YouTube TV vs. Sling TV: Which live TV streaming service is best for you?

YouTube TV vs. Sling TV: Which live TV streaming service is best for you?

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So you have Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney Plus but you want to bolster your binge-watching sessions with actual live TV channels such as ESPN, TNT and CNN. Or maybe you’ve decided it’s time to cut the cable TV cord to save money and hassle, but you don’t want to lose live news and sports. In both cases Sling TV and YouTube TV are your best bets. We’ve tested all seven of the major live TV-streaming services and those two came out on top. Both won CNET’s Editors’ Choice award and both do largely the same thing: stream a bunch of channels live to your Roku, Amazon Fire TV or Apple TV streamer or smart TV so you can ditch the cable box once and for all. So how do you choose between them?

If money isn’t a concern then YouTube TV is best choice, with more channels and an excellent cloud DVR. Unfortunately it costs $50 per month. Budget-level Sling TV is the superior value at just $30 per month, with roughly half as many channels and just a basic cloud DVR. Here’s how they stack up.

Read: Best internet providers in 2019: How to choose cable vs. DSL vs. satellite and more  

Sarah Tew/CNET

With an excellent channel selection, easy-to-use interface and best-in-class cloud DVR YouTube TV is the service to pick if you want a cable TV replacement. It may not have every channel you want, and some add-ons like HBO aren’t available, but nonetheless it’s the current gold standard of live TV streaming.

Read our YouTube TV review.

Read more: Best TV antenna for cord-cutters in 2020, starting at only $10

Sarah Tew/CNET

If you want to save a little money, and don’t mind missing out on local channels, then Sling TV — in particular the Sling Blue package — is the best of the budget services. It’s not as comprehensive or as easy to navigate as YouTube but with a bit of work, including adding an antenna or an AirTV 2 DVR, it’s an unbeatable value.

Read our Sling TV review.

Sling TV and YouTube TV compared

Sling Orange ($30) Sling Blue ($30) Sling Orange & Blue ($45) YouTube TV ($50)
See at Sling See at Sling See at Sling See at YouTube TV
Number of popular channels (out of 100) 24 39 43 67
Locals included No NBC and Fox in select cities NBC and Fox in select cities ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and PBS in most markets
Simultaneous streams 1 3 up to 4 3
Cloud DVR included 10 hours ($5 for 50 hours) 10 hours ($5 for 50 hours) 10 hours ($5 for 50 hours) Yes (unlimited)

Cost: Sling is cheaper and has more options


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Sling TV: Sling offers three different tiers of plans: Blue ($30), Orange ($30) and Orange & Blue ($45) with a mix of channels available. Signing up for the basic Sling TV is cheap but the costs pile up once you start adding channels or features. It costs an extra $5 a month for a DVR, for example, or $5 to add packages such as Comedy, Sports and Kids, which include extra channels such as TV Land, NBA TV and Disney Junior, respectively.

It’s worth noting that Sling TV is currently offering discounts for the first month: Blue or Orange for $5, or you can get Orange & Blue for $20.   

YouTube TV: YouTube TV costs $50 and doesn’t offer any add-on channel packages, although it does have a handful of single-channel add-ons including Showtime and EPIX. This one-price approach mitigates the paralysis of choice a little bit. 

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YouTube TV’s desktop interface.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Channels: YouTube wins hands-down

YouTube TV offers almost twice the number of channels of Sling Blue, in addition to the major local channels (including PBS) in most markets.

Sling TV offers few to no local channels, depending on your package and where you live. Sling Blue offers Fox and NBC in a handful of major markets but the Orange package has none. Why get Orange at all? If you want ESPN. But if you want a few more channels (and live in the right market for the local channels) then Blue might be more enticing. 

Sling’s $40 Orange & Blue package combines the two packages but as it only adds four more channels out of the 100 most popular (including ESPN and Disney) it represents fairly poor value. Get YouTube TV instead.

You can check see how the YouTube TV and Sling differ in their channel lineups in this handy chart, or just scroll to the end of this article, but here’s a quick summary of the main missing channels:

  • Major channels missing from Sling Orange: ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, Bravo, Animal Planet, Fox News, FS1, FX, MLB Network, MSNBC, Nickelodeon, USA Network
  • Major channels missing from Sling Blue: ABC, CBS, Animal Planet, Disney Channel, ESPN, Fox News, MLB Network, Nickelodeon
  • Major channels missing from YouTube TV: A&E, Comedy Central, History, Lifetime, Nickelodeon
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The Sling TV live guide is pretty uninspiring.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Usability: Pretty much a tie

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The YouTube TV interface on Roku.


Sarah Tew/CNET

The menus and interfaces on both are relatively drab, especially in the Roku versions.

YouTube TV: In general the YouTube TV interface is easier to use, and not just to people used to using regular YouTube. If you’re using the desktop or app versions, Google’s streamer offers a more streamlined structure that’s also nicer on the eye. 

Sling TV: While Sling has shaved down the number of button presses needed to watch a live show from the guide — three down to two — it’s still more than YouTube TV’s one. 

The difference in number of simultaneous streams is worth noting, especially for families and other households who watch a lot of TV. YouTube TV lets you stream to three different devices — say the living room TV, a bedroom TV and a tablet — at the same time. So does Sling TV Blue. But with Sling TV Orange you can only watch one stream at a time. Trading up to Sling TV’s Orange & Blue package delivers up to four streams at once, but only one of them can be from an Orange-only channel. You still can’t watch ESPN on two separate TVs simultaneously, for example.

YouTube TV’s biggest usability advantage is its excellent cloud DVR. It’s included in the cost, offers unlimited storage and works great, much like the hardware DVR inside your cable box. Sling TV also offers a cloud DVR but it only has 10 hours of storage; upping that to 50 hours (and adding the ability to “protect” recordings from erasure) costs an extra $5 per month. 

Read more: Best streaming device of 2020: Roku, Apple TV, Fire Stick, Chromecast and more

Which service is best for you?

The costs of both services are relatively affordable, especially compared to many cable TV packages — although at $50 YouTube TV is inching closer to cable bundle territory, albeit without any contracts. If you want to save the most money, Sling TV offers a compelling mix of cable-only programming. However, if you want a cable TV-like experience with greater channel selection, local channels and the addition of a DVR, YouTube TV is worth the additional $20 per month.

Channel comparison

Below you’ll find a chart that’s a smaller version of this massive channel comparison. It contains the top 100 channels from each service. Some notes:

  • Yes = The channel is available on the cheapest pricing tier. That price is listed next to the service’s name.
  • No = The channel isn’t available at all on that service. 
  • $ = The channel is available for an extra fee, either a la carte or as part of a more expensive package or add-on.
  • Not every channel a service carries is listed, just the “top 100” as determined by CNET’s editors. Minor channels like AXS TV, CNBC World, Discovery Life, GSN, POP and Universal Kids didn’t make the cut.
  • Regional sports networks — channels devoted to showing regular-season games of particular pro baseball, basketball and hockey teams — are not listed. In general YouTube TV has more RSNs but it varies widely by area. To find out if your local RSN is available you can search YouTube TV by zip code here and search Sling TV by team or zip code here.

Sling TV vs. YouTube TV: Top 100 channels compared

Channel Sling Orange ($30) Sling Blue ($30) YouTube TV ($50)
Total channels: 24 39 67
ABC No No Yes
CBS No No Yes
Fox No Yes Yes
NBC No Yes Yes
PBS No No Yes
CW No No Yes
MyNetworkTV No No Yes
Channel Sling Orange ($30) Sling Blue ($30) YouTube TV ($50)
A&E Yes Yes No
ACC Network $ No Yes
AMC Yes Yes Yes
Animal Planet No No Yes
BBC America Yes Yes Yes
BBC World News $ $ Yes
BET $ Yes No
Big Ten Network No No Yes
Bloomberg TV Yes Yes No
Boomerang $ $ No
Bravo No Yes Yes
Channel Sling Orange ($30) Sling Blue ($30) YouTube TV ($50)
Cartoon Network Yes Yes Yes
CBS Sports Network No No Yes
Cheddar Yes Yes Yes
Cinemax No No No
CMT $ $ No
CNBC No $ Yes
CNN Yes Yes Yes
Comedy Central Yes Yes No
Cooking Channel $ $ No
Destination America $ $ No
Discovery Channel No Yes Yes
Disney Channel Yes No Yes
Disney Junior $ No Yes
Disney XD $ No Yes
DIY $ $ No
E! No Yes Yes
EPIX $ $ $
ESPN Yes No Yes
ESPN 2 Yes No Yes
ESPNEWS $ No Yes
ESPNU $ No Yes
Channel Sling Orange ($30) Sling Blue ($30) YouTube TV ($50)
Food Network Yes Yes Yes
Fox Business No $ Yes
Fox News No Yes Yes
Fox Sports 1 No Yes Yes
Fox Sports 2 No $ Yes
Freeform Yes No Yes
FX No Yes Yes
FX Movies No $ Yes
FXX No $ Yes
FYI $ $ No
Golf Channel No $ Yes
Hallmark $ $ No
HBO No No No
HGTV Yes Yes Yes
History Yes Yes No
HLN $ Yes Yes
IFC Yes Yes Yes
Investigation Discovery Yes Yes Yes
Lifetime Yes Yes No
Lifetime Movie Network $ $ No
Channel Sling Orange ($30) Sling Blue ($30) YouTube TV ($50)
MLB Network $ $ Yes
Motor Trend Yes No Yes
MSNBC No Yes Yes
MTV $ $ No
MTV2 $ $ No
National Geographic No Yes Yes
Nat Geo Wild No $ Yes
NBA TV $ $ Yes
NBC Sports Network No Yes Yes
Newsy Yes Yes Yes
NFL Network No Yes No
NFL Red Zone No $ No
NHL Network $ $ No
Nickelodeon No No No
Nick Jr. $ Yes No
Nicktoons $ $ No
OWN No No Yes
Oxygen No $ Yes
Paramount Network $ Yes No
Channel Sling Orange ($30) Sling Blue ($30) YouTube TV ($50)
Science $ $ No
SEC Network $ No Yes
Showtime $ $ $
Smithsonian No No Yes
Starz $ $ $
Sundance TV $ $ Yes
Syfy No Yes Yes
Tastemade No No Yes
TBS Yes Yes Yes
TCM $ $ Yes
Telemundo No No Yes
Tennis Channel $ $ Yes
TLC No Yes Yes
TNT Yes Yes Yes
Travel Channel Yes Yes Yes
TruTV $ Yes Yes
TV Land $ $ No
Univision No No No
USA Network No Yes Yes
VH1 $ $ No
Viceland Yes Yes No
WE tv $ $ Yes
Channel Sling Orange ($30) Sling Blue ($30) YouTube TV ($50)

Source: Cnet News
Keyword: YouTube TV vs. Sling TV: Which live TV streaming service is best for you?

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