The Best Live TV Streaming Services for Cord Cutters in 2018

The Best Live TV Streaming Services for Cord Cutters in 2018

Live TV Streaming Services Comparison

All the cool kids are getting rid of their cable and satellite subscriptions and replacing them with an online live TV streaming service.

We did the most comprehensive review of live streaming services to find the best live TV streaming subscription. If you’ve decided to cut the cord and stream TV online, this review is for you.

While some people find that Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime Video are good enough, sometimes you just can’t give up watching major networks, live locals, or live sports on ESPN and Fox Sports. The good news is that you can now watch streaming TV, so you won’t have to miss your favorite live shows or movies.

We compare live streaming services and pick the best service for you. Learn how to stream live TV including your favorite shows and sports online without a cable subscription.

We’ll give our top picks and show how to get up to a 7-day Free Trial on each service.

Streaming video services are a great cable alternative, but with the benefit that they’re month-to-month (with free cancellation), no cable box is required, and that you’ll save a lot of money.

What is the Best Live TV Streaming Service?

After testing the seven live TV streaming services for over 100 hours, we found that each service is great for different reasons.

Most of the interfaces are well designed, they nearly all offer a DVR and shows on demand, and have minimal buffering with a good internet connection.

Depending on if you want locals, sports, entertainment, or news — we think there is a great pick for you.

We share who we think each service is good for below.

If you want to find the best service based on the channels you watch, try out our Channel Finder.

Best for Cord Cutters

Hulu Live TV
$40 / month

  • Locals in almost every market
  • 22 Top Cable Channels
  • Includes Hulu Originals and On-Demand

Best for Regional Sports

fuboTV
$45 / month

  • Includes most Regional Sports Networks
  • Includes NFL Network, NBA TV, Big 10 Network, Pac-12 Network, & beIn

Best Skinny Bundle

Philo
$16 / month

  • Includes A&E, AMC, BET, HGTV, MTV, Discovery, Comedy Central, & Nick
  • Pairs well with Hulu Live TV and YouTube TV

Best for Budget

Sling TV
$25 / month

  • 19 Top Cable Channels
  • Includes RSNs
  • Add DVR for $5

Best for Sports

PlayStation Vue
$50 / month

  • Includes ESPN, FS1, & NBCSN
  • Most Pro and College Sports
  • Unlimited DVR

Best for Cable

DIRECTV NOW
$40 / month

  • Most Top Cable Channels
  • 20 Hour DVR
  • Add HBO +$5

Best for Sharing

YouTube TV
$40 / month

  • Great interface
  • Share with Multiple People
  • Unlimited DVR

Plans & Prices

DIRECTV NOW, fuboTV, Philo, Sling TV, and YouTube TV each offer a 7-day free trial. PlayStation Vue offers a 5-day free trial.

DIRECTV NOW offers an Apple TV 4K for $0 when you pre-pay for 4 months or a Roku Streaming Stick when you pre-pay for 1 month. Right now, they are offering your first three months for just $10/month.

Sling TV offers a free Roku Express ($30 value) if you prepay for 2 months of service when you sign up. You can also get a free Roku Ultra ($99 value) for $50 when you pre-pay for 3 months.

Plan Free Trial Offers
DIRECTV NOW $40 “Live a Little” 7-Day Free Trial -
$55 “Just Right”
$65 “Go Big”
$75 “Gotta Have It”
fuboTV $45 “fubo” 7-Day Free Trial fubo Extra, Showtime, 500 Hour DVR, & 3rd Stream for $35 (normally $77)
w/ 2-month subscription
$50 “fubo Extra”
Hulu Live TV $40 “Hulu Live TV” Sign Up -
Philo $16 “Philo Base” 7-Day Free Trial Free Pandora Premium
Learn More
$20 “Philo Plus”
PlayStation Vue $45 “Access” 5-Day Free Trial -
$50 “Core”
$60 “Elite”
$80 “Ultra”
Sling TV $25 “Sling Orange” 7-Day Free Trial Free Roku
w/ 2-month subscription
$25 “Sling Blue”
$40 “Sling Orange + Blue”
YouTube TV $40 “YouTube TV” 7-Day Free Trial -

Channels

The DIRECTV NOW “Live a Little” $40 base plan has a great channel selection and is very affordable: it has ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, and 34 of the 35 most popular cable channels (OWN is the one absent channel).

The PlayStation Vue “Core” $50 is a great upgrade plan for sports fans: it has all of the national sports channels, 3 of the 4 pro networks (MLB, NBA, and NFL), and all the major college sports networks.

DIRECTV fuboTV Hulu Philo PS Vue Sling TV YouTube
Free Trial Free Trial Sign Up Free Trial Free Trial Free Trial Free Trial
$40–$75 $45–$50 $40 $16–$20 $45–$80 $25 $25 $40
Total Channels 60/80/100/120 65/80 55 40/49 50/60/85/90 30 40 50
Local ABC
CBS
Fox
NBC

CBS
Fox
NBC
ABC
CBS
Fox
NBC



ABC
CBS
Fox
NBC





Fox
NBC
ABC
CBS
Fox
NBC
Top 35 Cable 34–35
of Top 35
21
of Top 35
22
of Top 35
18
of Top 35
25–26
of Top 35
14
of Top 35
19
of Top 35
18
of Top 35
National Sports 6–7 5 7 - 7 4 5 7
College Sports 1–6 3 4 - 1–7 1 - 5
Pro Sports 0–4 2 - - 0–3 - 1 2
Regional Sports (RSNs) ≥ $55 - ≥ $50 -

View More Channel Information

Streaming Experience

All of the services have relatively similar video quality. Hulu Live TV, PlayStation Vue, and YouTube TV have the most reliable connections.

DIRECTV fuboTV Hulu Philo PS Vue Sling YouTube
Free Trial Free Trial Sign Up Free Trial Free Trial Free Trial Free Trial
$40–$75 $45–$50 $40 $16–$20 $45–$80 $25 $40
Video Resolution 720p+
60 fps
720p
30/60 fps
720p
60 fps
720p
30 fps
720p
60 fps
720p
30/60 fps
720p
60 fps
Streaming Reliability Average Below Average Great Average Great Below Average Great
On Demand Reliability Below Average Average Great Above Average Above Average Average Great
Audio Stereo
Some Surround
Stereo Stereo Stereo Stereo Stereo Stereo
Live Delay 20 sec 15 sec 30 sec 25 sec 20 sec 55 sec 25 sec
Channel Switching 2.5 sec 3.5 sec 3.5 sec 4.5 sec 2.0 sec 5.5 sec 1.5 sec

Features

Every service offers a cloud DVR, which lets you record streaming content to watch at a later time. Although Sling TV has an excellent DVR, it charges $5/month for it.

Almost every service lets you stream content to at least 2 devices at the same time. “Sling Orange” is the one exception; it only lets you stream on 1 device.

Hulu Live TV, Sling TV, and DIRECTV NOW are the only services that have parental controls.

DIRECTV fuboTV Hulu Philo PS Vue Sling TV YouTube
Free Trial Free Trial Sign Up Free Trial Free Trial Free Trial Free Trial
$40–$75 $45–$50 $40 $16–$20 $45–$80 $25 $25 $40
Cloud DVR $5 $5
Cloud DVR Capacity 20 hrs 30 hrs
500 Hours (+$10)
50 hrs
200 Hours (+$15)
Unlimited
30 days
Unlimited
28 days
50 hrs 50 hrs Unlimited
9 months
Simultaneous Viewing 2
streams
2
streams
2
streams
3
streams
5
streams
1
stream
3
streams
3
streams
On Demand
TV Everywhere App Access
Parental Controls - - - -

Cloud DVR

While most services offer a DVR, each one has slightly different restrictions on what can be recorded, when the recording will start, and whether commercials can be skipped. 

For instance, some will let you record from the beginning of the episode even when you tune in after it starts. Others will let you watch while the episode is still recording.

Recording Capacity

DIRECTV

20 hrs

fuboTV

30 hrs

500 Hours (+$10)

Hulu

50 hrs

200 Hours (+$15)

Philo

Unlimited

30 days

PS Vue

Unlimited

28 days

^ Sling ($5)

50 hrs

YouTube

Unlimited

9 months

You can generally fast-forward through shows that you recorded to the DVR (unlike most on demand content) with some exceptions.

For example, while YouTube TV offers unlimited DVR storage, it doesn’t allow you to skip commercials on shows that are also available on demand (which is most). 

Hulu Live TV requires you to upgrade to the $15/month “Enhanced Cloud DVR” if you want to skip commercials and to upgrade to 200 hours of recording space.

fuboTV includes 30 hours of recording space, but offers a $10/month upgrade for 500 hours of storage.

Oddly enough, Sling TV is the only service that offers a way to record a single episode. Every other service makes you create a “series” recording, in which every episode of a show will be recorded.

Simultaneous Viewing

All of the services allow you to have at least 2 simultaneous viewers, with the exception of the Sling TV’s “Orange” $25 plan (it only allows a single stream).

PlayStation Vue is the most generous: allowing up to 5 viewers, but limits it to a single PS4 game console and 3 mobile devices.

YouTube TV allows 3 simultaneous viewers and even lets you create “Family Profiles” so each user can have a personal account.

Some offer the ability to add an additional viewer to your plan.

Hulu Live TV includes 2 viewers, but offers a $15/month “Unlimited Viewers” upgrade, which allows unlimited devices to stream on your home network or 3 devices outside your home.

fuboTV includes 2 viewers, but will allow you to add a third simultaneous viewer for $5/month.

Concurrent Devices

More is better.

PS Vue 5 streams
Philo 3 streams
Sling “Blue” 3 streams
YouTube 3 streams
DIRECTV 2 streams
fuboTV 2 streams
Hulu 2 streams
Sling “Orange” 1 stream

On Demand

All of the services offer video on demand (VOD), but require you to watch commercials (usually 2–3 minutes) during playback.

Hulu Live TV, PlayStation Vue, and YouTube TV make it the easiest to search for and watch on demand content. They have great show detail pages, which bundle the live, upcoming, and on demand episodes in one place.

We have lots of issues playing on demand content from DIRECTV NOW. Videos will often fail to start or spontaneously freeze during playback.

DIRECTV NOW, fuboTV, and PlayStation Vue also offer a “catch-up” feature, giving access to show episodes that aired within the last 3 days—that may not normally be available on demand.

TV Everywhere

Similar to traditional cable and satellite subscriptions, these cord cutting services provide “TV Everywhere” logins to certain channels’ apps (e.g.: AMC, CNBC, Fox Sports Go, FX, WatchESPN, etc.).

PlayStation Vue and DIRECTV NOW connect to the most channel apps, with access for up to 57 and 53 channel apps, respectively. The other services offer access to about 30 channels.

View All TV Everywhere Apps

TV Everywhere App Access

More is better. App count may vary by plan tier.

PS Vue 57 apps
DIRECTV 53 apps
YouTube 35 apps
Hulu 33 apps
Philo 33 apps
fuboTV 27 apps
Sling 19 apps

Original Content

Some of the services include additional content that is only available to their subscribers.

For example, Hulu Live TV subscribers get access to the entire Hulu streaming library, including full seasons of many TV shows, movies, and its original shows like The Handmaid’s Tale. For an additional $4/month, you can watch their streaming library without commercials.

YouTube TV subscribers get access to YouTube Red’s original shows. DIRECTV NOW subscribers can watch AT&T original shows like Tim Ferris’ Fear(less).

Parental Controls

Surprisingly, Hulu Live TV, Sling TV, DIRECTV NOW are the only services that offer parental controls.

Hulu Live TV lets you create a “Kids Mode” profile. Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW allow you to restrict content playback based on its rating level.

DIRECTV NOW

Only available on Apple TV & iOS

Hulu Live TV

Has “Kids Mode” Profiles

Sling TV

Has Ratings Restrictions

Media Streaming Devices

The services are available on most smartphones, tablets, TV streaming devices, computers, and video game consoles.

DIRECTV fuboTV Hulu Philo PS Vue Sling YouTube
Free Trial Free Trial Sign Up Free Trial Free Trial Free Trial Free Trial
$40–$75 $45–$50 $40 $16–$20 $45–$80 $25 $40
Amazon Fire TV -
Apple TV
Google Chromecast
2nd Gen+
-
Roku
Android TV - - -
Android Phone/Tablet
4.4+

4.1+

5.0+

7.0+

4.4+

4.4+

5.0+
iPhone/iPad
iOS 9+

iOS 9.1+

iOS 10+

iOS 9.3+

iOS 9+

iOS 9+

iOS 9.1+
Web Browser
PlayStation 4 - - - - - -
PlayStation 3 - - - - - -
Xbox One - - - -
Xbox 360 - - - - - -
Nintendo Switch - - - - - -

TV Devices

Most services are available on Apple TV (4th generation and later), Roku, and Chromecast.

If you own an Amazon Fire TV, you will be able to stream all services except Philo and YouTube TV

If you own an Android TV device like NVIDIA Shield, you will be able to use it with fuboTV, PlayStation Vue, Sling TV, and YouTube TV.

Game Consoles

PlayStation
PlayStation Vue is the only service available on either the PlayStation 3 or PlayStation 4.

Xbox
On Xbox One, you can use Hulu Live TV, Sling TV, and YouTube TV.
Hulu is the only service that supports Xbox 360.

Nintendo Switch
If you have a Nintendo Switch, you should consider Hulu Live TV because it’s the only service that works on that device.

Smartphones & Tablets

You will be able to live stream from your mobile device on iOS and Android using the streaming service’s app. Generally, you will need at least iOS 9+ or Android 4.4+, but check your specific service.

Web Browsers

You can stream via web using Chrome with every service. Some offer streaming in Safari and Firefox. Depending on the service you will need to install Microsoft Silverlight or Flash.

Video Review of Live TV Streaming Services

Live TV Streaming Pages