Cutting the cord is honestly the way to go if you’re cost-conscious and looking to save money right now. There are video streaming services – like Max, Netflix, and Disney – that offer a plethora of content with no cable subscription required. But they often fall short when it comes to live TV. That’s where live TV streaming services come in handy.
Read: Best streaming devices for your TV in 2023
Live TV streaming services allow you to watch local and national news, live sports, and events – all without a cable subscription. Some of the major players include Sling TV, Hulu with Live TV, and YouTube TV. Unlike cable, these services don’t require long-term contracts. Prices start at $40 a month, too, so you can potentially save you a significant amount compared to traditional cable. These services also offer a wide range of channels, including popular US networks like CNN, NBC, ESPN, and Fox.
Live TV streaming services can typically be streamed on a range of devices, like smart TVs, streaming devices, game consoles, and mobile devices. And getting started is always simple. You don’t even need a technician to visit your home. We’ve tested and compared six of the best live TV streaming services available in the US, evaluating features, prices, and usability. Whether you’re a sports enthusiast, a budget-conscious viewer, or someone wanting a customisable TV package, we have you covered.
In our guide, you’ll also find information on what to look for in a live TV streaming service, including details about streaming requirements, local channel coverage, sports networks, digital video recordings (DVR), and available tiers, packages, and add-ons. We did the research, so you can enjoy live TV while making the most of your entertainment budget.
Our top pick: Best live TV streaming service
1. Best overall live TV streaming service
Sling TV is the best live TV streaming service, and it currently starts at $20 for the first month. With customizable packages, channels like ESPN, up to 200 hours of DVR storage, and multi-device streaming (up to four on the Orange + Blue package), it stands out. While local channels require an OTA antenna and the Orange package is limited to one device streaming, its blend of live and on-demand content solidifies its position as the best choice for cord-cutters.
- Customizable packages and extras for tailored viewing
- DVR options: 50-hour free tier; 200-hour DVR Plus upgrade
- Multi-device streaming, up to four on Orange + Blue package
- Local channel access may require OTA antenna
- Sling Orange limits streaming to one device
- DVR not supported on some channels
Sling TV features
- Live TV: 50+ live TV channels, including CNN, ESPN, and AMC.
- Local channels: Access some local broadcasts with an OTA antenna.
- Cloud DVR: Record up to 200 hours of content.
- Profiles: Customize content and receive tailored recommendations.
- Streams: Simultaneously stream on 1 to 4 devices, depending on your package.
- On-demand: Access on-demand libraries from channels like HGTV and A&E.
- Ads: Sling TV’s base plans (Orange and Blue) have ads like cable TV.
- Price: Starting at $40 per month, with a limited-time offer of $20 for the first month.
- Free trial: No
Sling TV stands out as a leading live TV streaming service that offers a comprehensive range of options for viewers looking to access live television and on-demand content through the internet. With two primary packages, Sling Orange and Sling Blue, each priced at $40 per month (with a special half-off rate for the first month), the service caters to a diverse array of preferences. For instance, Sling Orange is designed for sports enthusiasts and families, providing access to channels like ESPN and Disney. On the other hand, Sling Blue offers a broader spectrum of content, encompassing news outlets such as Fox News and MSNBC as well as entertainment-focused channels.
In my personal experience, Sling TV has proven to be an exceptional choice for balancing cost and content diversity. Opting for the Sling Orange package, I gained access to channels that matched my family’s interests, particularly in sports and family entertainment. The ability to customize my viewing experience was a definite highlight, allowing me to select premium channels and extras that aligned with my preferences. The addition of DVR functionality, including the option to upgrade to the DVR Plus package for up to 200 hours of recording capacity, has been invaluable in ensuring I never miss out on my favorite shows or events.
Sling TV’s innovative approach to addressing local channels with Over-the-Air (OTA) antenna integration is commendable. While not as seamless as some other services, this solution provides a means to stay connected to local news and events. Beyond its local channel feature, Sling TV’s combination of affordability, tailored options, and content variety makes it a compelling choice for cord-cutters seeking to escape traditional cable subscriptions without compromising on their viewing experience.
Hulu with Live TV
Hulu With Live TV
2. Most comprehensive service
Hulu with Live TV offers a compelling mix of over 90 live channels, including major networks like ABC, FOX, and ESPN, paired with an extensive on-demand catalog featuring series, films, and Hulu Originals. For $69.99 per month, subscribers also receive access to Disney+ and ESPN+ content. While this price may seem high, the breadth and variety of content available can make it a worthwhile investment for those seeking a comprehensive entertainment package.
- Access to over 90 live channels including major networks.
- Includes on-demand content, Disney+, and ESPN+.
- No hidden fees or equipment rentals.
- Price of $69.99 per month might be steep for some.
- Regional restrictions and blackouts apply to some content.
Hulu with Live TV features
- Live TV: Access 90+ channels, including ESPN, FOX, and NBC.
- Local channels: Seamless integration of major local broadcasts.
- Cloud DVR: Unlimited storage with up to nine months retention.
- Multiple profiles: Customized viewing for individual users.
- Simultaneous streams: Two-device concurrent streaming.
- On-demand: Extensive library including series, movies, and Hulu Originals.
- Ads: The inclusion of ads depends on the subscription plan, like the starter plan.
- Price: Starts at $69.99 per month (Hulu with Live TV, Disney+, and ESPN+ with ads)
- Free trial: No
For years, I’ve been an enthusiastic subscriber to Hulu with Live TV – a live TV streaming service that seamlessly combines live broadcasting and on-demand streaming, making it an ideal choice for anyone seeking a full-spectrum content experience without traditional cable ties. Although the monthly cost of $69.99 might raise eyebrows, the sheer abundance of content available on the platform easily justifies the investment. This ad-based starter package grants you access to an impressive lineup of over 90 live TV channels, encompassing major networks like ABC, FOX, NBC, CBS, ESPN, and FS1, as well as entertainment hubs such as Bravo, Cartoon Network, and The CW.
Hulu with Live TV has an expansive on-demand catalog, too. It’s a treasure trove containing entire seasons of some of my most beloved series and blockbuster films. There’s Hulu Originals available to watch as well. However, what truly sets Huly with Live TV apart is the Disney+ and ESPN+ bundle. This unlocks an array of premium content ranging from iconic Disney tales to thrilling Marvel hits, and not to mention adrenaline-packed live sports events on ESPN+.
While the monthly fee of $69.99 might appear to be too much at first glance, it really is a sensible investment for those who highly value a diverse content selection and the convenience of having all these offerings unified within a single platform. The amalgamation of live TV, on-demand content, Disney+, and ESPN+ creates a holistic entertainment experience that caters to a wide spectrum of preferences. For me, as both a cord-cutter and entertainment enthusiast, Hulu With Live TV is a great choice.
3. Most content-rich live TV streaming service
YouTube TV is one of the most robust live TV streaming services, offering over 100 live channels including major networks like ABC, CBS, and FOX, along with unlimited DVR storage and a variety of on-demand content. However, potential subscribers should consider its starting price of $72.99 per month. Cost-conscious cord-cutters might even wonder if the convenience and content justify that expense.
- Extensive channel selection like ABC, CBS, and ESPN.
- Unlimited cloud DVR storage.
- Simultaneous streaming on 3 devices.
- High cost starting at $72.99 per month.
- Local channel availability varies.
YouTube TV features
- Live TV: Yes, with major channels including ABC, CBS, FOX, and ESPN.
- Local channels: Included based on your location.
- Cloud DVR: Unlimited storage for recording shows.
- Multiple profiles: Supports up to 6 personalized profiles.
- Simultaneous streams: Up to 3 streams allowed.
- On-demand: Offers shows, movies, and episodes from various networks.
- Ads: Yes, YouTube TV has traditional ads (but Premium subscribers excluded).
- Price: Starts at $72.99 per month.
- Free trial: Yes
YouTube TV provides a comprehensive live TV streaming solution suitable for diverse entertainment needs. It boasts an over 100 live channels, featuring prominent networks such as ABC, CBS, FOX, and ESPN. From my personal experience, YouTube TV consistently delivers in terms of channel variety and quality, offering a broad spectrum of choices suitable for families. An added advantage is local channels based on location, ensuring subscribers remain connected to regional news and broadcasts.
Though I reside in a rural setting which limited my local options, I’ve found the platform’s features like unlimited cloud DVR storage and the ability to have up to 6 personalized profiles invaluable. Furthermore, the capability to stream simultaneously on up to three devices is a significant benefit for households with multiple viewers and devices.
However, the starting subscription rate of $72.99 per month prompted me to consider alternative services.
Despite YouTube TV’s extensive channel offerings, the bundle of Hulu with Live TV, Disney+, and ESPN+ ultimately aligned more closely with my family’s viewing preferences, combining live broadcasts, on-demand content, and treasured Disney films. Nonetheless, for avid sports fans, YouTube TV’s partnership with major sports networks like ESPN remains a strong selling point, granting easy access to an assortment of live games and events.
4. Most cable-like live TV streaming service
DIRECTV STREAM is the most like cable and starts at around $75 a month. That price opens up a world of live TV channels — from ESPN and CNN for sports and news junkies to channels like AMC and FX for those entertainment buffs. It also brings local channels like ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC to the mix in many places. The specific number of live TV channels available vary depending on the package you choose and your location, as does the price.
- Offers major networks, like ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, and ESPN.
- Access regional network affiliates for local content.
- Premium content, including Max, SHOWTIME, STARZ, and more.
- Available channels depend on your package and location.
- Starting at $74.99, costs can vary based on package options.
DIRECTV STREAM features
- Live TV: Watch live broadcasts (ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, ESPN, more)
- Local channels: Local affiliates of major networks (availability varies by location)
- Cloud DVR: Store shows with unlimited storage.
- Multiple profiles: Create personalized profiles.
- Simultaneous streams: Stream on multiple devices.
- On-demand: Yes, and premium add-ons like Showtime, AMC+, and Discovery+.
- Ads: Ads may be present.
- Price: Starts at $74.99. Varied packages, discounts available.
- Free trial: Yes
If you’re into flipping through channels, DIRECTV STREAM is like having cable without the annoying contracts. It has a lineup of 30+ cable networks, and you can even snag options like Game Show Network and Animal Planet on the higher tiers. You can pump up your package further with premium add-ons like Showtime, Starz, AMC+, and Discovery+. But what really caught my eye is that DIRECTV STREAM integrates with Max and Peacock, giving you a solid entertainment combo in one place.
Now, here’s the deal: you’re looking at $75 a month for the base plan. But guess what? You get some added perks. I’m talking about unlimited DVR storage for 9 months, streaming at home without any restrictions, and a personal profile to keep things tidy. The only bummer is no picture-in-picture, and you might need a little time to get used to the menu style. But swapping channels? Easy peasy. Just hit those channel number buttons on your remote or cruise through the on-screen guide.
Pop in the channel number using the remote’s keypad, and bam, you’re there. It’s like old-school cable vibes mixed with modern streaming. DIRECTV STREAM totally nails that cable feel you may love, but is the pricing punching above its weight? I’m leaning toward yes. Especially since I don’t miss anything about cable whatsoever.
5. Budget live TV streaming service
For just $25 a month, Philo offers a sleek interface and unlimited DVR storage for a year, covering 23 of the top 36 cable channels, but lacks local, sports, and major channels like Fox News and CNN.
- Just $25 per month.
- DVR Storage: Unlimited, saved up to 12 months.
- 10 profiles/account, stream on 3 devices.
- No local, sports, major news channels.
- Lacks on-demand content.
- Live TV: Over 70 live channels available, including 26 top networks like A&E and AMC.
- Local channels: No.
- Cloud DVR: Unlimited recording, saved for up to 12 months.
- Multiple profiles: Up to 10 profiles per account.
- Simultaneous streams: Stream on three devices simultaneously.
- On-demand: No.
- Ads: Yes.
- Price: $25 per month.
- Free trial: 7 days free trial available.
In my opinion, when it comes to affordability, Philo stands out because it costs just $25 each month. However, it does come with limitations: the absence of local channels and sports content. But if these aren’t deal-breakers for you, then Philo is a solid choice. Its user interface is clean and sleek, paired with a generous DVR allowance. You can store shows for up to a year, outdoing the typical nine-month period from other providers. But it still restricts the fast-forwarding of VOD content.
If you’re someone who likes to skip ads, I’d suggest making the most of their limitless DVR. Just hit “Save” on anything you wish to see later, and during playback, you’ll be free to fast-forward through commercials. Channel-wise, Philo provides access to 23 out of the top 36 cable networks. It does miss out on some major channels such as Fox News, CNN, ESPN, and MSNBC. So, if you’re a news or sports aficionado as well, you might want to explore other options. It also lacks on-demand entertainment content.
6. Best sports live TV streaming service
fuboTV is a premium sports streaming service, with plans starting from $74.99 per month. It offers extensive sports coverage, including the NFL, NBA, MLB, Premier League, and more. With packages offering up to 287 channels and features like 1000 hours of Cloud DVR and simultaneous streaming on multiple devices, it’s a no-brainer for some.
- Extensive sports coverage, including major leagues.
- Generous Cloud DVR storage up to 1000 hours
- Multi-screen streaming, with up to 10 simultaneous streams.
- Pricey, especially for the higher-tier plans.
- Live TV channels: Up to 287 based on plan, like Fox and ESPN.
- Local channels: Yes (e.g., ABC, CBS).
- Cloud DVR: Up to 1000 hours.
- Multiple profiles: No.
- Simultaneous streams: Up to 10; 2 for Latino plan.
- On-demand content: Yes.
- Ads: Not specified.
- Price: Starts at $74.99 per month
- Free trial: Yes, for all plans.
For live sports enthusiasts, fuboTV is a top choice at $7 per month. On subscribing, fuboTV curates content based on your favorite teams, offering a vast range of sports channels, including 118 networks in the premium package. Alongside major players like ESPN and NBC, they cover niche sports and offer exclusive channels. Add-ons like NBA TV and NFL Red Zone are available, with the NBA League Pass providing access to every game at an extra $15 per month.
Navigating and recording games is straightforward, with the FanView feature enhancing live game viewing with real-time stats. While fuboTV shines in sports and live TV streaming, its Video-On-Demand access and DVR playback need improvement. The interface, though sleek, lacks a fast-forward/rewind preview.
Pricewise, it matches DIRECTV STREAM’s base package, but its expansive sports offerings make it standout.
Bottom line: What is the best live TV streaming service?
Sling TV is the top live TV streaming service, starting at just $20 for the first month. It offers customizable packages, up to 200 hours of DVR storage, and multi-device streaming. While local channels may require an OTA antenna and the Sling Orange package limits streaming to one device, its blend of live and on-demand content makes it perfect for cord-cutters. Sling TV’s flexibility, tailored options, and affordability make it an excellent choice for escaping traditional cable subscriptions without sacrificing your viewing experience.
How did I choose the best live TV streaming services?
I thoroughly evaluated the best live TV streaming services by examining their content range, user experience, and cost-effectiveness, while also considering direct feedback from actual users to ensure a well-rounded review.
- Selection process: I began by identifying top-rated live TV streaming services based on user reviews and industry reputation. Sling TV, Hulu with Live TV, YouTube TV, DIRECTV STREAM, Philo, and fuboTV emerged as leading contenders due to their unique features and content offering.
- Testing approach: I devised a structured framework, focusing on content and channel variety, user interface, special features, and value for money. I’ve subscribed and immersed myself in each service, evaluating their offerings under various conditions and on different devices.
- Gathering feedback: To ensure a comprehensive review, I combined my observations with feedback from other editors as well as users. This holistic approach helped me to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of each platform, providing a rounded assessment of the best live TV streaming services on offer.
How to decide which live TV streaming service is right for you
When choosing a live TV streaming service, I’d advise you to first evaluate the channel lineup and ensure it caters to your preferences. Additionally, weigh the service’s user experience against its price, checking for features like cloud DVR, simultaneous streaming, and any hidden fees or contractual obligations.
- Content offerings: You should assess the channel lineup, ensuring the service provides your preferred local channels, sports networks, news outlets, and entertainment channels.
- User experience and features: It’s essential to consider the platform’s ease of use, available features like cloud DVR storage capacity, simultaneous streaming capabilities, and supported devices.
- Pricing and flexibility: You should consider the monthly cost in relation to the offered content and features, and also check for any long-term commitments, hidden fees, or the flexibility to upgrade/downgrade packages.
What is a live TV streaming service?
A live TV streaming service allows you to watch live television channels over the internet without the need for traditional cable or satellite subscriptions.
Do live TV streaming services require special equipment?
No. In fact, most live TV streaming services work with a variety of devices including smart TVs, streaming devices (like Roku or Apple TV), smartphones, and computers. You just need a good internet connection.
Can you watch local channels with live TV streaming services?
Yes. Many live TV streaming services offer local channels, but availability can vary based on your location and the specific service you choose.
Is the video quality comparable to traditional cable or satellite?
Yes. Many services offer HD or even 4K streaming quality. However, the quality can be affected by your internet speed and connection stability.
How is a live TV streaming service different from a video streaming service?
A live TV streaming service offers real-time broadcasting of television channels over the internet, similar to traditional cable or satellite TV. In contrast, a video streaming service, like Netflix or Hulu, provides on-demand content that can be watched anytime without following a broadcast schedule.