Within the cord-cutting community, there is a lot of interest in services that can offer a cable like experience without cable like contracts and prices. The first service on the scene to address this need was Dish Network’s Sling TV. Not too long afterward Sony rolled out a more limited service called PlayStation Vue. The company did a lot to make it less limited including expanding from a 7 city offering to a nationwide offering as well as making its apps available on a number of devices. The last service to jump on the scene is DirecTV Now from AT&T. The service has only been at it for a few months but launched with much fanfare and solid subscriber numbers. What are the major differences between the services? What service offers the best prices and flexibility. Check out our comparison as we look at Sling TV VS PlayStation Vue Vs DirecTV Now.
How much does it cost? Good question. The question is how much do you want? People like simple and most streaming services are at least simple in their pricing, Netflix has a price, Hulu has a price and it isn’t really negotiable. But with these services, there are tiers to discuss and features. So, first of all, we will look at what customers get from the lowest offer in each service.
Sling TV is not just one service so it has two prices. The company offers two services based on the deals they have set up. The two choices are Sling Blue and Sling Orange. The names appear based on the companies color scheme. Let’s start with the least expensive service, Sling orange. Getting started with Sling Orange costs $20.00. Sling Orange offers customers 30 channels and is built around deals between Dish, Time Warner (for Turner-owned stations) and Disney. This means that for their $20.00 customers receive TNT, TBS and CNN from Turner and ESPN, ESPN2, The Disney channel and ESPN’s internet-based ESPN3. Another big channel in that lineup is AMC. This means that users can get in on the two flagship sports stations, tune into TNT and AMC original programming including the Walking Dead and its spinoffs and have access to the majority of the NCAA Tournament. Sling Orange also offers Lifetime, Comedy Central, HGTV, The History Channel, Food Network and BBC America with the rest of the lineup featuring a number of news options and niche content. In general, it’s a decently well-rounded offering with something for lots of different interests.
Sling Blue costs $25.00. One of the biggest differences between Sling Blue’s initial offering and Sling Orange is that first of all Sling Blue drops the Disney-owned channels in favor of Fox-owned channels. So gone are ESPN ESPN2 Disney channel and Free Form. What it adds is Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports 2, The NFL Network, FX, USA, SyFy as well as the possibility of receiving local broadcast channels from Fox and NBC, if the local channels happen to be owned by the national network and not media conglomerates. This is complicated and we recommend finding out from Sling TV’s customer service representatives which local channels if any you can receive with this package before trying it out. The rest of the channels highlighted with Sling Orange are also part of the $25.00 deal.
There is a third option which is combining both services for $40.00.
For more info check out Sling TV here.
PlayStation Vue calls all of its packages “Slim” I guess playing off of the term “Skinny Bundle” which is what the industry has begun to call services that offer cable channels outside of the legacy structure. So, PS Vue has an initial offering that costs $29.99. This package which we should really say is $30.00 has 47 channels. This includes all three major cable news channels (CNN, Fox News and MSNBC) It also includes ESPN, ESPN2, FS1 and FS2. PS Vue also offers the Turner lineup, NBC Universal-owned properties like NBC SN, USA Network, SyFy and Fox’s Lineup including Fox on Demand, FX, FXx, and Fox Business. For News Junkies and sports fans this may be a great offering. The package offers a number of channels for multiple interests outside of those subjects including The Science channel.
You can use PS VUe’s interactive chart to see what is offered in full here.
DirecTV Now Starts at $35.00 with an offering called “Live a Little” which includes 60 channels. Included are the Turner Networks, major selections from Disney including ESPN and ESPN2, Disney, Disney Jr and Disney XD and Freeform. Fox is along for the ride with Fox News, FS1, Fox Busines and Fox On Demand (network shows after they air). Other big draws include The Hallmark Channel, Lifetime, Nickelodeon and Nick Jr and obviously others. See the full lineup here.
Here is where the three services start to differentiate themselves.
PS Vue offers four tiers (Think channel bundles) with each containing more channels for the price. In each progressive price hike users receive a smattering of new sports, news and niche channels with no recognizable pattern. the tiers rise from $29.99 to $34.99, $44.99 and $64.99. The max package Ironically named (Ultra Slim) has 88 channels. See them all using the link from the earlier PS Vue description.
DirecTV Now offers 4 tiers at $35.00, $50.00, $60.00, $70.00 respectively. Each step up in packages adds an extra 20 channels. As each package grows there are more sports and news channels added. For instance the $50.00 package includes The SEC Network, ESPN U and ESPN News and MLB network. It adds Nick Toons and OWN. But still does not include FS2 or The Golf Channel, Oxygen, Lifetime Movie Network, Sprout, THe NHL network and others.
The reason I point out how the tiers work is because I speak with people all of the time who say, “If I can’t get _______ then that is a problem”. What fills in that blank is all up to you. The question is, do the tiers confuse you? Both offerings DTV Now and PS Vue package parts of certain genres in each tier. They likely know that say a person who wants ESPN2 would want The SEC Network or that a person who wants the SEC network would want FS2. So by keeping them in separate tiers it encourages people to spend just a little more money so they don’t miss out on an epic game one Saturday afternoon for lack of the option. One of the important differences between the two services mentioned above and Sling TV is this Sling TV packages genres together.
Sling TV Addons
As opposed to offering tiers like a cable company Sling breaks channels up by type. There are options to add Sports channels or movie channels, news channels etc. Not every household is the same so instead of pushing a smattering of channels together a few sports channels a few news channels and a few movie channels Sling TV provides bulky options
for each genre. So let’s say you are a sports fan. We already covered the difference between having Sling Blue and Orange when it comes to ESPN and Fox channels. So if you have the Sling Orange package for instance and add the sports package for $5.00 it adds Pac-12, ESPNU, ESPNEWS, NHL Network, beIN SPORTS, ESPN Goal Line and ESPN Buzzer Beater along with others. Don’t care for sports but want more movies the Hollywood extra is $5.00 and adds four EPiX channels, The Sundance Channel, Turner Classic Movies and a few others. There is a similar package for news junkies and one called Life Style Plus that offers a number of channels centered around DIY, Cooking and channels that cater to those looking for movies centered around women and families. In order to see the extra packages you must click the blue + sign on the Sling packages page.
For those looking for a value proposition users can add a $10.00 add-on that includes the kids, comedy, News and Lifestyle packages. In some ways, that is more like the other services we have been talking about. The $10.00 addition adds 35 channels, but no extra sports or major movie channels, which tend to command higher fees from providers.
Premium to most people means HBO and Showtime. All of the offerings provide access to these channels. PlayStation Vue and Sling TV allow users to sign up for HBO and Showtime for $15.00, essentially the same price as the channels would cost if you were signing up for their respective cable free apps separately. The advantage of course, is that you
have access to the content from one place and do not have to bounce around apps to find things. Sony also includes HBO and Showtime with its biggest $64.00 package.
DirecTV Now offers a stunningly low price to add HBO, only $5.00.
What do we think is the best one?
I believe in choosing winners when I post a headline with a VS title. And because of the ability to add extra channels based purely on the kind of programming a family wants the most I think that Sling TV offers the best value overall. While its intro package is notably smaller than what is offered via its two competitors I prefer the option to add lots of sports channels or lots of movie channels for one price without playing the game of adding one tier to get 2 channels I
want and another tier to get the other 3. While I think the two service issue (sling Blue and Sling Orange) can be confusing to new users what you get from both offerings I think that those looking for a bulky deal can get it for a good price compared to the other two offerings. As a user, I resent the hodgepodge nature of bundles and even more, I doubt I am alone in finding the names companies use with their bundles confounding. In the case of Sony, what denotes the difference between Ultra and Elite Slim? Don’t the terms Core and Access Slim sound like they are 2 ways of describing exactly the same thing?
DirecTV now uses entire phrases; Live a Little, Go Big, Just Right, Gotta Have It. These words mean nothing. What do you “Gotta Have if you already have a package that is just right. It’s all relative to your needs right?
HateTHe Name Game
This name game is what cable companies do with their TV and Internet services. Is Ultra Fast high speed faster than Premium Internet? All of these packages cost pretty much the same if you were to max out every single option and that is a mistake a lot of people make when the compare streaming services to cable services and compare services to each other. But the flexibility to say pay $25.00 and get 6 ESPN channels a ton of other sports while still receiving a 24-hour news channel and other top cable channels is more appealing to me then paying $50.00 for lots of channels that I just don’t watch at all.