If you have cut the cord you’ll likely want to check out the best live TV streaming services available to you. After all, it may be the only way to continue watching all of your favorite shows live.
These days, there are numerous live TV streaming services vying for your attention. They provide all of the usual entertainment, sports, movie, music, and kids channels that you’re used to watching every day.
But which is the best live TV streaming service? There are six top-tier providers worth considering: Hulu, YouTube TV, FuboTV, DirecTV, PlayStation Vue, and Sling TV. There are also two cheaper live TV streaming apps with potential: WatchTV and Philo.
In this article, we take a look at each of these live TV streaming services in turn. We reveal their strengths and weaknesses, and list their prices and features. All in order to help you decide which live TV streaming service you should use.
Hulu offers two packages—for $6/month, you can access its massive library of on-demand TV series and movies. If you want to watch live TV, you’ll need to pay $45/month.
Subscribers will have access to more than 60 top channels, including ABC, FOX, TNT, ESPN, FOX Sports, National Geographic, Discovery, CNN, CNBC, Disney, and Cartoon Network. Among the notable missing channels are BBC America, AMC, NFL Network, and Nickelodeon. Available add-ons include HBO for $15, Cinemax for $10, Showtime for $11, and Starz for $9.
The biggest let down to Hulu’s service is the DVR. Although the basic $45 package includes a DVR feature, you cannot use it to fast-forward through the ads. For that privilege, you will need to buy the Enhanced Cloud DVR add-on for an extra $10/month.
There’s also an entertainment add-on (with channels like DIY Network, FYI, and Lifetime) for $8 and a Spanish-language pack for $5. The ability to watch an unlimited number of simultaneous streams (rather than just two) costs $15/month.
YouTube TV costs $50/month. For that, you get access to the most extensive list of top channels out of all the internet TV providers.
Premium channels like ESPN, FOX Sports, MLB Network, CNN, and Disney are all included. But like Hulu, there’s no NFL Network or Nickelodeon. A&E, Comedy Central, and History are also absent.
YouTube TV is also the best service if you watch lots of local TV; region-specific versions of FOX, CBS, ABC, and NBC are available in most markets.
You can create six YouTube TV accounts under a single subscription, but only three simultaneous streams are permitted at the same time. There’s also a free DVR feature. Impressively, it has no storage limits.
FuboTV has forged a reputation as the best streaming service for sports lovers.
It offers a vast number of sports-focused channels for the US and beyond, including beIN Sports, NBCSN, FOX Sports, TyC Sports, TUDN, ELEVEN Sports, NFL Network, NBA TV, The Tennis Channel, GOL TV, FOX Soccer Plus, The Golf Channel, The Olympic Channel, and PAC 12. The notable exception is ESPN, though co-founder and CEO David Gandler says it’s in the pipeline:
“As a startup, we obviously are talking to everybody. At some point in time, when it makes sense for both sides, the ESPN deal will come to fruition.”
The channels mean you can watch a dizzying array of competitions. The NFL, MLB, PGA Tour, English Premier League, MLS, Liga MX, F1, MotoGP, Tour de France, boxing, Wimbledon, FIFA World Cup, UEFA Champions League, Spanish La Liga, Olympics, and more are all fully covered.
But non-sports lovers shouldn’t be put off. For the $55/month subscription, you also get FOX, A&E, FX, Nickelodeon, National Geographic, CNN, FOX News, NBC, AMC, MTV, History, and a host of other mainstream entertainment channels.
Several channel add-ons are available, including adventure channels, Showtime, Latino channels, NBA League Pass, cycling channels, and more entertainment channels. The DVR costs $10/month, and the family sharing feature is $6.
DirecTV Now is another of the most widely known live streaming TV services for cord-cutters. Two packages are available—Plus for $50/month and Max for $70/month.
The biggest selling point of DirecTV Now is the inclusion of the full HBO suite of channels in its entry-level $50 Plus package. Other top channels in the Plus plan include ABC, Bravo, Cartoon Network, CNBC, CNN, MTV, FOX, ESPN, TNT, and USA Network. There’s no AMC, BBC, Discovery, MLB Network, NBA TV, or NFL Network.
Spanish-language channels, international channels, and Showtime, Starz, and Cinemax are all available as add-ons.
The big downside is the DVR, which only stores recordings for 30 days.
Don’t let the name fool you. PlayStation Vue is available to anyone, not just owners of Sony’s games console.
Four packages are available, each with an increasing number of channels available. The basic Access plan is $50/month. Then there’s Core for $55, Elite for $65, and Ultra for $85.
Broadly speaking, Access is for entertainment channels only (though you’ll get FOX Sports, CNN, and ESPN). Core adds sports (beIN Sports, FOX Sports West, CBS Sports, ESPN News, and ESPN U), Elite adds more movie channels, and Ultra introduces premium channels like HBO and Showtime. There’s also a Spanish-language add-on for $5/month.
If you own a PlayStation 4, you can simulcast up to four channels at the same time on one screen.
The five live TV services we’ve looked at so far all start at around $50/month. If you want a cheaper streaming service, Sling TV is a solid option. It’s the most affordable internet TV provider that still offers some sports channels. Two $25/month packages are available: Sling Blue and Sling Orange.
Unfortunately, Sling has been deliberately tricky with its channel lineup in each package. For example, ESPN is on Orange, but FOX Sports and NBC are on Blue. Similarly, ABC and Disney are on Orange, but USA Network and Bravo are on Blue. You’ll need to subscribe to the dual package ($40) for the complete range of content.
Even if you do subscribe to the combo plan, there are still some missing mainstream channels. ABC, CBS, FOX News, and Nickelodeon are not available.
The DVR is $5/month. Channel add-ons include kids, news, lifestyle, Latino, Hollywood, and international. Each add-on starts at $5.
We’ll end with a couple of budget live TV streaming services. First up, Philo. It costs $20/month and provides access to a host of popular channels such as AMC, BBC America, MTV, History, Hallmark, and A&E.
Indeed, it offers more channels than the more expensive Sling packages. The problem for many people, however, will be the lack of sports. There’s no FOX Sports, no ESPN, and no NBC. There are also no local channels and none of the big domestic news channels like CNN.
If you want to add a dash of live TV to your on-demand apps, Philo is decent. But if you’re hoping to be able to use the app to watch all your favorite primetime shows, you will be out of luck.
The other cheap live TV streaming app is WatchTV. It’s operated by AT&T. AT&T also owns DirecTV, so WatchTV can be thought of as the budget version of its bigger brother.
At just $15/month, it’s hard to argue with WatchTV’s price. Some AT&T customers may even receive the service for free, depending on the plan they have.
WatchTV only has 37 channels. It’s the smallest offering out of all the live TV apps in this list by some distance. There are no local channels, no sports channels, and no DVR feature.
Curiously, WatchTV does offer AMC, HGTV, and BBC America, all of which are missing from DirecTV’s lineup. And if you want on-demand video, WatchTV has you covered with more than 15,000 TV series and movies.
Which Is the Best Live TV Streaming Service?
The two most significant deciding factors when choosing which TV streaming provider to use are 1) price and 2) channel selection.
In terms of value for money, YouTube TV offers the most premium channels for the price. However, if you want a full lineup that’s akin to your cable package, then PlayStation Vue’s Ultra plan is the way to go. If sports are your thing, then FuboTV is the best option.
At the budget end, Sling Blue and Orange are infinitely better than Philo and WatchTV thanks to the inclusion of some sports content and local channels.
If you would like to learn more about live TV streaming, check out our articles detailing how to unblock live TV streaming when you’re abroad and the best sites for live sports streaming.