The 8 Best Streaming Services for Live TV, Compared: Hulu Live vs. YouTube TV vs. DirecTV Now

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Every year, more and more people get rid of a costly cable service to use live streaming services. But which one is right for you needs? We rounded up the best 8 options for your viewing pleasure.

It feels like everyone’s cutting the cord these days. In an era of Netflix and YouTube, paying a cable company to watch TV just feels so retro—and not in a good way. 

Fortunately, thanks to the rise of live streaming services, you can ditch your cable company and still watch live TV

Starting at $15 per month, live streaming services are way cheaper than traditional cable. Even better, they come without long-term contracts and surprise fee hikes. Best of all, you can typically watch these anywhere: not just on your TV at home, but on your phone, tablet, and desktop computer, too.

Live streaming has become so popular, that there are now nearly a dozen reputable streaming providers for you to choose from. To help you narrow down your list, we’ve reviewed the top choices below.

  • Best all-around TV streaming service: DirecTV Now
  • Most affordable streaming service: Sling TV
  • Best for sharing with family and friends: Playstation Vue
  • Best for Hulu loyalists: Hulu + Live TV
  • Best for sports fans: FuboTV
  • Best for lifestyle content: Philo

DirecTV Now

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DirecTV Now has always understood that when it comes to watching television, people like options. That’s why it pioneered satellite TV. 

Of all the options on our list, DirecTV Now feels the most like traditional cable—in all the right ways. You can swipe left or right to change the channel, just like you would with regular TV. Its default offering includes 65 of the most popular channels (that’s 5 to 15 more channels than comparably priced Hulu and YouTube). 

If you need more, you can choose between 4 upgrade plans to get 85 to 125 channels. Sports fans will love that the default package includes ESPN, and you can upgrade to get Fox Sports and others for just $5 a month. Premium networks like HBO and Showtime are available for $5 and $8, respectively, which is significantly cheaper than the other streaming services on our list. 

Price:

Pros:

  • Swipe left to right to change channels
  • 65+ channels
  • Cloud DVR and on-demand content
  • Discounts for AT&T Wireless customers
  • Cheaper add-ons for subscription channels like HBO, etc.

Cons:

  • DVR doesn’t work as seamlessly as it could
  • Roku app missing key functionality like pausing live TV
  • Only 2 simultaneous streams

Bottom Line:

DirecTV Now is a no-brainer for AT&T customers, as they can enjoy additional benefits and discounts they wouldn’t otherwise get, like streaming on your phone without eating into your mobile data plan. It’s also a good fit for those who want the feel of traditional TV and an easy-to-use interface. 

Hulu + Live TV

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One of the big downfalls of live TV streaming services is that you still have to pay an additional fee to get access to the exclusive series on HBO, Showtime, and others. With Hulu + Live TV, your subscription includes award-winning Hulu series you can’t get anywhere else, like The Handmaid’s Tale. 

Hulu Plus + Live TV also has a good mix of channels to suit everyone's taste, from the kids to the sports fanatics. However, it is missing some major channels, like MTV and Comedy Central, as well as sports favorites MLB Network and NFL Network.

The big cons are that you can’t skip commercials with the default DVR (you’ll need to tack on additional $15/month for that). Another pain point is the channel guide. Like regular Hulu, each show takes up an entire screen in the catalog, so it’s difficult to quickly see at-a-glance what content is available to watch. 

Price:

  • Starts at $39.99/month, with a 7-day free trial. Save with these Hulu promo codes.

Pros:

  • 50+ channels
  • Cloud DVR with up to 50 hours of storage
  • One of the most robust on-demand libraries, including exclusive Hulu series

Cons:

  • Only 2 simultaneous streams
  • Clunky channel guide
  • Additional $15 monthly fee to skip commercials on DVR

Bottom Line:

Hulu + Live TV is perfect for those who already love the extensive on-demand content regular Hulu offers, and are ready to add in live television.

YouTube TV

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Like DirecTV and Hulu Live, YouTube TV starts at $40 per month. That includes a personalized cloud DVR for up to 6 users, 3 of whom can stream simultaneously. YouTube TV focuses more on the classic elements of TV, providing live sports and all four local stations among its default 60 channels. 

Where it falls short is its lack of cable favorites, like Comedy Central, Lifetime, Food Network, and A&E. If you want those, there’s no option to buy them, either. Their default channel list is the only choice you have. 

YouTube TV also isn’t fully available nationwide, although it currently covers the major metro areas. You’ll have to plug in your zip code to make sure it’s available for you. The add-on costs for premium networks like Showtime, NBA League Pass, and others range from $3 to $40 per month.

Price:

Pros:

  • 3 simultaneous streams
  • Personalized DVR for 6 accounts
  • Cloud DVR with unlimited storage
  • Video on-demand
  • 60+ channels

Cons:

  • Live TV isn’t available nationwide
  • No ability to upgrade for additional channels

Bottom Line:

If one of your favorite channels is missing from the list of default networks, YouTube TV won’t be an option for you, as there’s no way to upgrade. The same holds true for coverage; if YouTube TV isn’t available where you live, you can’t get it. However, if you like the channels it offers, and you live in their coverage area, YouTube TV provides an excellent deal with nice perks like 6 personalized DVRs.

PlayStation Vue

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PlayStation Vue has four main plans. The basic includes several popular stations, but it’s missing sports channels like ESPN. You’ll have to upgrade to the second plan to get sports, and the top two plans include additional channels along with sports, kids, and movie networks.

Where PlayStation Vue has made a name for itself is its flexibility. You can stream on up to 5 devices at once, which is the most of all the providers on our list. Sony knows everyone already plans on sharing their streaming account with their friends, so they made it a standout feature instead of posing restrictions on it. What’s more, you can personalize the DVR for up to 10 users.

Just because it has PlayStation in the name, don’t let that confuse you.  You can watch PlayStation on all the devices you have. No console required! 

Price:

Pros:

  • 5 simultaneous streams
  • Personalized cloud DVR for 10 users with unlimited storage

Cons:

  • Shorter trial period
  • Basic plan doesn’t include sports
  • DVR storage taps out at 28 days

Bottom Line:

PlayStation Vue is a solid option for anyone planning to share their subscription with multiple people. This is a family streaming plan for anyone, regardless of how big your “family” is.

Sling

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Sling started the live TV streaming revolution, and it’s still a popular option thanks to its extreme affordability. Sling has three plans, ranging from $25 to $40 per month. 

However, it’s affordable for a reason. Sling only lets you stream to one device at a time with the basic package, and it doesn’t carry most local stations. Also, not all channels allow you to DVR their content, so just because Sling offers your favorite network, doesn’t mean you’ll be able to save it to your DVR. 

Sling makes up for its lack of local channels by including in its basic plan the major channels other streaming providers are missing—like Comedy Central, AMC, and the Food Network. Sling also offers several, cheap a la carte packages for movies, Spanish channels, and international networks.

Price:

Pros:

  • More affordable
  • Basic DVR
  • Cheaper add-ons for subscription channels like HBO, etc.

Cons:

  • Cloud DVR requires $5 upgrade and unlimited lifetime storage
  • Have to pay $5 to fast-forward through commercials
  • No simultaneous streams in default plan, but can upgrade to get 4

Bottom Line:

Sling makes it easy to pick and choose the networks you want for some of the cheapest pricing around. If the bells and whistles like commercial fast-forwarding and simultaneous streams aren’t important to you, this is a very good option.

AT&T Watch TV

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AT&T Watch TV is even cheaper than Sling. And if you have an eligible AT&T Wireless plan, it might be completely free.

Of course, that’s because it only includes 30 channels. AT&T Watch TV is the most basic offering on our list. It doesn’t have sports channels, and it’s missing local news stations. 

Because AT&T’s channel listing is so limited, it’s worth evaluating whether you’re willing to wait to view the same shows on Hulu or another service the day after. AT&T Watch TV is best for those who want to add on some free live TV to their wireless data plan.

Price:

Pros:

  • Very affordable, even free for some users
  • 30 channels

Cons:

  • Missing sports and local channels
  • No DVR
  • No simultaneous screens
  • No support for Roku players

Bottom Line:

Due to its lack of sports networks and key features like a DVR, AT&T is a better choice for those who simply want the ability to watch the most popular channels live for an affordable price. 

FuboTV

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When it comes to channel selection, nothing beats FuboTV. You get 75 channels in the basic plan, for about the same price as DirecTV, Hulu + Live TV, and PlayStation Vue. That’s 10 to 45 more than the others on our list!

However, FuboTV also makes you pay to add on many features that other streaming services include by default. The basic FuboTV plan only includes 2 simultaneous streams, and the default Cloud DVR is limited to 30 hours. 

Where FuboTV shines is its focus on sports content. FuboTV caters particularly to sports fans, with multiple upgrade packages designed around different sports, including college sports, international sports, cycling, and basketball.

Price:

  • Starts at $39.99/month for the first month ($44.99/month thereafter), with a 7-day free trial. Save with these FuboTV promo codes.

Pros:

  • 75+ channels
  • 3-day replay for any shows you forgot to record

Cons:

  • Default cloud DVR only includes 30 hours of storage space
  • Only 2 simultaneous streams, unless you upgrade for $5.99 per month

Bottom Line:

If you’re interested in access to all the sports networks you could ever dream of—live—it doesn’t get better than FuboTV. 

Philo TV

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Philo costs just $1 more than AT&T Watch TV, and it includes 13 additional channels. The basic Philo plan includes favorites like VH1, Comedy Central, and others that are notably missing  from popular streaming services like Hulu. Spend $4 more and you can unlock an additional 13 channels.

Philo has a clear focus in its channel offerings, choosing to focus primarily on lifestyle cable channels like Hallmark, Viceland, VH1, Discovery, and History, rather than offering any sports or news. 

Philo also includes free commercial fast-forwarding and up to 10 user profiles.

Price:

Pros:

  • Very affordable
  • Automatically save every episode of favorite shows for up to 30 days
  • DVR with unlimited storage for 30 days
  • 3 simultaneous streams

Cons:

  • Limited device support

Bottom Line:

If you love reality TV, cooking shows, documentaries, and Hallmark dramas, Philo probably offers all of your favorite cable channels for an extremely low monthly price. But if you want any news or sports, look elsewhere.

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Amelia Willson

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