Now that DirecTV Now has been out for a little over a month, I thought it was a great time to do a showdown of the 3 major cable streaming services available, to help you make an informed decision on which one you want to go with. Stay tuned at the end for the one I decided on and am currently paying for myself monthly.
For those of you unfamiliar with these services, let me break it down a bit for you. As more and more people are opting for cutting the cord to their cable subscription, they are still looking for ways to watch the shows and the channels that they might miss from those services, without having to pay a fortune for a ton of channels they don’t want to watch. These services essentially fill in that gap that is left. For many people sports is a big reason they have kept their cable subscription in tact. These services definitely offer a solution for those folks… and folks like me, who doesn’t really care about sports at all.
The 3 major players in this field right now are Sling, Playstation Vue and DirecTV Now (listed in the order I first tried them). Sling is owned by the Dish Network, Playstation Vue is owned by Sony, and DirecTV Now is owned by… DirecTV (I think that one is a bit of a no brainer). All three have a specific number of channels available, that can be increased with an increased monthly payment. They all offer no commitment subscriptions that you can activate and deactivate at any time. There is also no equipment necessary (aside from a device to stream the service, which you can use for all sorts of other streaming services like Netflix and Hulu). You will also need internet access to view the content from all 3 services.
Let’s break down each service for it’s pros and cons…
Sling offers 2 basic packages Orange and Blue. The Orange package is $20/month and includes ESPN channels and Disney. The Blue package has Fox, NBC and others (but no ESPN or Disney) and is 25$/month. You can also purchase the Orange + Blue to get both, which is 40$/month. The Blue package also allows you to have 3 simultaneous streams (meaning you can watch Sling downstairs, while another family member watches Sling upstairs on a different TV at the same time. The Orange package only gives you one concurrent stream.
One huge upside to Sling is their pricing packages though. You have to have either the basic Blue or Orange, but from there they don’t just keep adding channels and increasing the price with each addition. They have specific packages catered to specific interests. For example the Lifestyle package includes Hallmark, Lifetime, DIY and more, while the Kids package includes Disney Jr, Nick Jr, BabyTV and more. I love this ability to pick and choose channels that I will actually watch. I would LOVE if they would eventually ditch the need to subscribe to the basic package and just let me get one of the add on packages only.
Another plus for Sling is that they are currently beta testing cloud DVR service, so you don’t have to be watching the show live to be able to see it. I was lucky enough to test out this part of the service, and it works great. I’m able to fast forward through the commercials pretty easily, and it recorded the shows I wanted it to record. This isn’t available to everyone yet, so if that’s a deal breaker for you, you may want to try another service that does offer it until Sling rolls it out to everyone. I don’t imagine it’s going to take too much longer for them to open it up though.
One downside to Sling is there isn’t a grid guide user interface that most of us are used to using. At first I kinda hated this setup, but as I used it more I felt I was able to pick what show I wanted even easier using the thumbnails instead of the grid. Still, having a grid to browse through would be a nice addition.
Playstation Vue’s basic package will run you $30/month and just increases from there. The one thing that sets Playstation Vue apart from the rest (as of right now) is their Cloud DVR. It’s already working and active. You also can stream on multiple devices at the same time, up to 5 devices. There is a catch to that though. You can’t do two PS4’s at the same time, or two PS3’s. You CAN use a PS4 at the same time as a PS3 though. You also don’t have to even use a Playstation to access the service, and honestly, I liked their Roku app way better than the native Playstation app for the service.
Playstation Vue also has a grid interface, but only on the app for the PS3 or PS4.
One thing Playstation Vue does not have is Hallmark channel. Around the holidays that’s a deal breaker for me.
Lastly we have DirecTV Now. This service does have a grid interface, AND Hallmark channel. It also has the most expensive starting point at $35/month, and increases from there to $70/month. They do not have Cloud DVR, and the devices that the service works on is severely limited, as in it doesn’t work on a Roku, which is where I tap out. They also have been plagued with issues in their starting month. There have been a ton of complaints on social media about the service not working properly. It definitely has felt some startup pain, for sure.
It might be obvious at this point which one I have chosen. I currently pay for Sling on a monthly basis. I have the Blue package with the Lifestyle extra (which includes the Hallmark channel). I feel it’s the best value for my money at the moment. I still reserve the right to change my mind as other services come to the market and others add features. Especially with my cloud DVR access, I’m extremely happy with the service, and it just keeps getting better!
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Sarah Kimmel is a digital parenting coach and family tech expert. She has spent the last 16 years of her career as a Microsoft Certified IT Manager supporting over 100 small businesses. During that time she started Family Tech LLC to help families understand and manage the technology in their home. She has regularly appeared as a family tech expert on KSL News, BYUtv and Studio 5, and has been invited all over the world from tech companies like Lenovo, Verizon, Microsoft, Dell, and Samsung. Find out more on her website SarahKimmel.com