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Sling TV versus YouTube TV

Sling TV guide on an iPhone.
The Sling TV guide as seen on an iPhone. Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

YouTube TV is the most popular live-streaming service in the U.S., with more than 8 million subscribers. Sling TV has about one-quarter of that. But it’s still worth looking at the latter against the former because it does things a little differently.

Whereas YouTube TV has a single plan with a bunch of channels, Sling TV allows for a little more customization and has a lower starting price. And because the really important thing when choosing a streaming provider is whether it has the channels you want at a price you’re willing to pay, it’s possible that Sling TV may well be the right choice for you, but  you’ll need to do a little homework here.

So let’s take a look at Sling TV versus YouTube TV.

Plans and price

Sling TV and YouTube TV do things very differently. YouTube TV has a single plan with more than 115 channels for a single price of about $73 a month. (Before tax.) OK, it has two plans — there’s also “The Spanish Plan,” which gets you a few dozen Spanish channels and nothing else.

Sling TV has two base options — Sling Orange and Sling Blue. They share some 26 channels in common. Sling Blue has an additional 14 channels that can be streamed on up to three devices at once, and Sling Orange has another half-dozen channels that are limited to a single device at a time. Sling Orange and Sling Blue cost $40 a month each (you can get them for half-off the first month), or you can just go ahead and get both for $55. But either way, you’re starting with less than half the YouTube TV channels at about a 28% discount.

And that’s before you get to sweeteners. YouTube TV has unlimited recording. Sling TV starts at 50 hours of recording for free. Want more? That’ll be another $5 a month for 200 hours. YouTube TV also allows up to six custom profiles (tied to their own Google accounts, of course) for free, each with its own recordings and recommendations.

Channels

As for the exact channel breakdowns, we’ve got you covered. Just be aware that these are subject to change at any time.

Sling TV channels

Channels exclusive to Sling Orange: Disney Channel, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, FreeForm, and Motor Trend.

Channels exclusive to Sling Blue: Bravo, Discovery Channel, E!, FS1, FX, Fox News, HLN, MSNBC, NFL Network, National Geographic, SYFY, TLC, USA, and TruTV.

The following channels are available on either track: A&E, AMC, AXS TV, BBC America, BET, Bloomberg, Charge!, CNN, Cartoon Network, Comedy Central, Comet, Food Network, Fuse, HGTV, History Channel, IFC, Investigation Discovery, Lifetime, Local Now, MGM+ Drive-In, Nick Jr., QVC, TBS, TNT, Travel Channel, and Vice.

The YouTube TV live guide.
The YouTube TV guide as seen on a television. Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

YouTube TV channels

The following are available to all YouTube TV subscribers:

ABC, ABC News Live, ACC Network, All Reality WE TV, AMC, Animal Planet, BBC America, BBC News, BET, BET Her, Big 10 Network, Bounce, Bravo, Cartoon Network, CBS, CBS Sports Network, CHARGE!, Cheddar, CMT, CNBC, CNN, Comedy Central, Comedy.TV, Comet TV, Court TV, Cozi, CW.

Dibl, Discovery Channel, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD, E!, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNews, ESPNU, Food Network, Fox, Fox Business, Fox News, Fox Soul, Fox Weather, Freeform, FS1, FS2, FX, FXM, FXX, Galavision, Game Show Network, GET, Golf Channel, Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Family, Hallmark Mystery, HGTV, HLN, HSN.

IFC, Investigation Discovery, ION, JusticeCentral.tv, LiveNOW, Local Now, Magnolia Network, MotorTrend, MSNBC, MTV, MTV Classic, MTV2, Nat Geo, Nat Geo Wild, NBA TV, NBC, NBC LX, NBC News Now, NewsNation, NFL Network, Nick Jr., Nickelodeon, Nicktoons, OWN, Oxygen True Crime, Paramount, PBS, PBS Kids, POP.

QVC, Recipe.tv, Scripps News, SEC Network, Smithsonian Channel, Start TV, Stories by AMC, Sundance TV, SYFY, T2, Tastemade, TBD TV, TBS, TeenNick, Telemundo, The Walking Dead Universe, The Weather Channel, TLC, TNT, Travel Channel, TruTV, TUDN, Turner Classic Movies, TV Land, TYT Network, UniMas, Universal Kids, Univision, USA, VH1, WE TV.

Local channels

The stories are pretty simple when it comes to local channels. YouTube TV streams the major broadcast channels — ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, and PBS — in all its markets.

Sling TV streams ABC, Fox, and NBC in some of its markets, but not necessarily your local market. And it doesn’t have CBS at all. It does, at least, market an over-the-air option it calls AirTV — basically, a branded antenna and tuner — and the channels will show up in your Sling TV live guide.

The simple fact is that YouTube TV has more local channels, and they are available to everyone. Sling TV doesn’t.

Add-ons

Sling TV Extras as seen on a TV.
Sling TV Extras as seen on a TV. Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

Things are a little different when it comes to add-ons simply because of the way Sling TV offers its plans. Whereas YouTube TV’s add-ons are mostly about additional premium content, Sling TV “Extras” (as they’re called) are also used to expand on the more diminutive base plans.

In other words, if you want the same number of channels on Sling TV as you get on YouTube TV, you’ll need to pony up for some Extras. The good news is they’re optional, so you can control which ones you want and, ultimately, how much more you’re paying.

Both services share a number of premium add-ons, like Paramount+ and Showtime, STARZ, and AMC+, for starters. Both also have NBA League Pass. But YouTube TV has a couple of pretty major trump cards.

NFL Sunday Ticket on YouTube TV.
The NFL Sunday Ticket add-on has significantly increased YouTube TV subscriptions. Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

The first is NFL Sunday Ticket. That’s the scheme by which you’ll get every out-of-market NFL game every Sunday. (So long as it’s not blacked out where you live.) It’s not inexpensive, but YouTube TV is the only place you can get it. NFL RedZone also is an option on YouTube TV.

The other is 4K Plus. For an extra $10 a month, YouTube TV gives you a handful of live events — sports, really — in 4K resolution, as well as on-demand content from a number of networks, like Discovery, FX, Nat Geo, and more. The 4K Plus add-on also gives you unlimited concurrent streams at home.

Total subscribers

When it comes to the total number of subscribers, it’s pretty much no contest. YouTube TV doesn’t regularly release subscriber numbers, but as of early 2024, it had more than 8 million.

Sling TV, meanwhile, releases subscriber numbers every three months. At the end of 2023, the service had 2.06 million subscribers, down from a high of 2.686 million subscribers in the third quarter of 2019.

The stories couldn’t be more different. YouTube TV has been adding subscribers each year. (Thanks in no small part to the addition of NFL Sunday Ticket in 2023.) Sling TV has continued to lose subscribers slowly over the past six years.

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Phil Nickinson
Section Editor, Audio/Video
Phil spent the 2000s making newspapers with the Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal, the 2010s with Android Central and then the…
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