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Best live TV streaming services: PlayStation Vue, Hulu, Sling TV, and more

Quentyn Kennemer

For those fed up with their cable or satellite TV provider, there has never been a better time to cut the cord. Streaming video services are giving traditional cable and satellite TV stiff competition by delivering live sports and prime-time TV programming online, often for a drop in price, while premium channels like HBO and Showtime are available as separate streaming services or add-on bundles.

Live TV streaming services have no hidden fees, and if you ever decide to cancel, it’s easy and painless — a refreshing change from the hassle of dealing with cable and satellite call centers. There are many services out there, however, and they all have different prices, channels, and features. To help you sift through the chaos, we’ve put together this handy guide detailing the pros and cons of each so you can make the right choice for you.

Editor’s note: Each service has the conditional inclusion of the major networks it carries. Some markets have access to live network channels, including local programming, while others will be on-demand only. In some select locations, one or more of the networks — or even an entire service — may not be available. Check each service’s website for availability in your area.

Hulu + Live TV

Price: $45 per month for around 60 channels and Hulu’s on-demand movie and TV library; add-on channels and features range from $9 to $15 each.

Free trial: Seven-day free trial

Included major networks: ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, CW

Supported devices: Amazon Fire TV, Android, Apple TV, Chromecast, iOS, Mac, Nintendo Switch, select Roku and Roku TV models, select Samsung and LG smart TVs, Echo Show, Xbox consoles, web browsers.

Number of simultaneous streams: Two at home, Unlimited Screens add-on ($15) allows for unlimited at home, three on mobile.

Who it’s for: Hulu users looking to upgrade to live TV … and just about everyone else.

Where you can watch: U.S. only

Hulu’s single $45-per-month plan (called simply Hulu Plus Live TV) gives subscribers around 60 live channels (the exact number will be dependent on your market). You will get ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox, either live or on-demand depending on your location, plus dozens of other popular channels, which Hulu lists in full on its website. The service also added ABC News Live, CBSN, and Cheddar to bolster its news lineup. Premium channels, like HBO, Showtime, Starz, and Cinemax can be added for an additional fee, at prices that are significantly lower than competing services.

Hulu + Live TV also presents some stiff competition when it comes to sports, providing a variety of channels, including ESPN, CSN, and Fox Sports 1. Hulu + Live TV also lets users follow their favorite sports teams from the NFL, NCAA, NBA, MLS, MLB, and NHL, and record their games, provided they’re available. You can also use your Hulu + Live TV login information to sign in to the ESPN App to access live ESPN coverage via ESPN Plus.

Hulu + Live TV subscribers also have full access to Hulu’s full on-demand streaming library and Hulu original content, essentially coupling a basic Hulu subscription (normally $8 to 12 per month) with live TV. This gives the service a serious edge for current Hulu subscribers. Hulu’s on-demand library is already very good, with some of the best original TV series around — though that could change now it’s been taken over by Disney. It also includes 50 hours of DVR storage for recording live TV.

Hulu’s guide and curation are also worth mentioning. Hulu allows users to organize the programming into a “favorites” tab and control content suggestions by removing items from their watch history or by selecting the “stop suggesting this” option on recommended content they’re not interested in.

Sling TV

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Price: Sling Orange: $25 per month for 30-plus channels; Sling Blue: $25 per month for 40-plus channels; Orange + Blue: $40 per month for 45-plus channels; additional channel add-on packs and features range from $5 to $15.

Free trial: Seven-day free trial

Included major networks: ABC (select markets via Broadcast Extra package), NBC and Fox (NBC and Fox only available in select markets)

Supported devices: Amazon Fire TV and Fire tablets, Android, Apple TV, Airplay, AirTV, Chromecast, iOS, Mac, Nvidia Shield, Select LG Smart TVs, LeEco devices, Roku, Samsung Smart TVs and Blu-ray players, Chrome web browser, Windows, Xbox One consoles, Xfinity X1, Xiaomi Mi Box, ZTE devices, Oculus devices.

Number of simultaneous streams: Sling Orange: One; Sling Blue: Three

Who it’s for: Customers who want a customizable, à la carte experience.

Where you can watch: U.S. only

Sling TV currently offers the most flexibility of all the live TV streaming services out there, at least when it comes to your content and pricing options. Sling TV uses an à la carte model, with base channel packages and a bevy of add-ons. The base packages, while largely similar, do have some major differences — namely that ABC and Disney-owned channels (including ESPN, and therefore support for ESPN Plus) are only present in Orange, while Blue carries NBC, Fox, and other sports channels like NFL Network and NFL Redzone.

If you want all of those channels, you’ll need to spring for the $40 package, which includes everything in Blue and Orange, or you can augment either package with add-on channels. Add-on packages also vary in pricing and included channels, depending on which package you’re subscribed to, but you can expect to pay between $5 and $20 per month for each. In addition, a dispute over licensing with AT&T has resulted in a blackout of HBO and Univision channels on Sling TV and its parent company, Dish Network.

The packages can be a little confusing. For instance, even though Sling advertises the Blue + Orange package as a $10 discount at $40, that’s some seriously questionable logic given how many channels the two plans have in common. You are definitely not getting twice the number of channels.  Still, it’s fairly easy to parse when you see all the packages laid out in front of you. You will find full listings on Sling TV’s website.

In terms of bonus features, Sling TV is pretty standard, but it does have some unique standouts. The first is Game Finder, a search feature on the Sling TV website that finds live and upcoming sports content available for your channel package and region. There’s also a bandwidth limiter, which will help keep you from going over your data limits — streaming video content can eat up data quickly, after all, so this is a welcome feature.

Sling Orange subscribers will have access to a single stream, while Blue allows for up to three streams simultaneously. As for other features, VOD (video on demand), pause/rewind/fast-forwarding and “catch-up watching” are content-specific. For DVR, users will have to add another $5 for 50 hours of cloud DVR. Despite the extra cost, the good news is that cloud DVR is available on just about every Sling TV-supported device except for the Xfinity X1, and your recordings stick around as long as you maintain your account. You can get the gist of everything Sling TV has to offer by reading our Sling TV guide.

PlayStation Vue

Price: Access: $50 per month for 45-plus channels; Core: $55 per month for 60-plus channels; Elite: $65 per month for 90-plus channels; Ultra: $85 per month for 90 channels, plus HBO and Showtime; add-on packages range from $9 to $15; stand-alone channels range from $11 to $22.

Free trial: Five-day free trial for any plan except Ultra

Included major networks: ABC, Fox, NBC, CBS (available in select cities)

Supported devices: Amazon Fire TV and Fire tablets, Android phones/tablets, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, iOS, Mac, Nvidia Shield, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and PS4 Pro, Roku, Web browsers, Windows

Number of simultaneous streams: Five (three in the same home, plus two more outside the home)

Who it’s for: PlayStation users, PS Plus subscribers, and those with large channel appetites.

Where you can watch: U.S. only

PlayStation Vue’s channel count is among the largest of any of the services on this list, but it’s also one of the most expensive, and its pricing structure can be confusing. Which channels you get — and even which plans are offered — will depend on your location.

PlayStation Vue’s packages used to be scaled based on whether your market had access to local live channels or not, but now all pricing tiers are priced identically regardless of where you live. The vast majority of markets include at least some live local channels on PS Vue, as the service now offers more than 600 local affiliates. A specialized Fox feed curates Fox-owned channels like Fox News, FS1, Fox Business, Fox Soccer Plus, and local Fox affiliates into a single feed that includes both live and VOD content. You can find which local channels are available in your area on Sony’s PS Vue page.

PS Vue’s biggest selling point is just how many channels you get, boasting the most of any services out there. Plus, you can bolster your services with add-on channels and features. Subscribers to PlayStation Plus (Sony’s premium online service for PS4 and PS3) will get discounts on some of those packages, and some channels are exclusive only to Plus subscribers in the first place. Similarly, PS Vue ties directly into the PS4 interface and the PlayStation ecosystem at large, which makes adopting it almost a no-brainer for PlayStation players looking to add online TV — provided the pricing and channel listings meet your needs.

This is not to say that only PlayStation users should adopt PS Vue; the service’s robust channel listings will appeal to anyone who wants lots of stuff to watch, and it could be a good option for larger families sharing one account. PS Vue lets users create up to 10 user profiles, with up to five streams at a time. It’s also worth looking into if you’re an Apple TV user. In October 2018, the service became the first to be integrated into the TV app available on Apple TV and iOS devices. This lets you access all the entertainment options you have installed — PlayStation Vue included — from one place, including upcoming games for sports fans.

If you’re eager to read more about Sony’s service and its litany of pricing options and features, give our PS Vue guide a peak.

AT&T TV Now

directv now offline viewing

Price: Plus: $50 per month for 40-plus channels, including HBO; Max: $70 per month for 50-plus channels, including HBO and Cinemax; Entertainment: $93 per month for 65-plus channels; Choice: $110 per month for 85-plus channels; Xtra: $124 per month for 105-plus channels; Ultimate: $135 per month for 125-plus channels; Optimo Más: $86 per month for over 90 channels of English and Spanish live TV; add-on channels and features available from $5 per month; additional cloud DVR space for $10 per month.

Free trial: Seven-day free trial

Included major networks: ABC, Fox, NBC, CBS (only available in select cities)

Supported devices: Amazon Fire TV, Android, Apple TV, Chromecast, iOS, Mac, Roku, Chrome web browsers, Safari, Xbox One console (coming soon)

Number of simultaneous streams: Two (three for $5 more per month)

Who it’s for: Those who don’t mind trading features for lots of channels.

Where you can watch: U.S. only

Formerly known as DirecTV Now, AT&T TV Now is another service with high channels counts and multiple package tiers. Like PS Vue, it’s close to the experience you’ll get with cable or satellite when it comes to available channels. In August 2018, AT&T TV Now Now took a major leap forward for football fans, adding the NFL Network to several of its base packages, but then negotiations with the NFL fell through and both the NFL Network and Red Zone Channel were removed from all AT&T TV Now packages on April 15, 2019. It’s possible they will be brought back in the future.

AT&T TV Now offers a base DVR for free, with 20 hours of recording per month, and will store recorded content for up to 30 days, after which it will be deleted to make room for new recordings. If that’s not quite enough for you, an upgrade is available for $10 per month that increases your DVR allowances to 100 recording hours and up to 90 days for storage. While these DVR features are better than most, it’s worth noting that AT&T TV Now’s True Cloud DVR has a severe limitation on channels that can be paused, fast-forwarded, or rewound compared to other services. On the plus side, though, you’ll be able to watch all your DVR content from any device, even when on mobile devices outside your home Wi-Fi network. Recent updates also now allow HBO and Cinemax programming on the DVR service.

Another consideration is the number of simultaneous streams if you share the account with multiple people. By default, AT&T TV Now offers just two simultaneous streams in every subscription level. You can up this to three streams for $5 per month.

For more information, see our guide to everything you need to know about AT&T TV Now.

YouTube TV

YouTube TV

Price $50 per month for 70-plus channels (depending on location); add-on packages ranging from $3 to $40.

Free trial: Seven-day free trial

Included major networks: ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, CW

Supported devices: Android, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, iOS, Nvidia Shield, Roku, Chrome web browser, Xbox One consoles, Vizio SmartCast TVs, select Samsung and LG smart TVs

Number of simultaneous streams: Six

Who it’s for: Those who are deeply devoted to Google, and want a simple package.

Where you can watch: U.S. only

YouTube TV’s sole package costs $50 per month for new subscribers. In the past, availability was limited, but as of March 2019, it is now available nationwide. Still, you may want to check its website to confirm which local channels are available in your area.

If you are eligible, YouTube TV includes major networks — ABC, NBC, Fox, CBS, and CW — and a bevy of other popular channels at a reasonable price, and its local affiliate programming has also expanded and is now available to 100 percent of customers. It also has a large number of sports channels for the price. 

Add-on networks include Showtime, Fox Soccer Plus, Shudder, Sundance Now, and Starz. Like Sling TV, HBO isn’t available on this service. Sure, you could add it at $15 per month, but if you’re looking to combine all your internet TV into one package, for now, YouTube TV isn’t the place.

YouTube TV also falls a bit short in its device support, especially compared to the services we’ve previously covered. It does have the most flexible cloud DVR support, though, allowing users to store programming up to nine months after recording, with standard pause/rewind and catch-up features available. If you have a Google Home device and a Chromecast, YouTube TV can be controlled with voice commands via Google Assistant. Similarly, Google Assistant can even inform you of what content is currently saved to your DVR. If you’re an Android die-hard who uses Google’s ecosystem to its fullest, then YouTube TV may be the perfect addition. Read our YouTube TV guide for more info.

Philo

Philo TV screenshot

Price: $20 per month for 58 channels.

Free trial: Seven-day free trial

Included major networks: Zero

Supported devices: Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, iOS, Chrome, Roku, Android TV

Number of simultaneous streams: Three

Who it’s for: Lovers of popular cable channels who don’t mind skipping local networks and sports.

Where you can watch: U.S. only

Philo, like nearly every other service listed here, gives you a long list of popular cable channels to watch live over the internet. Though it recently decided to remove its ultra-cheap $16 per month package for new subscribers, its sole $20 per month package remains a compelling offer. But it differs significantly in what content it supports — or more accurately, doesn’t support. Despite boasting a bunch of channels, including Viacom-owned favorites like MTV and Comedy Central, the four major networks — Fox, NBC, CBS, and ABC — are not carried by Philo, nor is anything from ABC’s parent company, Disney. That means, along with no local affiliates, there is also no ESPN. When it comes to local stations, though, many viewers can get them over the air with a simple (and affordable) HD antenna for free.

Feature-wise, Philo is similar to the other services above (and cheaper, to boot). DVR access allows for recording and storing content, though, like Playstation Vue, your DVR content will only stick around for a limited time — 30 days, in this case. Another feature Philo includes is the ability to access content from pay-walled apps for channels carried by Philo. For example, since Philo’s channel package includes AMC and Nickelodeon, you’ll be able to download and watch through the dedicated AMC and Nickelodeon apps at no extra charge by signing in with your Philo account.

Philo does lack the comprehensive app and device support of its rivals. For a long time only Roku, iOS devices, and the Chrome browser were supported, but the service came to the Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV devices in July 2018. Philo claims even more devices are on the way, but for now, the truncated device support is a drawback. That said, if you have a supported device and don’t mind skipping sports and the big networks (or can find them with an antenna), Philo is one of the more affordable ways to get live TV. For more on the service, check out our Philo guide.

AT&T WatchTV

Price: $15 per month for 35-plus channels (free with some AT&T wireless plans)

Free trial: Seven-day free trial

Included major networks: Zero

Supported devices: Apple TV, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, iOS, Android

Number of simultaneous streams: Two

Who it’s for: AT&T customers, and casual TV viewers who aren’t looking for sports or local programming.

Where you can watch: United States, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands

AT&T’s WatchTV is one of the more recently launched streaming services on this list, and it’s also one of the most confusing. AT&T owns AT&T TV Now, so doesn’t it already have a live-TV streaming service? Yes, it does, but the two are going for two completely different types of customers.

While AT&T TV Now is more for the type of customer who is looking to replace their cable service, AT&T WatchTV is more like Philo. You shouldn’t look at it as a replacement for all of your live TV needs. Instead, view it as a supplement to on-demand streaming services like Netflix. It’s a great add-on if you value the channels it offers: A&E, AMC, CNN, Comedy Central, HGTV, Discovery, and TBS, just to name some of the big ones. HBO, Cinemax, Starz, and Showtime are all available as optional add-ons, starting at $14 per month, each. If you’re mainly a binge watcher but want the occasional bit of live TV, WatchTV might be for you. Throw in an HD antenna and you’ve got a pretty good setup. In addition to the live channels, there’s also a pretty decent selection of 15,000 on-demand movies and shows.

One group that WatchTV really shines for is AT&T Wireless customers. If you have one of AT&T’s wireless plans with unlimited data, you get WatchTV totally free. If you have the &More plan, you even get a few bonus channels to choose from including HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, and Starz, though you only get to pick one.

You won’t find any fancy features in WatchTV like time-shifting or any other DVR features, but if all you need are a few live channels and you’re not looking to pay much, it’s definitely an option worth considering.

Amazon Prime Live Channels

prime video cbs deal streaming series amazon instant screenshot

Price: Free and premium channels at varying prices.

Free trial: 30-day Amazon Prime trial

Included major networks: None

Supported devices: Live channel features only available on Amazon Fire TV; channel content can be accessed by any device that supports Prime Video Now.

Number of simultaneous streams: None

Who it’s for: Amazon Prime users who want to consolidate their apps and monthly bills to a single location.

Where you can watch: U.S. only

Amazon Prime has a long list of perks for its members, but one of the lesser-known incentives is the ability to augment your Prime Video library with a handful of curated TV channels. Compared to the other services here, Amazon Prime’s channel add-ons don’t pose much competition. Prime simply offers a small number of channels supported currently by just Fire TV. 

For Amazon Fire TV users (no coincidence that it requires an in-house device), a small selection of these channels can be browsed via a “Live Now” menu, which includes a programming guide so you can see what’s on next. As of this writing, only a small number of premium channels — including CBS All Access, HBO, Cinemax, Starz, and Showtime — will show up on the “live now” section, and only if you’re subscribed to them through Amazon Prime’s “Channels.” The number is growing, however, and now includes BritBox, PBSKids, and PBS Masterpiece. We’re hopeful for an even more varied selection in the near future.

A perk to a setup like this is that it will directly integrate into Amazon’s growing ecosystem of connected devices. That means you’ll be able to check what’s on the premium Prime add-on channels just by talking to Alexa. That feature might not be a game-changer, but it’s helpful nonetheless, and only serves to strengthen the case for subscribing to these channels if you’re an Amazon Prime member not subscribed to them elsewhere.

For now, this isn’t quite an option for supplanting a subscription to Sling, PS Vue, etc., but it is a worthwhile Prime feature that will hopefully continue to grow and evolve.

Pluto TV

Pluto TV

Price: Free.

Included major networks: None, (CBSN, NBC News, CNN, and MSNBC news programming available)

Supported devices: Amazon Fire TV and Fire tablets, Android, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, iOS, Roku, Web browsers, select Sony, Samsung, and Vizio Smart TVs under the WatchFree brand

Number of simultaneous streams: None

Who it’s for: Live TV streaming newbies who want to see what all the fuss is about.

Where you can watch: U.S. only

Now owned by Viacom, Pluto TV might be a new name to some, but the service has been quietly plugging along since 2013, and today has over 12 million active users, making it the largest free TV streaming service in the U.S. Like the other services on this list, it has become a solution for those who want easy access to a library of both live and on-demand content — everything from TV series to movies, to popular internet content creators. Unlike the others, however, Pluto TV is entirely free.

No, really. For the cool price of zero dollars a month, Pluto TV will provide you access to select content from more than 100 live channels, including, CBSN, Bloomberg TV, MSNBC, Sky News, movie channels, and live sports, plus 35 music-streaming channels. New additions include Pluto TV Sitcoms, offering a selection of aging comedies like 3rd Rock from the Sun and The Lucy Show, and Spanish language channel Pluto TV Cine. Dog The Bounty Hunter even gets his own channel. Users will also enjoy a library of on-demand content.

You’re likely thinking “What’s the catch?” The answer is simple: Ads. Pluto TV is entirely ad-supported. These ads are not skippable, and some have found them intrusive, but it may be a worthwhile price to pay for totally free content.

The other caveat is that the majority of these channels aren’t actually TV channels but internet channels, meaning stuff from websites and online creators like IGN, CNET, and Cheddar, rather than traditional TV channels. You’ll still get those, too, but you won’t find any of the major prime-time networks or cable favorites like Comedy Central, Syfy, or FX here. Still, major broadcasters are beginning to show up, and as of April 2019, CNN has its own channel of curated highlight segments pulled from its live cable TV offering.

You also won’t find many special features, either — no DVR, no user profiles, etc. Still, PlutoTV has a solid collection of free, curated TV, film, music, and internet video content, and it’s available on a respectable number of platforms. For those considering the dive into online TV streaming, Pluto TV is a good first dip of the toes.

For a more in-depth examination, head over to our PlutoTV explainer.

FuboTV

Price: $55 per month for the Fubo Standard package. $60 per month for Fubo Family. $75 per month for Fubo Ultra.

Free trial: Seven-day free trial

Included major networks: NBC, CBS, Fox, CW, AMC

Supported devices: Amazon Fire TV, Android, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, iOS, Roku, web browsers

Number of simultaneous streams: Two (three for $6 more per month via Family Share add-on)

Who it’s for: Those who mainline live sports, but still want access to entertainment and lifestyle content.

Where you can watch: U.S. and Canada, though only a handful of channels are available outside of the U.S.

A few of the previous services have been notable for their sports content (YouTube TV and Hulu with Live TV, in particular), but if sports is one of your primary interests, you’ll want to look into FuboTV. This is another relatively new service that has been gaining some recognition for the niche it appeals to, especially after it was advertised as a way to easily watch Super Bowl 52 with its free trial. Its most recent subscriber count — from September 2018 —  was approaching 250,000 subscribers, up from 100,000 in September 2017. That may not be the millions of subscribers boasted of by Sling TV and AT&T TV Now, but it is substantial growth. The service was recently made the second live TV platform to be added to Apple’s TV App, which could give it an even bigger boost.

FuboTV offers a multitude of plans. Fubo Standard is the classic package. For $55 per month, it offers over 100 channels, the exact count depending on your market. It comes with 30 hours of Cloud DVR and promises over 130 live events to be broadcast in 4K. The Family package bumps the cost up to $60, but with an added 500 hours of Cloud DVR space and the ability to use three screens at once, up from two. Family Deluxe bundles all of that stuff with another 36 channels as part of the Fubo Extra package for $65. Then there’s Ultra, which adds another 24 channels via the Sports Plus add-on, 9 channels from Showtime, and a deal that knocks $5 off your monthly Showtime bill for the first three months.

To be clear, you don’t have to opt for Fubo Ultra just to have access to your sports. You can add Fubo Extra, Sports Plus, Cloud DVR Plus, and more to the standard Fubo service separately. The only difference is you’ll save more money by bundling, up to 20% on Ultra.

All plans include a healthy mix of both sports and non-sports channels, such as NBC Sports Network, NFL Network, NBA TV, and the Pac-12 Network on the sports side, along with staples like HGTV, FX, and widespread local network channel support on the other. In August 2018, FuboTV signed a multiyear deal bringing the Turner networks — including TNT, TBS, CNN, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, TruTV, TCM, and HLN — to the service. It followed this up in April 2019 by adding a roster of Viacom channels, including, BET, CMT, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., Paramount Network, TV Land, VH1, BET Her, BET Jams, BET Soul, Logo, MTV2, MTV Classic, MTV Live, MTVU, Nick Music, Nicktoons, and TeenNick as well as Viacom’s Telefe and MTV Tr3s networks.

One notable way in which FuboTV differs from every other service on this list is that it is currently the only service to offer streaming in 4K resolution with HDR10 high-dynamic range. Content is limited — so far the service has only shown some 2018 World Cup games on Fox and Fox Sports 1, and some of the early rounds of the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship in 4K  — but this is a major step forward for streaming services. The platform plans to expand 4K and HDR content in the second half of 2019.

Sports nuts would have to spend more money on another service to get a portion of the channels offered by FuboTV, but there is one glaring omission to its sports listings: ESPN. The service does not currently carry ESPN or ABC channels, and can’t be used to access ESPN Plus through the ESPN app, so if those are a staple of your sports coverage consumption, FuboTV isn’t going to satisfy your appetite.

That’s not to say there aren’t lots of sports extras — there are. You can up either of the subscription packages with optional monthly add-ons, such as:

  • 23-channel Sports Plus ($9)
  • 30-channel NBA League Pass ($29)
  • 5-channel International Sports Plus ($6)

FuboTV has quickly evolved into a more well-rounded service than it was at launch, with an increased focus on entertainment options. It’s still probably not for everyone, but if you’re a hardcore sports fan or even just a casual soccer fan, it’s absolutely worth a look.