The battle of YouTube TV vs. Sling TV is one of the more prominent fights to replace the cable box. We rank both highly among the best cable TV alternatives, but each will attract a different audience. Unfortunately, YouTube TV is losing a major sports network. And some Sling TV subscribers will get ABC, and spend $5 more per month for it.
Sling TV and YouTube TV were my top two options when I cut the cord in 2021. That year, I had enough with cable's price and the slow-paced nature of using a cable box, and just left. That summer, I tried out all of the live TV services to see which was right for me, and I've come back now to re-test these services and see which is the best for most.
Interestingly, I came to a conclusion that goes against how I personally spend my money, and that shows how complicated the process is. The service that's best for the average person may not be what's right for you, too. Sling, for example, is the service that looks to replace cable with the most affordable price and a channel assortment that shows it. YouTube TV, however, offers more channels at a higher price
Putting these services against each other in seven rounds of competition for this YouTube TV vs. Sling TV comparison, I used both on two of the best streaming devices: the Apple TV 4K (2022) and the Fire TV Stick 4K.
YouTube TV vs. Sling TV: At a glance
|YouTube TV||Sling TV|
|Starting Price (per month) ||$65||$40 (Blue or Orange), $55 (Orange + Blue)|
|Channels (in entry-level package)||More than 100 plus YouTube Originals||31 (Orange), 41 (Blue). 47 (Orange + Blue)|
|Device Support||Smart TVs (Android TV, Hisense, LG, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, Vizio), Fire TV, Roku, Chromecast with Google TV, Apple TV, Xbox One and Series X|S, PS4 and PS5, Android, iPhones and iPads||Smart TVs (Android TV, LG, Samsung, Vizio), Fire TV, Roku, Chromecast with Google TV, Apple TV, Xbox, Android, iPhones and iPads, Xfinity, Google TV, Tivo Stream 4K, Windows, Cox|
|Simultaneous Streams||3 (Unlimited option available in $84.99 per month package)||1 (Orange), 3 (Blue), 4 (Orange + Blue)|
YouTube TV vs. Sling TV: Channels
YouTube TV is $25 to $10 more expensive than Sling TV, so we're not exactly shocked that YouTube TV delivers more channels. YouTube TV offers more than 100 channels, while Sling TV delivers either less than a third or less than half of that stack. Sling Orange gives you 31 channels, Sling Blue gives you 41 and Sling Orange + Blue gives 47.
Sling TV, fortunately, does have some of the channels you'll find in YouTube TV.
Looking at the top 25 most popular TV networks (opens in new tab), YouTube TV's big differentiators come out early, with the ABC and CBS broadcast networks. It also boasts Univision, Ion and Telemundo.
ABC is coming to many, but not all Sling users, though. Select markets will see Sling TV's Blue package get ABC and a $5 price hike, starting March 1.
To solve her current lack of ABC and CBS, my colleague Kelly Woo (a fellow Sling TV subscriber) uses the AirTV Anywhere device to bring in over-the-air broadcast channels. With that device, and the TV antenna that Sling bundles in with it, she can even record those over-the-air broadcasts, though she has to do so manually (finding each episodes in the grid).
YouTube TV isn't perfect, though, as it's lacking Lifetime, the History Channel (which Sling has), and the INSP network (though Sling subscribers need to pay $6 for the channel pack that adds it in).
Here's a breakdown of how many of the top 25 most popular channels are on YouTube TV and Sling TV. And for the totals at the bottom of the list, note that we count channels that are only in one of Sling Blue and Sling Orange, as well as those available in add-on packages, as worth a half-point.
|Channel||YouTube TV||Sling TV|
|3. ABC||Yes||In select markets|
|5. Fox News Channel||Yes||Yes (Sling Blue)|
|6. ESPN||Yes||Yes (Sling Orange)|
|8. MSNBC||Yes||Yes (Sling Blue)|
|10. Hallmark Channel||Yes||Lifestyle Extra (+$6 per month)|
|12. TLC||Yes||Yes (Sling Blue)|
|17. Discovery Channel||Yes||Yes (Sling Blue)|
|18. Food Network||Yes||Yes|
|19. INSP||No||Heartland Extra (+$6 per month)|
|20. USA Network||Yes||Yes (Sling Blue)|
|22. Me TV||No||No|
|23. Bravo||Yes||Yes (Sling Blue)|
|25. The CW||Yes||Yes|
In a bit of breaking news, YouTube TV is losing the MLB Network, which Sling subscribers can find in the $11 per month Sports Extra package.
Winner: YouTube TV, by a ton of channels
YouTube TV vs. Sling TV: Price
And this is when price-sensitive cord-cutters may go away from the larger channel assortment. Sling TV, with a $40 starting price, offers the much cheaper entry-point for live TV online. YouTube TV is notably pricier, as it starts at $65.
Sling's addition of ABC, in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose, though means Sling Blue and Sling Orange & Blue will go up by $5 per month, introducing new $45 and $60 price points.
Winner: Sling TV, letting you spend up to $25 less per month
YouTube TV vs. Sling TV: Value
This one is a little tricky, since the services' pricing and channels sets are so varied. So, let's start with how many channels each service's major packages give you per dollar spent (using 100 for YouTube TV's set, since they advertise "100+ channels).
Then, YouTube TV gives you around 1.5 channels per dollar spent, while Sling TV offers 0.8 channels per dollar (Orange), 1 channel per buck on Blue and 0.9 channels per dollar on Blue + Orange.
But, then, YouTube TV still gives you more DVR (but that's its own section, below) space, and 3 simultaneous streams (Sling TV only offers that for Blue or Orange + Blue).
Winner: YouTube TV with more channels per dollar
YouTube TV vs. Sling TV: Picture quality
Both YouTube TV and Sling TV normally stream as high as 1080p at 60fps, with much content (channel depending) at 720p or lower. Watching both channels on the Apple TV 4K and the Fire TV Stick 4K, I didn't see a difference in their feeds as I watched episodes of Friends, various live NFL and pro wrestling shows and the news.
YouTube TV offers some 4K quality in its $19.99 per month 4K Plus pack. It also adds unlimited simultaneous streams at home, and the ability to save DVR recordings to mobile devices for. Sling doesn't do 4K.
Winner: It's a tie
YouTube TV vs. Sling TV: Sports
Both YouTube TV and Sling TV let you watch national sports games live, and each offers some stats, but one team is superior here. Neither service is ideal for regional sports networks, and while YouTube TV has some, many if not most of those channels such as YES, NESN and the Bally Sports channels are on FuboTV or DirecTV Stream.
YouTube TV is one of the best streaming services for sports fans who are OK with just getting national broadcasts and the FOX and NBC NFL live streams. For starters, it will be the new home of NFL Sunday Ticket (which will also be sold ala carte), it also offers the NFL Network and NBA TV. Annoyingly, YouTube TV lost the MLB Network.
Of those, Sling carries the NFL Network in Sling Blue, while NBA TV and the MLB Network are in the $11 per month Sports Extra package.
YouTube TV also offers a ton of live stats mid-game, and surfaces the biggest moments in YouTube TV's Key Plays. It also offers scores from live games, which Sling TV also does.
Plus, since YouTube TV has ABC (which are only available to select Sling subscribers) and CBS (which Sling doesn't), it has access to some national and local sports events (such as NFL games) that Sling does not.
Winner: YouTube TV is more sports-focused
YouTube TV vs. Sling TV: DVR
Unlike what happened in our YouTube TV vs. Hulu + Live TV face-off, this section will not end in a tie. YouTube TV offers unlimited DVR recording space, with recording expiring after 9 months.
That's the best cloud DVR option in the game, while Sling TV offers the least of any competitor, with only 50 hours in its entry-level tier. As a paying Sling TV subscriber myself, I can attest that this is not enough. Though I'm too cheap to upgrade to a 200-hour cap for $5 per month.
Winner: YouTube TV, by a ratio of infinity:fifty.
YouTube TV vs. Sling TV: User experience
While this category is admittedly a little lopsided, there are arguable faults on both halves of the YouTube TV vs. Sling TV battle. YouTube TV, though, is (nearly) the picture-perfect experience of the post-cable world. First off, their 'player' — i.e. the interface used while watching shows — is snappy and responsive and organized. This app owes the original YouTube some love, as it's all visibly inherited.
On top of that, YouTube TV's interfaces are snappy and responsive.
In contrast, Sling ... just works. And I don't mean that in the way Steve Jobs did. Sling TV is a service that gets the job done. I have experienced some buffering and outage issues, but they were rare. For the most part, Sling TV isn't an impressive app the way YouTube TV is, but it's functional and affordable — which is what cord-cutters want. Coming to Sling TV from cable still feels like an upgrade.
My biggest gripe with the Sling TV service is how its DVR capabilities are implemented. When I turn on a show mid-way in, I can't just open that show from the Sling home screen — because it will dump me to the current and live moment. Without the option to rewind.
YouTube TV gives you the option to start from the beginning or go to the live moment. To go to the beginning of a currently-live show, Sling requires that you click over to its DVR section, and start the show there. It's not a whole lot of extra work, but it's friction that shouldn't be there. I believe Sling is working to fix this.
Winner: YouTube TV, which had a head-start with the YouTube app perfecting the streaming experience
YouTube TV vs. Sling TV: Verdict
This YouTube TV vs Sling TV face-off has focused on the large ways these services differ, but I know first-hand that this is a situation where one cord-cutter's No. 1 choice can be another's No. 2 — and vice-versa.
|Category||YouTube TV||Sling TV|
|Channels (25 points)||20||10|
|Price (25 points)||15||25|
|Value (15 points)||13||10|
|Sports (15 points)||13||7|
|User experience (10 points)||9||6|
|Picture Quality (5 points)||3||3|
|DVR (5 points)||5||1|
|Total (100 points)||78||62|
So, going just off those scores, you'd think I was a dyed-in-the-wool YouTube TV user. That couldn't be further from the truth. I've been a Sling TV subscriber ever since I cut the cord (though my sureness wavered for an hour during an outage).
I value price and a few select channels (AMC, my local Fox affiliate, TBS, TNT and USA) above all others. During F1 live stream season, I want ESPN. And since that's all I need, I am going to keep my Sling TV subscription. And if I needed CBS, I'd consider the AirTV that my colleague uses.
But Tom's Guide face-offs aren't about what the person writing the service uses. Instead, we're considering every single option you might need. If I were a huge sports fan, or someone who needed all of the channels, or someone who really valued a DVR, I'd go with YouTube TV.