Sling TV is the third most popular streaming TV service in the U.S., with about 2.3 million subscribers at the end of 2022. That number hasn’t fluctuated much for a number of years, but we do see thousands come and go as numbers are announced every three months.
Nonetheless, it’s worth asking what else is out there. What are the best alternatives to Sling TV?
We’ll get to all that. But first it must be noted that none of the other services do things the same way as Sling. Most have just a single plan with a single slate of channels, and none offers the sort of “skinny bundle” that you’ll find on Sling TV, which increased prices in 2022. It’s still a service that has a lot of the channels you’ll want for less money, even if the total number of channels isn’t as large as other options.
Let’s take a look at what else is available.
- The Good: More than 100 channels with a simple interface, free recording, and up to six profiles on a single account. Available on every platform. Lots of optional add-ons. Includes all your local broadcast channels.
- The Less-Good: If you want anything in 4K, you’ll have to pony up another $10 per month.
- The Plans: As of March 2023, the sold plan is $73 a month (plus tax).
Google-owned YouTube TV is the biggest live service in the U.S., with more than 5 million subscribers, and there’s good reason for that. Several, really. First and most important is that its single plan has more than 100 channels, and they’re competitive with every other service out there. Then there’s the fact that it’s just easy to use. The channel guide is simple, recommendations tend to be relevant (as you’d expect from Google), and the unlimited recording is a breeze. You’ll also get your local broadcast affiliates — including those that Sling TV lacks.
If you set up a family group with Google, you’re able to have as many as six profiles attached to a single YouTube TV subscription. That ensures everyone has their own recordings and recommendations — and it’s a lifesaver if you have kids.
Then there’s the ability to watch things in 4K. And by “things,” we mean some live sports — including the entire 2022 World Cup — as well as some on-demand shows and networks. It’ll cost you, though, but the price is much more palatable now that it’s down to $10 a month, and just $5 a month for the first year. The YouTube TV 4K Plus add-on is free for the first month, $10 a month after that, and then $20 a month after the first year. We’d really love to see that cost come down, and it’s really only worth it if you really want to watch some live sports in the best quality possible. (But once you see a game in 4K, there may be no going back.)
There’s an argument to be made that YouTube TV is the best livestreaming service. There’s also an argument for our next entry.
- The Good: A competitive slate of channels. plus you get ESPN+, Disney+, and the full Hulu on-demand along with it.
- The Less-Good: The user interface is just OK. May be missing your local broadcast affiliates.
- The Plans: $70 a month (remember that you get the full Disney Bundle for that price). You can get rid of ads on the on-demand Hulu and Disney+ content if you pay $83 a month.
Hulu With Live TV is the second-most popular streaming service at 4.5 million subscribers. That’s thanks to a really good slate of channels — but also because a subscription actually gets you the full Disney Bundle. That’s Hulu With Live TV, Hulu’s on-demand library, ESPN+, and Disney+, all for close to the same price as any other livestreaming service. That’s tough to beat.
What might give you pause is the list of channels. Check out our full look at Hulu With Live TV versus YouTube TV for more, but there’s some disparity between the two services in that regard. You’re looking at a lot of linear channels, including your local broadcast affiliates.
Hulu With Live TV isn’t quite as easy to use as YouTube TV, however, but it’s still really good.
- The Good: A competitive slate of channels at a competitive price, with lots of add-ons, particularly for sports. There are also some live sports in 4K, at no extra charge.
- The Less-Good: Its prices went up in early 2023. Also not as easy to use as other options, and recordings are capped at 1,000 hours (which is still a lot).
- The Plans: Starts at $75 a month for 150 channels; $95 a month gets you 272 channels, plus Showtime and more.
FuboTV is fourth in line in terms of livestreaming services, with 1.45 million subscribers as of the end of 2022. It leans heavily on live sports, so much so that it also was trying to get into the sports betting business, launching Fubo Gaming in two states. That venture was shut down in October 2022, however.
FuboTV also has a robust channel listing, starting at 150 channels for $75 a month. (That price went up in early 2023, but so did the number of channels.) You can nearly double the number of channels for $95 a month — and that’s all before you take a look at the various optional add-ons, which include some international sports that otherwise may be hard to find.
And FuboTV also still shows some live events in 4K resolution — from Fox, mostly. And while it’s no longer the only way to get live sports in 4K — it was, for a while, the sole source — it’s a great option to have, especially given that FuboTV doesn’t charge extra for the privilege.
The only real downsides here are the prices on the upper end. But it remains a strong option and one you should take a look at.
- The Good: Several plans with lots of channels from which to choose.
- The Less-Good: Having changed hands (and names) several times didn’t help its subscriber numbers any, and you get fewer channels for your money.
- The Plans: $75 for 75-plus channels; $100 for 105-plus channels; $110 for 140-plus channels; $155 for 150-plus channels (with discounts on the first five months).
DirecTV Stream has had a weird history. We once knew it as DirecTV Now, and later as AT&T TV. Now it’s a standalone company and lives as DirecTV Stream. The new company doesn’t give subscription numbers, but AT&T last reported about 656,000 subs as of the end of 2020 — and that was part of a downward trend.
It’s not that there’s anything inherently wrong with DirecTV Stream. It has a good slate of channels and four plans from which to choose. It has the options and add-ons you’d expect.
But it’s also more expensive on a per-channel basis. You’ll get a small price break on the first five months for all but the cheapest plan, but after that, you’re paying more than any of the other options, and that’s going to make it less palatable for many. At least there’s a free trial, so you can take things for a test drive.
- The Good: The least expensive option. Unlimited recording.
- The Less-Good: No local broadcast affiliates.
- The Plans: One single plan at $25 a month.
If you’re the sort who doesn’t tend to channel-hop and has some specific things you like to watch on specific channels, definitely take a look at Philo because it only costs $25 a month. And if all you watch is part of its 70-plus-channel lineup, you can save yourself a good bit of cash here.
The biggest downside is that the channel lineup is fairly limited. There’s no ESPN, for example. And no cable news (that’s maybe not a bad thing). Also, there are no local broadcast affiliates — so you’ll almost certainly want to rig up an over-the-air antenna to take care of it.
But again, if what you watch is on one of its channels. you can’t beat $25 a month.
And then there’s Sling Freestream. It’s what’s known as a FAST service — that’s short for free ad-supported television. It doesn’t require a subscription, and everything is free to watch. (Thus the name.) You’ll just have to sit through some ads.
Freestream gets you more than 335 channels with more than 40,000 movies and shows, all available from within the existing Sling app.
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