Sling TV is America’s largest “skinny bundle” service. Analysts estimate as many as two million people subscribe to the live TV streaming service. One reason for Sling TV’s success is that it was the only game in town when it launched in 2015. Today, Sling TV competitors are popping up left and right.



Sling TV still has its strengths. However, you might be better off with another streaming service. Before you decide whether or not to go with Sling TV, here’s a quick look at Sling TV’s biggest competitors.

Sling TV

Sling TV
Source: Sling TV

Sling TV is actually a subsidiary of Dish Networks, the satellite TV company. Dish Network executives called Sling TV “a viable alternative for live television to the millennial audience” during its unveiling at CES 2015.



Sling TV went live with limited channel selection and support only for mobile and Roku devices. Since its debut, Sling TV added more channels and more devices.

Still, Sling TV hasn’t changed that much since its inception. This has let more services like Sling TV rise to challenge its market dominance.

Not-so a la carte

Sling TV’s advertising has an “a la carte” message that targets cord-cutters’ biggest desire. Nobody wants to pay for channels they never watch.



Though Sling TV’s “a la carte” marketing angle seems to have worked, Sling TV is not a true “a la carte” streaming TV service.

Plans and channels

Sling Orange Service
Source: Sling TV

What’s surprising about Sling TV’s success is how little choice the “a la carte” service’s subscribers have. You can’t pick-and-choose the channels you want to watch. Instead, you’re given a choice between two base plans.

  • Orange: 30 channels for $20 per month.
  • Blue: 45 channels for $25 per month.
  • Orange+Blue: 53 channels for $40 per month.

The way Sling TV splits channels between the Orange and Blue plans seems designed to nudge people into buying the more expensive Orange+Blue plan.



Extras are the only way to customize Sling TV. Thirty-four add-on subscription plans let you add channels based on interests or language. The Sports Extra, for example, adds another fourteen sports channels.

TV Everywhere eligibility is a small plus for Sling TV subscribers. Seventeen networks, including Syfy and the NFL Network, accept Sling TV login credentials. With TV Everywhere, you can unlock premium on-demand content and live streams on various websites and apps.

Features

Where Sling TV shines is in its strong support for the major streaming platforms. Sling TV has apps for nearly every platform except PlayStation.

  • Living room devices: Air TV Player, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast and Roku.
  • Smart TVs and Blu-ray players: Certain models from LeEco, LG, Samsung and ZTE.
  • Mobile devices and tablets: Amazon Fire tablets, Android and iOS.
  • Game consoles: Xbox One.
  • Desktop browsers: Chrome.

Sling TV is the only streaming service that makes you pay extra to unlock its DVR. For an additional $5 per month, you can record up to fifty hours of programming.

DirecTV Now

Source: DirecTV Now

Sling TV’s biggest competitor is DirecTV Now. Telecoms giant AT&T launched DirecTV Now in late 2016 to reach cord-cutters who won’t subscribe to its DirecTV satellite service or U-verse IPTV service.

One year after its launch, AT&T announced that DirecTV Now had surpassed one million subscribers. That success was due, in part, to its industry-leading lineup of more than 120 live TV channels and its catalog of 20,000 on-demand videos.

2018’s most-improved service?

DirecTV Now’s success masks some serious limitations. Because DirecTV Now is a relative newbie to the streaming business, its feature offering is half-baked. It does not have a cloud DVR yet and its device support is not best-in-class.

However, DirecTV Now’s features will improve this year when AT&T revamps its streaming TV platform. A new slate of features promise to make DirecTV Now more competitive with services like Sling TV.

  • A cloud DVR is in beta testing now.
  • On-demand will expand to 35,000 movies and TV episodes.
  • 4K channels will arrive later this year.

Plans and channels

DirecTV Now Review
Source: DirecTV Now

DirecTV Now may be a work in progress, but it still offers a huge value to cord-cutters. Its range of subscription plans meets most budgets and interests.

  • Live a Little: 60+ channels / $35 per month.
  • Just Right: 80+ channels / $50 per month.
  • Go Big: 100+ channels / $60 per month.
  • Gotta Have It: 120+ channels / $70 per month.

Though DirecTV Now’s cable-like subscription plans are easy to understand, lack of customizability means you will be paying for some channels you probably aren’t interested in.

Shortcode TV Subscription Desktop Directv black 700px

The sheer size of DirecTV Now’s channel lineup, however, means that you’re almost guaranteed to get the channels you want.

Another benefit: fifty-three networks treat DirecTV Now as a TV provider under the TV Everywhere program. The Olympic Channel, BBC America and Disney are just some of the networks that let DirecTV Now subscribers get exclusive content.

Features

In lieu of a cloud DVR option, DirecTV Now offers a “72 Hour Rewind” service. You get three days to watch a show or live event if you happened to miss its broadcast. Unfortunately, only forty of DirecTV Now’s 120 channels are compatible with 72 Hour Rewind.

While DirecTV Now supports the most popular set-top box and mobile platforms, the existing app lineup is somewhat limited compared to the competition.

  • Living room devices: Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast and Roku.
  • Smart TVs and Blu-ray players: None.
  • Mobile devices and tablets: Android and iOS.
  • Game consoles: None.
  • Desktop browsers: Chrome and Safari.

AT&T has not commented on support for additional platforms as part of its upgrade.

Versus Sling TV

DirecTV Now’s plans are not as tricky as Sling TV’s. Even with the basic Live a Little plan, you get more channels for less money than you do with Sling TV.

The upgrades AT&T plans to make to DirecTV Now in the coming months (4K, DVR, etc.) will make it even more competitive.

PlayStation Vue

PlayStation Vue has TLC
Source: PlayStation Vue

Sony offers another interesting Sling TV alternative. With PlayStation Vue, you get good support for local TV stations, competitive subscription plans and a solid set of features. Yet, industry analyst Ben Bajarin thinks PlayStation Vue has 670,000 subscribers — a third as much as Sling TV.

Gaming the system

Some blame Sony’s conservative executives for its lack of progress thus far. They essentially decided to launch PlayStation Vue with its hands tied behind its back.

Originally, PlayStation Vue was:

  • Priced more than twice as high as Sling TV.
  • Limited to New York, Chicago and Philadelphia.
  • Only worked on the PlayStation.

Sony spent the much of 2015 adding apps and markets one by one. PlayStation Vue waited until early 2016 to drop its prices. By then, the momentum was gone.

PlayStation Vue may also suffer from consumer confusion over the PlayStation branding. People who assume Vue only works with a PlayStation may never consider buying a subscription.

Plans and channels

Showtime on PlayStation Vue
Source: PlaysStation Vue

If you do take a closer look at PlayStation Vue, you will find that it does have a lot to offer.

  • Access: 45 channels for $39.99 per month.
  • Core: 60 channels for $44.99 per month.
  • Elite: 84 channels for $54.99 per month.
  • Ultra: 87 channels, including HBO and Showtime, for $74.99 per month.

PlayStation Vue’s lineup includes all of the national broadcast networks — with local stations in many markets. The $5 steps between each plan let you add more sports and entertainment options at affordable levels.

Related: CBS and PlayStation Vue Renew Partnership Ahead of March Madness

More than sixty networks accept PlayStation Vue as a TV provider. That includes ABC, FOX, and NBC as well as the NCAA March Madness Live app.

Features

PlayStation Vue shines when you look at the features that come standard with your subscription. The cloud DVR lets you record as many programs as you want and keep them for 28 days.

Sony’s support for streaming devices isn’t best-in-class, but it’s close. In particular, families will appreciate the five-device limit for simultaneous streaming.

  • Living room devices: Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast and Roku.
  • Smart TVs and Blu-ray players: Android TV-enabled devices.
  • Mobile devices and tablets: Android, Amazon Fire Tablets and iOS.
  • Game consoles: PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4.
  • Desktop browsers: Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Microsoft Edge.

PlayStation owners do get some perks that others don’t. The extra features include advanced search filters, sports content organized by league and multiview streaming.

Versus Sling TV

PlayStation Vue’s entry-level plan and Sling TV’s Orange+Blue plan have similar channel lineups and pricing. Sling TV includes more lifestyle and sports channels, but PlayStation Vue offers more news channels and a few more Disney options.

Sony sweetens the deal by offering a standard DVR and support for five devices at a time. Once you start adding more channels, PlayStation Vue offers a better overall value.

YouTube TV

YouTube TV
Source:YouTube TV

YouTube may not be a stranger to streaming video, but it is the newest Sling TV alternative in the industry. Since YouTube TV launched in the spring of 2017, CNBC reported, it has signed up 300,000 subscribers.

Searching for subscribers

One of the reasons for YouTube TV’s slow progress thus far was a decision to launch YouTube TV as a mobile-centric service. Originally, web browsers and mobile apps were the only way to watch YouTube TV.

The thing is, people don’t watch TV the same way they watch YouTube’s short-form videos. Most people — even Millennials — prefer watching TV on a television.

YouTube TV’s product managers finally admitted their initial mistake six months after the service launched. “Over half the time spent watching YouTube TV” they explained, “is consumed through Chromecast on the big screen.”

Plans and channels

Browsers on YouTube TV
Source: YouTube TV

YouTube TV takes a one-size-fits-all approach. Its single subscription plan costs $35 per month and includes up to fifty-three channels.

Lifestyle channels are notably absent from YouTube TV. You can’t watch the Food Network, HGTV or the Travel Channel. YouTube TV is a good option for the sports fan, however, thanks to its many national and regional sports channels.

YouTube TV’s strength is in support for local affiliates of the national networks. Most people that can get YouTube TV will find their local ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC stations.

YouTube TV’s help site says that YouTube TV credentials only work with “certain” TV Everywhere networks. Redditors have found twenty-three networks that accept YouTube TV credentials. AMC and various Disney channels are among the apps that work.

Features

YouTube TV has a strong set of standard features. The cloud DVR, for example, lets you record as much content as you want and keep it for nine months.

You can set your account with up to six profiles so each member of the household gets their own favorites, recommendations, and recorded programs.

Device support for YouTube TV remains relatively limited. YouTube recently added an app for Xbox One and most devices running the official Android TV platform. Availability of apps for Roku, PlayStation and the Apple TV remain uncertain.

  • Living room devices: Android TV (but not the Xiaomi Mi Box) and Chromecast.
  • Smart TVs and Blu-ray players: Certain models from LG and Samsung.
  • Mobile devices and tablets: Android and iOS.
  • Game consoles: Xbox One.
  • Desktop browsers: Chrome.

Versus Sling TV

The main difference between Sling TV and YouTube TV boils down to local TV affiliate availability. If you depend on local network affiliates for news and sports coverage, then YouTube TV is a better choice. Sling TV’s support for local stations is improving but YouTube TV has a wider network.

YouTube TV’s more sophisticated features are partially offset by Sling TV’s better support for streaming devices. Otherwise, the pricing and channel menus are very similar.

Hulu with Live TV

Hulu live tv
Source: Hulu

The biggest challenge to Sling TV’s dominance could come from on-demand service Hulu. It launched its own live TV service, Hulu with Live TV, in early 2017. The same CNBC report found that Hulu with Live TV signed up nearly half a million subscribers by the end of 2017.

Hulu with Live TV has an inherent advantage over its competitors — the more than seventeen million subscribers to Hulu’s on-demand service. Because Hulu’s on-demand app can also deliver live streams, becoming a Hulu with Live TV customer is very easy if you already subscribe to Hulu on-demand.

Whether Hulu can keep growing, however, depends on how it gets treated by a certain mouse.

Mickey Mouse problems

Hulu began as a joint venture between ABC, NBC and FOX. Each network owned a thirty-percent stake with the remainder going to smaller media companies.

In mid-December Disney acquired most of Fox’s entertainment assets, including movie studios, TV channels… and FOX’s thirty-percent stake in Hulu.

Disney executives have not said what they plan to do now that Disney controls Hulu. Hulu could remain an independent streaming service. Or, Hulu could get absorbed into Disney’s plans for a stand-alone streaming service.

Plans and channels

Hulu TV live TV on Apple TV
Source: Apple

Hulu with Live TV has a single $39.99 monthly subscription. Among the more than sixty channels you’ll find local TV stations as well as ESPN, Food Network, Bravo and Disney Junior.

Related: Hulu Live TV Now Covering Half of U.S. With Local TV Options

Hulu’s biggest strength is its massive on-demand library. On any given day, you can stream more than 75,000 episodes from the Hulu library. An extra $4 per month will even remove the ads from on-demand videos. However, the “ad free” add-on only removes embedded ads. It doesn’t remove live ads from live TV streams.

Thirty-three networks accept Hulu with Live TV through the TV Everywhere system. Participating networks include NBC Sports, Fox Sports and ESPN.

Features

The baseline Hulu with Live TV subscription comes with fifty hours of cloud DVR recording space. You can create up to six profiles, but only two devices can stream at the same time.

A $14.99 add-on lets you upgrade your DVR. Enhanced DVR increases the storage to two hundred hours and lets you fast forward through recorded ads.

Another $14.99 monthly fee lets you stream to an unlimited number of devices on your home network and up to three devices away from home.

Versus Sling TV

For the same price as Sling TV’s Orange+Blue plan, Hulu with Live TV gives you a similar channel lineup and a standard cloud DVR. You also get access to Hulu’s industry-leading library of on-demand content.

Beyond adding premium movie channels, however, you can’t customize Hulu with Live TV’s channel lineup. Sling TV offers more add-on packs and customization options.

A Cloudy Streaming Future

Philo
Source: Philo

Streaming services like Sling TV face a turbulent 2018. We’ve already seen how Disney’s purchase of Fox could destabilize Hulu with Live TV. In addition, competition is heating up. A host of new streaming services launched last year or are in the works for this year.

  • Philo offers a sports-free plan for only $16.
  • Comcast/Xfinity and other cable companies are launching their own services.
  • Geek-centric VRV and other niche players offer unique content

For right now, it’s a great time to be a cord-cutter. If you’ve been a long-time Sling TV subscriber, it might be the right time to check out the Sling TV alternatives mentioned above.