I'm thinking about canceling Sling TV — here's why

A coaxial cord being cut in front of the YouTube TV and Sling TV logos
(Image credit: Henry T. Casey/Shutterstock)

I hoped this day would never happen: I'm wondering if I should swap out Sling TV for YouTube TV, I spent so much time testing cord-cutter services in 2021, with a measure twice (well, test all the options) and cut (the cord) once strategy that I thought would keep me satisfied.

But then I was watching my favorite TV show last week, and I was annoyed by what I saw. Sling, you see, throughout a two-hour period, kept looking a little shy on clarity. And then there's the matter of wanting to watch the ABC series that is the best new sitcom live with the rest of the world (when Sling doesn't have ABC).

Fortunately, as I'll explain below, YouTube TV is right there as another high-scoring service in our best cable TV alternatives list. One that I think would treat me better in this aspect. The only problem? The price.

Sling's pixely problem

This all started when I sat down for a wrestling match I was highly anticipating. Bryan Danielson "The American Dragon" vs Lee Moriarty was a dream match, with the former being the best in the world and the latter being an ascending rookie with tons of skill and potential.

But moments after the match began, well, look at this photo I shot of my TV. 

A pixelated stream of Bryan Danielson and Lee Moriarty from AEW Dynamite

(Image credit: Future)

To put it politely, Danielson and Moriarty looked like I was watching them through a glitchy filter. (To put it impolitely, as Twitter user @Image987 did, "That looks like you are watching on a Sega Saturn circa 1996.") The quality of the stream of the episode shifted back and forth between this pixely nonsense to something crisp so often that I couldn't help but get distracted by it.

So, I tweeted about it, to see if anyone else was having this issue. The replies were mixed at best. My friend Tom said "It’s great for me on Sling," before noting that it "was much worse last week." And this is not what I wanted to hear, that inconsistency was such an issue. 

I wasn't the only one having this issue, as Twitter user @NienaberArtier said "I'm having the same issues tonight, plus buffers as well that I normally don't have. Even hopped over to the xbox which is hard wired and getting the same thing."

So, Sling: if you keep delivering rocky and choppy streams, I can take my money across the road.

And shortly after I saw that reply, the buffering issue came for me too — for the first time since I signed up for Sling TV. This was an issue I had with Hulu with Live TV, and something I thought I wouldn't suffer on Sling. I tested Hulu with Live TV, and eliminated it from contention, for a reason.

Looking back at my story about testing YouTube TV, I can't find any complaints about buffering time, either.

Sling's delay problem

The other reason, and it's kind of a nitpicky one, I want to leave Sling TV is that I'm kind of getting tired of how it's behind the actual live streams that cable and YouTube TV get. This is only really a problem for social media addicts (whom I count myself among) and gamblers (which I do not).

As I found in my testing, Sling TV was up to 70 seconds behind live TV on cable, while YouTube TV had a much smaller 20 to 30-second delay. This is something I rarely complain about, until someone else tweets about something that hasn't happened yet on the show I'm watching.

If this were fixed? Well, I'd be less interested in leaving.

The pros and cons of YouTube TV

So, let's talk about YouTube TV. In addition to being better on "live" streams of TV, and not having image quality issues, YouTube TV beats Sling handily on broadcast TV channels. This wasn't a big deal for me, as having NBC (for random interesting SNL hosts) and Fox (for Bob's Burgers) was enough. I didn't need CBS, nor did I need ABC.

But then I discovered Abbott Elementary, which airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on ABC. I was able to watch my favorite new sitcom in years because it re-airs on Hulu ($6.99 per month), but while that's OK for catching up on the show, I'd like to watch it live. Not only is there the whole fun of watching a show together with others online (which the Euphoria season 2 finale will undoubtedly have), but if I watch Abbott Elementary live, that's me doing my part to help it get picked up for season 2 (Hulu viewers probably help, but live audiences are always more valued).

Side note: for more TV recommendations, check out our guide to the 11 new movies and shows to watch in March 2022. We've also got all the details on how to watch The Dropout online.

YouTube TV open to the channel grid overlaid over a basketball game

(Image credit: Future)

But, of course, I'm not ready to pull the trigger yet. That's because of YouTube TV's biggest con in comparison to Sling TV: price. YouTube TV is $65 per month, $30 more than I spend on Sling TV ($35 per month for Sling Blue). That's $30, maybe even more if there's a good Sling TV promo code, that I could be spending anywhere else - including on other streaming services. But since Sling TV is almost similar enough to YouTube TV, it really needs to get its quality control together on feeds.

So, Sling: if you keep delivering rocky and choppy streams, I can take my money across the road. I won't love to spend more, but what's the point of spending money on something that you can't even see clearly. I'll be back later to let y'all know what decision I make.

In other streaming news, this new Netflix movie just ended The Tinder Swindler's run at the top of the charts.

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.

  • shpuck
    This article is an accurate description of the struggle to choose.
    The value with Sling was much higher due to the lower cost, and I was nervous when we left Sling to sign up with YouTube TV. The main driver was the the loss of RSN in the Bay Area, but we have the benefit of saving $10 on YouTube TV due to being T-Mobile subscribers. All told, we are paying $8 more than we were paying with Sling Blue and the sports package, and am only missing NHL network. This is made up with ABC and CBS programming and RSNs.
  • CoffeeDawg
    I left Sling TV a while back for YouTube TV. I had numerous problems with their DVR. It was so unreliable that I couldn't use it. It would occasionally just stop recording a show. Other times what showed up as a recording would not play. It was impossible to tell which of the recordings were new or had been watched without starting one. So deleting the old ones to free up the limited space was difficult and dicey. They may have addressed some or all of these by now, but the commitment to quality (or lack thereof) was evident.

    YouTube TV is pricey, but the way they've implemented the DVR is excellent.
  • Oldsnwbrdr
    Well, as a YouTube tv user on firestick I can tell you its likely no more reliable than Sling. Some days are ok, some days I’m faced with constant buffering that can only be resolved by restarting the firestick. I have three and it happens on all of them. YouTube has known about the issue since early January and say their engineers are working on a fix. Whatever.
  • RobynS
    I have several subscriptions and the other day, I was having trouble with buffering and pixelating with several of them (Hulu, Discovery+, Philo). I instantly wondered if it was a result of Russian hacking!
  • txtude
    admin said:
    Quality control issues have me concerned about Sling TV — here's what's making me consider going to YouTube TV.

    I'm thinking about canceling Sling TV — here's why : Read more
    I would like to know if you find anything comparable to Sling. I have sent sooooo many "feedbacks" to them on how bad it is now and if there's a way to go back to the old version. I have all the same issues you do, I watch it on my laptop. The DVR works sometimes....the back up forward and mute buttons half the time can be found. I use to be able to at least use my keyboard for it and now if you watch it more than 30 min non of that works. I have to log out and back in. That's on DVR shows already recorded and on something you are watching live. They never respond to any of the feedback issues, not even a thank you. I'm just ready to cancel it because it's becoming a pain in the a$s. The volume is also lower now than it was before.