) Lightweight World Championship.
While YouTube TV may have more channels in its base package, Sling has more — and more variety — available in its premiums. It’s true there’s a lot of overlap, but Sling has over 25 a la carte channels that YouTube TV doesn’t. This ranges from dogs, documentaries, and country music to horror movies, karaoke, and cooking.
YouTube TV does have HBO Max and Cinemax, while Sling does not. But they are both available as standalone subscriptions from HBO for the same price.
Sling TV vs YouTube TV Channels
Here’s a side-by-side comparison of all available channels with Sling TV and YouTube TV. Where you see a 💲 sign, it means that the channel is available as an add-on. 🟠 and 🔵 indicate that the channel is part of Sling TV’s orange, blue, or both plans.
|Sling TV||YouTube TV|
|BBC World News||💲||✔️|
|Big Ten Network||💲||✔️|
|Cartoon Network (Adult Swim)||🔵🟠||✔️|
|Fox Soccer Plus||❌||💲|
|Hallmark Movies & Mysteries||💲||✔️|
|Hallmark Movies Now||💲||💲|
|Heroes & Icons||💲||❌|
|IFC Films Unlimited||💲||💲|
|Investigation Discovery (ID)||🔵🟠||✔️|
|Law & Crime||💲||✔️|
|LiveNOW from Fox (free)||❌||✔️|
|MLB Strike Zone||💲||❌|
|Monsters & Nightmares||💲||❌|
|NBC News Now||❌||✔️|
|Outside TV Features||💲||💲|
|Qello Concerts by Stingray||💲||❌|
|Stadium College Sports||❌||💲|
|UP Faith & Family||💲||💲|
|World Fishing Network||💲||❌|
YouTube TV has a smooth, modern, intuitive interface. Not surprisingly, it is reminiscent of YouTube, and based around three sections (Home, Library, and Live). It is easy to use, but it’s nothing special (good or bad).
Sling TV overhauled its own interface in mid-2021. The horizontal menu bar across the top has been replaced with Netflix-style icons down the left side. They varied sizes on the thumbnails a bit, and now there’s a shortcut to record TV shows right in the Live grid.
Not all users were wowed, but the least popular change — getting rid of the “mini-guide” at the bottom that allowed viewers to surf channels while still watching the current program — was reversed within a couple of months.
The YouTube TV and Sling TV interfaces are both pretty typical of modern UIs aren’t aren’t likely to be deciding factors for anyone.
YouTube TV’s unlimited DVR storage is hard to beat (the only other service that has unlimited storage included is Philo). Recordings can be found in your Library section and are kept for up to 9 months.
You can skip ads while watching recording, but you can’t download them unless you upgrade to 4K Plus. If you record an episode of a series, all episodes (new and rerun) of that show will be automatically recorded.
For sports, you can designate teams, leagues, or game series (such as NBA Playoffs) to follow, and then you can find them all right there in your Library.
Sling TV comes with 50 hours of cloud DVR storage included, upgradable to 200 hours with DVR Plus for $5/mo. Recordings are kept indefinitely on active subscriptions unless you hit your storage limit, in which case they are deleted oldest first. Paused accounts keep their recordings for 30 days. DVR Plus subscribers can also mark recordings “protected” to prevent them from being automatically deleted.
You can record from any channel except digital networks, which are Local Now, ESPN3, ACC Network Extra, and SEC Network+.
YouTube TV lets you watch on up to 3 screens at a time. If you upgrade with the 4K Plus add-on, you get unlimited simultaneous streams (at least, as many as you have bandwidth for) at home and up to 3 on the go.
Sling Blue can stream up to 3 screens at a time, just like YouTube TV and most other streaming services. Sling Orange, on the other hand, can only stream on one device at a time, due to Sling Orange exclusives (Disney, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, Freeform, MotorTrend).
If you get the Orange & Blue plan, you can stream the Sling Blue channels on up to 4 devices at a time but are still limited to one with the Orange-only channels.
Streaming Device and Smart TV Support
Both Sling TV and YouTube TV support the most popular streaming apps:
- Amazon Fire TV
- Android Mobile
- Android TV
- Apple TV
- iOS devices
- LG Smart TVs
- Samsung Smart TVs
- Web Browsers
- Xbox gaming systems.
Sling TV also supports the following devices that YouTube TV does not:
- AirTV Players
- Amazon Fire Tablets
- Oculus Go
- Portal TV
- TiVo Stream
- Xfinity Flex.
And YouTube TV supports the following devices that Sling TV does not:
- Google Nest Hub
- Hisense Smart TVs
- PlayStation (PS4, PS5) game consoles
- Sharp Smart TVs
- Sony Smart TVs
- Vizio SmartCast TVs.
Which Is Best
YouTube TV is a good choice if you have a big family, or you’re in a roommate situation, or you just like your options when it comes to TV, and you have the budget to go for it. You can watch on up to three devices — unlimited if you fork over the extra $20 for the 4K Plus upgrade. And can create up to six profiles. With roughly 100 channels, there’s a little bit of everything and at least something for everyone.
The trade-off, of course, is that $64.99/mo price tag. Don’t get us wrong, you get a lot for that, but sometimes, like Fiona says in Shrek 2, “Thank you very much, Fairy Godmother, but I really don’t need all this.”
Sling TV is perfect for people who feel overwhelmed by the oversized TV packages and want to be able to fine-tune their channels. Or if you just want access to, for example, live ESPN or the NFL Network, Sling is the cheapest way to get it. It works fine for casual sports fans who like to watch a little bit of any sport but don’t follow any particular team very closely.
Just be aware that Sling’s a la carte structure can add up very quickly, which is why we advise YouTube TV or Hulu + Live TV for people who really do want a lot of channels.
But remember that you have options besides Sling and YouTube. Here are some of the other players in the field:
- FuboTV: Fubo was started by and for sports fans, but they’ve since expanded out to a full cable replacement service, though still one with a focus on sports. It offers more RSNs and more channels overall than YouTube TV. It’s especially good for fans of international sports — maybe even essential for soccer fans. Plans start at $64.99/mo after a 7-day free trial. See our FuboTV review for more information.
- Hulu + Live TV: Hulu + Live TV knows how to bring the added value, with its massive library of on-demand content. It pushes an otherwise similar-to-YouTube service above the cut. Plans start at $64.99/mo after a 7-day free trial. For details, see our Hulu + Live TV review.
- DIRECTV STREAM: The former AT&T TV features the highest prices on the live TV streaming block, it also has the biggest premium channel package and by far the most RSNs — more than a lot of cable TV services these days. It’s main downside is that its DVR comes with only 20 hours of storage, but you can increase this with an add-on. Plans start at $69.99/mo with a 14-day money-back guarantee. Our DIRECTV STREAM review provides all the details.
- Vidgo: Vidgo offers a weirdly eclectic focus on Spanish-language programming, conservative news, college sports, and family-friendly fare. If that’s your bag, plans start at $55/mo after a 7 day free trial. Get more information in our Vidgo review.
- Philo: Your only choice cheaper than Sling that has over 60 channels for just $25/mo. You just have to be ready to give up network channels (or get an antenna), sports, and (much) news. But hey, it has unlimited DVR! Try it out free for 7 days. You’ll find more information in our Philo review.
Remember that one of the best things about streaming versus cable is the options it gives cord-cutters. Sling TV was made to take advantage of those options. You have the ability to stop and start services and change around your service whenever you want. So if you like Sling’s variety but can’t decide which to get, you could switch your Extras out every month and have a brand new set of channels to explore.
Sling TV is just $10 for the first month ($20 if you go for Orange + Blue).
Or go with YouTube TV and revel in surfing roughly 100 channels. It offers a free trial, so you have very little to lose by giving them both a go.
Both of them are improvements over your cable bill!
Can I trust YouTube TV?
YouTube TV has over 3 million subscribers so we would normally think it could be trusted not to do anything too radical. But over the course of 2021, the company engaged in major battles with a number of companies including Roku, NBCUniversal, and most recently and significantly Disney.
From April to December, new YouTube TV subscribers couldn’t install the app on Roku devices. Similarly, in September, it looked like YouTube TV might lose access to NBCUniversal channels (NBC, Bravo, USA). That threat was avoided in early October when a deal was reached.
But in December, YouTube TV faced the same thing with Disney. And that time, a deal was not reached for a day and a half. YouTube TV lost access to 17 channels including ABC, Disney, ESPN, FX, National Geographic, and related ones.
This turned out to be a brief hiccup rather than a new strategy for YouTube TV. Regardless, it doesn’t speak well for the service. Subscribers rightly expected to be able to watch the 7 Bowl Games that aired December 18th and they were left hanging.
It is true that YouTube TV subscribers were warned. But just two months earlier, they were told the same thing about NBC channels, and a deal was made. It was hard to believe that the service would drop these essential channels.
This kind of chaos is bad for everyone. And subscribers are right to wonder what will come next.
What is the best streaming service to replace YouTube TV?
If you aren’t happy with YouTube TV, Sling TV is not the most obvious alternative. Hulu + Live TV is probably the most similar service to YouTube TV so it is definitely work looking into. If you are a serious sports fan, FuboTV may be a better option.