Updated on December 10, 2021
YouTube’s getting a lot of attention for its recent launch of YouTube TV, Google’s attempt to get in on live streaming video. It’s up against the other main players: Sling TV, Playstation Vue, and DirecTV Now. Most of the comments and articles I see debating which service is better boil down to niche interests, such as sports (or dislike of same), channels with popular shows like “The Walking Dead,” and so on.
Thus, I was wondering how the above services stack up from an animation fan’s perspective. Which ones offer the best range and packages of channels for cartoons?
My criteria include:
- Only the above live streaming services compared, as those are the biggest and most prominent ones. Yes, there’s tons of on-demand services (Netflix, Hulu, etc.), but that’s not what’s being discussed here.
- I’m just focusing on Western animation, as I’m not as knowledgeable about Japanese animation; however, Adult Swim does offer some anime.
- The channels I’m comparing include all of the major broadcast/cable TV sources of animation in the US: Cartoon Network/Adult Swim; Boomerang; Nickelodeon; Nick Jr.; NickToons; Sprout; Disney Channel; Disney XD; Disney Jr.; Comedy Central (for “South Park”); FX (for “Archer”); Discovery Family; PBS Kids; and Fox. This should cover everyone, from preschoolers to “Family Guy” fans.
- Information taken from a CNET article that lists every major and minor channel carried by these services.
How the live streaming services compare
|YouTube TV||Sling TV||DirecTV Now||Playstation Vue|
|Cartoon Network/Adult Swim||No||Yes (Orange, Blue)||Yes (Live a Little)||Yes (Access)|
|Boomerang||No||Yes (Kids Extras for Orange/Blue)||Yes (Gotta Have It)||Yes (Elite)|
|Nickelodeon||No||No||Yes (Live a Little)||No|
|Nick Jr.||No||Yes (Blue or Kids Extras for Orange)||Yes (Live a Little)||No|
|NickToons||No||Yes (Kids Extras for Orange/Blue)||Yes (Just Right)||No|
|Sprout||Yes||No||Yes (Go Big)||Yes (Elite)|
|Disney Channel||Yes||Yes (Orange)||Yes (Live a Little)||Yes (Access)|
|Disney XD||Yes||Yes (Kids Extras for Orange)||Yes (Live a Little)||Yes (Access)|
|Disney Jr.||Yes||Yes (Kids Extras for Orange)||Yes (Live a Little)||Yes (Access)|
|Comedy Central||No||Yes (Orange, Blue)||Yes (Live a Little)||No|
|FX||Yes||Yes (Blue)||Yes (Live a Little)||Yes (Access)|
|Discovery Family||No||No||Yes (Go Big)||Yes (Access)|
|Fox||Yes||Yes (Blue)||Yes (or on demand)||Yes (or on demand)|
For YouTube, it’s currently just one package at $35/month.
For Sling TV, the packages come in various price ranges. Orange is the starting package at $20; Blue (with different channels) comes in at $25, and both Orange and Blue cost $40. The Kids Extras package costs an additional $5.
For DirecTV Now, the above packages run at $35 (Live a Little), $50 (Just Right), Go Big ($60), or Gotta Have It ($70).
For Playstation Vue, it’s Access ($40, the base package) or Elite ($55, including the Access and intermediate-priced Core channels). CNET and a few sites claim that price is only in a few major cities that offer the broadcast channels (including Fox). A slightly cheaper option ($10 less per package) without the over-the-air stations is available in other cities.
Cartoon Network/Adult Swim fans
YouTube TV doesn’t carry any of the Turner networks. Out of the others, Sling TV is the cheapest service to offer Cartoon Network/Adult Swim, at the $20 (Orange) level.
Fans of “SpongeBob” are stuck with just DirecTV Now, the only one to offer Nick. Those that prefer Nick Jr. or NickToons have the option of DirecTV Now or Sling TV, though NickToons is on more expensive tiers for both.
Disney’s channels are available on all of the packages. However, XD/Jr. are usually on an extra tier with Sling TV; it’s still priced competitively with Playstation Vue/YouTube TV.
“Big Three” (Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Disney) fans
For those that want the “Big Three” networks of all-ages animation (plus Adult Swim), DirecTV Now seems to be the only service offering Cartoon Network, Nick, Disney, and all related channels (Boomerang, NickToons/Nick Jr, Disney XD/Jr.). Assuming you can live without the Sponge One’s main home, Sling TV’s another option, as all of the above save Nick proper (for some reason) are offered.
Fans of “South Park,” “Archer,” and “Family Guy” have options as well, though which ones vary. Sling and DirecTV Now offer Comedy Central, FX, and (depending on market) Fox.
PBS Kids isn’t offered on any of these streaming services. However, PBS Kids recently launched a digital subchannel network, which many PBS affiliates carry over-the-air. Said channel’s also available for streaming via the PBS Kids app for Android/iOS.
Overall, there’s a lot of variation in what services are offered, as well as the quality of their software, streaming picture, pricing, etc. Still, these services might have appeal for cord-cutting animation fans who still want live TV.