With a live TV streaming service, you don’t have any equipment fees, there are no contracts, no cancellation fees – and you can skip the $100+ a month bill. Plus, with most, streaming local channels is a breeze – no antenna necessary.
Instead, most live TV streaming services cost between around $25 and $50 bucks a month – you’re not paying for all those “filler” channels or the equipment.
But to choose the right streaming service for you, you need to consider several things:
- Does the service provide streaming of the local channels you watch? (if not, do they offer any HD antenna discounts?)
- Does the service have a cloud DVR to record shows?
- How many people can watch shows at the same time (number of simultaneous streams)?
- What devices are supported on the service?
- What’s the minimum internet speed you need?
If the service you’re considering answers those questions correctly for your needs – and the price is right – then bingo: you’ve found your live TV streaming service.
That said, let’s dive straight into the streaming services we chose – and why.
Best for Entertainment: AT&T Now (formerly DIRECTV NOW)
AT&T Now is the new name of DIRECTV NOW – DIRECTV’s live-streaming equivalent. You get just as many package options as with DIRECTV; and while the most expensive option on this list, you get a close-to-cable-like experience.
More importantly, despite having fewer channels for a higher price than some competitors, you get a free HBO subscription included with AT&T Now – starting all the way down at the PLUS package. Take the next step up to MAX and you get CINEMAX thrown in, too.
And for locals, you’ll see the major networks in most areas: ABC, FOX, NBC, and CBS (but no PBS).
But AT&T Now’s DVR is pretty poor – you get just 20 hours of cloud storage that keeps for just 30 days; although you do have the option of upgrading to 100 hours for 90 days of storage for an extra $10 bucks a month.
But even with that their cloud DVR has a major limitation: only some channels can be fast-forwarded, rewinded, or paused – super weird when most other services allow you to do that with just about any channel.
Finally, while you start out with 2 simultaneous streams (average), tacking on an extra $5 a month only bumps you up to 3 streams at a time. Boo – we think it should at least double it.
- Price – starts at $50/month
- Channels – 45+ – 125+, including
- DVR – 20 hours
- Supported devices/TV streaming apps – Amazon Fire devices, Apple TVs, Chromecast, Mac, iOS, Roku, Chrome and Safari web browsers, View full list
- Number of streams – 2 free, add a 3rd for $5/month
- Minimum internet speed – 12Mbps
Best for On Demand: Hulu + Live TV
Hulu + Live TV gives you a pretty solid combo: over 65 live channels to choose from, plus a huge on-demand streaming library – which boasts some of the best original TV series around (Handmaid’s Tale, anyone?).
For those live channels, you’ll get the basic locals: ABC, NBC, FOX, and CBS. Whether they’re live or on demand will depend on your location, but you’ll get them regardless.
You’ll also get some surprisingly decent sports, too: ESPN, Fox Sports 1, and CSN, for instance. Plus, you can follow your favorite football, basketball, soccer, baseball, and hockey teams, too.
Premiums are alright, but none are included in the package:
- HBO - $14.99/month
- CINEMAX - $9.99/month
- SHOWTIME - $10.99/month
- STARZ - $8.99/month
We found their user interface pretty frustrating, as we discuss in our full review here, but the cloud DVR is okay: 50 hours of storage. You can upgrade to 200 hours for $14.99/month extra.
- Price – starts at $44.99/month, upgrade to Limited Commercials for $50.99/month
- Channels – 65+, plus on demand library
- DVR – 50 hours of storage, upgrade to 200 for $14.99/month
- Supported devices/TV streaming apps – Amazon Fire, Android, Apple TV, iOS, Mac, Roku, Nintendo Switch, Chromecast, Samsung and LG smart TVs, Xbox, View full list
- Number of streams – 2 at home; upgrade to Unlimited Screens for $15/month (unlimited at home, 3 simultaneous on mobile)
- Minimum internet speed – 8Mbps for live TV
Best User Experience: PlayStation Vue
While PlayStation Vue was created by the same company that brought us the PlayStation lineup, you don’t need one of their gaming consoles to grab their streaming service.
Starting at a similar price point as AT&T Now and Hulu + LIve TV, you’ll find the major local channels – as always, availability varying by location – plus the ones you expect to see: CNN, Disney, HGTV, ESPN, and AMC.
With each tier you get more channels for modest price increases, and at the Ultra level you get HBO and SHOWTIME thrown in – otherwise, you’ll pay $9-$15 bucks a month extra per channel (similar to Hulu Live).
PlayStation Vue’s DVR is another step higher than the previous 2 providers – you get unlimited recording.
But, your shows will only stay in storage for up to 28 days – and you can only record one show at a time – so at least it’s free.
What we really like about PlayStation Vue is their user interface:
- Channels are clearly labeled
- On demand content is easy to find
- Favoriting shows is simple (little check mark in the corner)
Throw these little things together and you’ve got an enjoyable interface that’s reminiscent of the best parts of cable TV – without the contracts or cancellation fees.
- Price – Starts at $44.99/month
- Channels – 43+ to 90+
- DVR – Unlimited, stored for up to 28 days
- Supported devices/TV streaming apps – Amazon Fire, Apple TV, Androids, Android TV, Chromecast, iOS, Mac, PlayStations 3 + 4, Roku, browsers, View full list
- Number of streams – 5 – 3 in-home, 2 on mobile
- Minimum internet speed – 10Mbps, add 5Mbps for each additional simultaneous stream
Best Budget: Sling TV
Sling TV is the OG of live TV streaming services – and they haven’t strayed far from their roots of cutting away non-essential channels and features.
It’s best if you’re looking for cheap, a la carte-style TV: all 3 of their packages – Orange, Blue, and the originally-named Orange + Blue – are the cheapest you’ll find on this list. The channels you get will vary (check out our full Sling TV review to find out exactly how), but here’s the basics:
- Disney- and ABC- owned channels are available in Orange only (including ESPN)
- FOX, NBC, NFL Network, NFL Redzone, and other sports channels - are included in Blue only
Simultaneous streaming is weird, too:
- Orange lets just 1 person stream at a time;
- Blue lets 3 people stream simultaneously;
- Orange + Blue is mixed – Orange channels can be streamed by 1 person, Blue channels by 3.
But you can really go a la carte with Sling: a variety of add-on packs titled things like Kids, Sports, World news, and more each cost just $5, with at least 8 channels apiece.
For instance, the Sports pack will give you channels like:
- SEC Network
- Univision Deportes
- beIN Sports
- ESPN Buzzer Beater
- And more
But no NFL Redzone and few non-football sports channels.
Locals are more limited, too: ABC, NBC, and FOX can be found some places, but CBS and PBS are completely unavailable at present. You’ll need to pick up a digital HD antenna – but Sling will send you one for free.
Premiums are basic: $3-$15/month for each channel you pick up.
- Price – starts at $25/month, each add-on channel pack is $5-$10/month
- Channels – either 25+ or 45+ starting, plus add-on package channels
- DVR – 50 hours of storage for $5/month
- Supported devices/TV streaming apps – Amazon Fire, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, Xbox One, View full list
- Number of streams – Orange: 1; Blue: 3
- Minimum internet speed – 5Mbps
Best DVR: YouTube TV
So far our DVR options have been pretty disappointing if you like to record a lot of shows – so here comes YouTube TV. In addition to having a decent channel-count for the price, you get a completely unlimited cloud DVR: record as many as you want simultaneously and keep them forever.
YouTube TV’s channel selection is tight, too: ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS, and the CW; plus a wide variety of sports channels – NBA TV, ESPN, BTN, FOX Sports 1 + 2, and SEC Network. Plus you’ve got some entertainment channels like HGTV, Food Network, AMC, and Bravo.
Add-on premiums are lacking HBO, but you can grab SHOWTIME and STARZ, as well as a bevy of others, ranging from $3-$39.99/month:
- AMC Premiere
- Curiosity Stream
- Fox Soccer Plus
- NBA League Pass
Unfortunately for YouTube TV – they miss a couple channels that most people expect to see from every service: specifically, VH1. And DVR recording, though unlimited, can be frustrating: the guide only shows your current show and the one immediately after.
That makes setting up recordings farther into the future difficult.
- Price – starts at $49.99/month
- Channels – 70+
- DVR – Unlimited simultaneous recordings, unlimited storage
- Supported devices/TV streaming apps – Apple TV, Amazon TV, Android TV, Samsung Smart TVs, LG Smart Tvs, Xbox, Chromecast, web browsers, View full list
- Number of streams – 3 devices, 6 user accounts
- Minimum internet speed – 7Mbps, 13Mbps recommended
Best for Sports: fuboTV
fuboTV is typically a lesser-known streaming service. In some ways, that’s for good reason – although you start at 91 channels, you get just 30 hours of DVR space and 2 simultaneous streams, making that price look a bit high.
But dig into their channels, and fubo’s pricing isn’t actually terrible: you can get CBS, FOX, NBC, and the CW in a wide variety of markets. Plus you’ll get AMC, FX, TBS, TNT, etc – and plenty of sports.
Because sports is where Fubo started out - and continues to shine. With the base package you get pretty much everything:
- beIN Connect
- beIN Sports
- beIN Sports espanol
- Big Ten Network (x3)
- CBS Sports Network
- Eleven Sports Network
- FOX Deportes
- FOX Sports 1 + 2
- Fubo Sports Network
- Golf Channel
- NBA TV
- NFL Network
- Olympic Channel
- Univision Deportes Network
- + Regional Sports Networks
You can also grab NBA League Pass (30 channels), Sports Plus (23 channels), International Sports Plus (5 channels), Cycling Plus, and RAI Italia as add-ons ranging from $5.99-$11.99/month extra.
And the Fubo Extra add-on gives you Stadium 1 + 2 + 3, Tennis Channel, and GINX EsportsTV.
That said, ESPN is missing from the lineup – which is a painful exclusion for fubo.
But their DVR is alright: 30 hours standard, and you can upgrade it to 500 hours for an extra $10 bucks a month – not bad.
Another cool thing about fubo is that some of their content – notably, the 2018 World Cups and Fox Sports 1 – is streamable in 4K at the HDR10 range. And they have plans to expand this range of 4K HD later this year.
- Price – starts at $54.99/month
- Channels – 91 starting
- DVR – 30 hours standard; upgrade to 500 hours for $10/month
- Supported devices/TV streaming apps – Amazon TV, Android, Apple TV, Android TV, Samsung Smart TV, Chromecast, Roku, iOS, browsers, View full list
- Number of streams – 2 included; 3 for $6/month (Family Share)
- Minimum internet speed – 3Mbps
How do I choose the right Live TV streaming service?
To figure out which live TV streaming service is right for you, you need to prioritize. Some services will give you a break on price, while others won’t – but they’ll get you out of all the fees related to cable and satellite providers.
So – sit down and answer some questions for yourself (and/or with your household):
What do I care about most in a TV provider?
Is it the bottom-dollar price? Or are there some very specific channels or features you want?
For example – if you care most about sports channels, that’s something to look for when comparing providers. If you want locals – take a good look at what’s available in your area for each streaming service you’re looking at.
Or maybe your significant other or roommate likes to DVR shows – which provider has the best DVR? (hint: that’s YouTube TV for most people).
Is my internet fast enough for live TV streaming?
Every live TV streaming service has recommendations for the minimum download speeds needed to stream their service. But minimums aren’t always enough, especially if you have multiple internet users in your household.
Check out our guide to the best internet for streaming for more info on this.
Can I test the service out?
You should be able to test out any live TV streaming service you’re looking at for free to see if you like it. Every one of the streaming services we chose allows you to do a free trial, although terms and conditions vary with each one. Most run for at least 5-7 days.
Just check out those terms to make sure you can easily get out on time without being billed.
Cutting the cable cord doesn’t have to be hard – you just need to know what to look for in your replacement TV service. Hopefully we did just that for most everyone’s needs. If you’re in doubt about any of the providers above, drop a comment or check out our individual reviews of each to learn more.
- Best for Entertainment - AT&T Now (formerly DIRECTV NOW), starting at $50/month
- Best for On Demand content - Hulu + Live TV, starting at $44.99/month
- Best User Experience - PlayStation Vue, starting at $45.99/month
- Best for Cheapest - Sling TV, starting at $25/month
- Best for DVR - YouTube TV, starting at $49.99/month
- Best for Sports - fuboTV, starting at $54.99/month
What is the best alternative to cable or satellite?
The best is an online live TV streaming service.
What is live TV streaming?
Well, streaming of any form allows you to listen to music or watch video in “real time.” Data is streamed continuously, instead of downloading the entire music or video file at once, then watching it after.
On demand streaming is streaming of recorded shows and movies that are kept in a virtual “library.” Because they’re available “on demand,” you can watch them on your own schedule.
Live TV streaming is like watching a TV show on traditional cable or satellite TV – it’s scheduled and will play whether you’re watching it or not. You watch it live – like the 5 o‘clock news or a football game – in real time.
Does Netflix have live TV?
No. Netflix has a library of on demand content only.
How many devices can stream YouTube TV at once?
YouTube TV advertises that you can have “6 accounts” on your subscription to their service. But, that doesn’t mean you can stream 6 shows simultaneously. You can only stream 3 shows simultaneously with YouTube TV.
There are currently no upgrades.
Is DIRECTV NOW free for AT&T customers?
No. But, AT&T offers a WatchTV subscription with some of their wireless phone packages, giving you a variety of local and popular channels.
You can also get discounts on your DIRECTV NOW/AT&T Now subscription when you bundle the TV service with your wireless phone plan – to the tune of about $15 off per month.
Plus, your AT&T Now content streamed on your AT&T mobile phone won’t count against your data allowance. Sweet.