DirecTV to Sling TV to YouTube TV

I had DirecTV for 13 years, mostly to watch and record local sports (go Warriors!) — until this spring when they suddenly jacked up my bill to $185/month! Eff that noise. I decided that the time had come to try live streaming television courtesy of Sling TV.

Sling TV has a sort of annoying channel lineup situation, especially since I had timed my move to coincide with the start of the NBA playoffs. Regular season games are carried on local cable (CSN Bay Area aka NBCSports Bay Area) with ABC for big games; but the playoffs move to ABC, TNT and ESPN exclusively. Unfortunately neither Sling Orange nor Sling Blue has this exact mix. You have to get Sling Blue for the regular season ($24.99), then switch to Sling Orange ($19.99) + the ABC add-on ($5, yes you have to pay extra for ABC) for the playoffs. Sling TV only wants to do these plan switches at the end of your plan month, although they’ll do it manually if you whine at them on Twitter.

Unfortunately from day one the picture quality was genuinely putrid — and matters seemed even worse during big games! The picture would randomly become pixelated, frozen, drop from HD to SD, black out in whole or part, lose sound, have sound unsynced from picture, skip and repeat, show weird messages about ads… you name the type of suck, we experienced it. In addition the broadcasts were usually a few minutes behind the normal cable ones, possibly due to different ads being shown. I’m using a brand-new Roku Stick to connect, and I am far from using enough broadband to be rate limited, so I doubt the issue is one of those. During the NBA finals I swear there were fewer moments of good picture quality than bad.

When I bitched about it on Twitter, SlingTV support contacted me proactively and politely. Unfortunately their suggested “fix” was that I could use my login to watch the games on the WatchESPN app. I’m sure it would have been heartwarming to huddle around my 6 year old Android phone with my parents and friends to cheer on Steph Curry and Kevin Durant… but that wasn’t exactly what I signed up for.

Finally after about 5 months I got sick of my mom asking me to switch back to DirecTV, so I started researching my options — and found that YouTube TV had finally launched in my area! It’s very limited so far: geographically, channelwise, device support, and a bunch of other things. It’s also $35/month instead of $24.99. But it gives me wonderful pictures everywhere, and unlimited cloud DVR with a surprisingly clear interface (props to you, YouTube UX design team!).

So far YouTube TV is only available in like 5 markets. and you have to already have a Chromecast or Airplay (although they’ll send you a new Chromecast after a couple months). Channel selection is fantastic for sports nuts, horrible for lifestyle people (no food, home, or travel channels). The hardest part for me is convincing my Mom to use her phone app as a remote. It really helps if you already have used a Chromecast and understand how to cast streams to your TV.

I’m keeping Sling TV for the rest of my service month just in case my mom won’t stop whining about the remote situation, but otherwise I’m pretty set on YouTube TV. Will update as events warrant.