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Best Live TV Streaming Services

Cable TV Alternatives – Live Streaming Services

This guide is a comparison of all TV streaming services that work as cable TV alternatives. We looked at channel availability, price, and features like regional sports availability, premium channels, and more when comparing live TV streaming services. This article contains tables comparing the streaming cable alternatives in these categories. Before we get to the comparison tables I wanted to give you our recommendations. We compared DIRECTV Now, fuboTV, Hulu Live TV, Philo, PlayStation Vue, Sling TV, and YouTube TV.  Here are our findings.

Overall Best Streaming Service – DIRECTV NOW

We recommend DIRECTV NOW mainly due to its channel availability. You can read our full DIRECTV NOW review, and even try their 1-week free trial. Here are the reasons we think this service is the top choice on the market.

  • Most cable tv channels available
  • Very High availability of local networks
  • Decent Sports Coverage
  • Great Value at $35 base package
  • Best pricing for premium channels like HBO, Showtime, Starz and more

One could argue that their cloud DVR service is only in beta. However, the channel availability more than makes up for that. Furthermore, their cloud DVR is due out in the first quarter of 2018.

Cable Alternative Comparison Summary

The table below shows how each service scored in each category. More detailed tables for each category are later in this article. You can also see the review for each individual service by clicking the link in the table below. Links to the free trials for each service are also linked in the table.

Trial Offer Price Cable TV Channel Availability Local Channel Availability Premium Channels Features Sports
DIRECTV NOW DIRECTV NOW Review Free Trial $35-$70/month BEST EXCELLENT BEST GOOD GREAT
fuboTV fuboTV Review Free Trial $45/month GOOD GOOD POOR GOOD GREAT
Hulu TV Hulu TV Review Free Trial $40/month EXCELLENT EXCELLENT GOOD EXCELLENT GOOD
Philo Philo Review Free Trial $16-$20/month GOOD POOR POOR GOOD POOR
PlayStation VUE PlayStation VUE Review Free Trial $40-$75/month EXCELLENT GREAT GOOD EXCELLENT EXCELLENT
Sling TV Sling TV Review Free Trial $20-$25/month EXCELLENT GOOD GOOD GOOD GREAT
YouTube TV YouTube Review Free Trial $35/month GOOD EXCELLENT OK BEST GREAT


Use the links below to navigate to the detailed live TV streaming service comparison of each individual category.

Comparison Categories

Streaming Cable TV Channels

The table below is a comparison of all the major live TV streaming services based on the availability of the top cable TV channels on their service. A checkmark indicates it’s available for the lowest price package that service offers. Otherwise, the checkmark will include a price next to it. If the channel is available through an add-on package then the checkmark will indicate the price with a “+” and the cost of the add-on package.

As shown in the chart below DirecTV Now has the best channel availability when it comes to networks found on traditional cable and satellite television.

DIRECTV NOW fuboTV Hulu Philo PlayStation Vue Sling Orange Sling Blue YouTube
$35 – $70 $40 $40 $16 $40 – $75 $20 $25 $35
A&E
AMC
Animal Planet
BET
+$5
Bravo
Cartoon Network
CNN
Comedy Central
Discovery
Disney Channel
E!
+$5
ESPN
Food Network
Fox News
Fox Sports 1
Freeform
FX
FXX
Hallmark
+$5
+$5
HGTV
History
Investigation Discovery
Lifetime
MSNBC
+$5
MTV
+$5
+$5
Nickelodeon
OWN
– $50
Paramount Network
+$5
+$5
Syfy
TBS
TCM
+$5
+$5
+$5
TLC
TNT
truTV
+$5
USA Network
VH1
+$5
+$5

Navigate to Category List


Broadcast Network Comparison

Since it varies based on location, I recommend you check out my guide to watching local channels for more information on what each service offers in regard to your local NBC, ABC, FOX, CBS, etc.

Ultimately DIRECTV NOW, Hulu and Youtube TV are the Best Options for live local channels. PS VUE is the next best option after those three. FuboTV is behind Vue followed by Sling TV. Philo TV currently isn’t offering local channels.

Navigate to Category List

TV Streaming Service Features

For the price, YouTube TV has the best feature set due to it’s DVR capacity. Hulu and PlayStation Vue are feature rich make for good cable alternatives. Hulu has a competitive feature set, but charges for upgrades. The rest of the services are about even when you consider the features you receive for the cost of the service.

DIRECTV NOW fuboTV Hulu Philo PlayStation Vue Sling Orange Sling Blue YouTube
$35 – $70 $45 $40 $16 $40 – $75 $20 $25 $35
Cloud DVR

(in Beta)

$5 $5
Cloud DVR Capacity unknown 30 hrs 50 hrs Unlimited 30 days Unlimited 28 days 50 hrs 50 hrs Unlimited 8 months
Simultaneous Streaming 2 streams 2 streams 2 streams 3 streams 5 streams 1 stream 3 streams 3 streams
On Demand
Parental Controls

Navigate to Category List

Premium Channels

The table below shows which premium channels are available on each TV streaming service along with the cost of each. DIRECTV NOW offers the best pricing while Sling TV offers the most channels. All things considered, DIRECTV NOW edges out Sling TV due to the amazing pricing DIRECTV NOW offers for these channels.

DIRECTV NOW fuboTV Hulu Philo PlayStation Vue Sling Orange Sling Blue YouTube
$35 – $70 $45 $40 $16 $40 – $75 $20 $25 $35
Cinemax $5
$9
$15 $10 $10
EPIX
$5 $5
HBO $5
$15
$15 $15 $15
Showtime $8
$10
$11 $10 $10 $11
Starz $8
$9 $9


Navigate to Category List

Stream Regional Sports Networks Live

When it comes to the availability of regional sports networks, FuboTV comes out on top. DirecTV and Playstation Vue are good second choices. However, keep in mind that these channels are only available if you live in the market for that channel. For a better idea of which service to get based on the sports your watch, see our guide to watching sports without cable.

DIRECTV NOW fuboTV Hulu Philo PlayStation Vue Sling Orange Sling Blue YouTube
$35 – $70 $45 $40 $16 $40 – $75 $20 $25 $35
Altitude
AT&T SportsNet Northwest
AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh
AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain
AT&T SportsNet Southwest
AT&T SportsNet Utah
Fox Sports Arizona
$50+
$45+
Fox Sports Carolinas
Fox Sports Detroit
$50+
$45+
Fox Sports Florida
$50+
$45+
Fox Sports Indiana
Fox Sports Kansas City
Fox Sports Midwest
$50+
$45+
Fox Sports New Orleans
Fox Sports North
$50+
$45+
Fox Sports Ohio
$50+
$45+
Fox Sports Oklahoma
$50+
Fox Sports Prime Ticket
$50+
$45+
Fox Sports San Diego
$50+
$45+
Fox Sports South
$50+
$45+
Fox Sports Southeast
$50+
$45+
Fox Sports Southwest
$50+
$45+
Fox Sports Sun
$50+
$45+
Fox Sports Tennessee
Fox Sports West
$50+
$45+
Fox Sports Wisconsin
$50+
MASN
MSG
$50+
MSG+
$50+
NBC Sports Bay Area
$50+
$45+
NBC Sports Boston
$50+
$45+
NBC Sports California
$50+
$45+
NBC Sports Chicago
$50+
$45+
NBC Sports Northwest
$45+
NBC Sports Philadelphia
$45+
NBC Sports Philadelphia+
NBC Sports Washington
$50+
$45+
NBC Sports Washington+
NESN
$45+
Spectrum SportsNet LA
SportsNet NY
SportsTime Ohio
$50+
$45+
YES Network
$50+
$45+

Navigate to Category List

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Categories: Reviews
Dennis Restauro :Dennis is the founder of Grounded Reason. He also hosts the Grounded Reason Podcast. Follow him on Twitter: Follow Dennis on Twitter

View Comments (44)

  • Direct TV Now does not take phone calls for customer service. They use the chat boxes. I was overcharged for several months and it’s not been fixed yet!

    • Did you contact them through the Chat? They are pretty good about handling billing issues there.

      • Hi. Thanks. Yes several times. They were very nice. But it is not resolved ..

          • Much thanks for asking. They said they would. But it takes a long time to “chat” with them. Still awaiting an answer. Thank you :))

          • Customer service has always been their biggest problem. They have a horrible reputation

          • Sorry to hear about your bad experience with their customer service. The only advice I have is to try again and hope you get a better agent.

          • Speaking of that, any word on customer service with the others, that has become a high selling point for me. I'm sick of fighting for whatt Im supposed to have in the first place.

  • Hi. We had SlingTV Orange & Blue over the summer and after baseball playoffs had horrible buffering issues due to our terrible local phone internet provider. We do not want a dish, utilize free TV but want the cable controlled sports, including regional. Our mbps averages 2 - 2.5. Tried YouTube TV have a crisp picture and buffering has all but disappeared. YouTube TV is a little cheaper too. Just fyi.

    • That's good to know. If anyone is having buffering issues with one of these services I recommend comparing it to another service in the list and NOT something like Netflix or Amazon Prime. Live services are a lot less forgiving to sub-optimal home WiFi than on demand services. Comparing services on the list are a good way to see if the issue is with the service or your home network.

  • All those channels and no TCM? That's my channel of choice. I leave it on all night in the bedroom. I'm dropping directv after eight years this month and trying to get prepared beforehand. I've got an antenna and a cheap box, so I'm getting there!

    • TCM is on DIRECTV Now, Sling TV, and Vue. I only put the top channels on the list. TCM falls just outside of the ones I listed. I will add it in though since you asked about it.

      • Thanks, Dennis. I plan on utilizing those free trials, one at a time. Funny, I was overwhelmed by all this just a short time ago, and now I'm really excited to get this adventure going. I'm going to cancel directv on the last day of my paid-up billing period, and once that hurdle is over without incident, then I'll be a free bird!

  • Thanks. Well written. DIRECTV NOW looks like a pretty good choice. I tested it and like it. EXCEPT that they have ESPN. I refuse to pay for a penny to this political/sports network who honored the cop killer Assata Shakur by publishing a poem praising her. She escaped to Cuba years ago. DIRECTV NOW should offer an ESPN free choice.

  • I have had Directv Now since it began and have never missed cable one moment since then Sure, there is a short period of adapting to doing things differently than you used to with cable, but that goes away quickly. Last month I was added to the Beta testing group for the DVR and since then I see no real major difference between what i have and cable... other than the price. If you are looking for a service that offers a lit of channels for a fair price, I don't think you can go wrong with Directv Now.

    • I would love to be part of the DVR beta test to try it out. How does one get included?

  • I am trying to get this all sorted out so that my husband a I will make the best decision for us. We are in our 70's and not very tech savvy. lol. We are paying close to $300 a month for cable! Before we married 1.5 years ago, I had ditched cable and used an antenna for local channels and got a Roku streamer with Netflix and Hulu.I still use it, and I have a Firestick that I also use in the bedroom if I want to.He watches TV in the study with cable. He is now agreed with me its time to change. I don't think our internet is strong enough to handle all this. If i get that worked out, my questions will be , if we go with Direct TVNow, he wants the $70 package, will I be able to keep my Roku with Netflicks and Hulu . Or is there a better way?

    Thanks for any helpTerri

    • Hello - I have found allot of value in cord cutting. That said, if you are less than tech savvy, maybe you could try a Hybrid Approach. If you are within 50mi of a major city, like I am, I added 2 HD antenna's to our sets (remarkable reception) and use Hulu because of the super easy interfaces. Coupled with our regular Amazon and Netflix...hard to miss anything.

    • You can try each service free and decide but directv Now is the best bang for your money. You can use your Fire-stick or Roku device in order to view Directv Now. You will not really need Hulu since most of your programs can be seen using DirectV Now ON Demand . There are also plenty of APPs that are like Netflicks that are free that you can install on your Roku and Fire-stick. I would recommend that you upgrade to the second generation FireTV if you are planning on using Directv Now.

    • You can subscribe to as many services as you want, but it will get expensive. The $70 package plus Hulu and Netflix will be close to $100 dollars. As for your internet, 25 Mbps should cover it considering you will only be watching 2 streams at the same time.

      • Thank you Dennis , I forgot to mention we both work on our computers while we watch TV.
        how many Mbps do you think it would take to be safe.

        • I usually figure around 8 Mbps per simultaneous stream plus an extra 5-10 for browsing and such.

  • Found this web site due to an ad for Philo tv streaming service and I am excited about trying it. Love the idea of no sports channels to save money. Yes I wish they had USA, TMC, and or TNT but I will survive!

  • This article is the best I’ve seen yet about streaming services. It definitely will help me make a decision. However, I want to point out something about DirecTV Now. It’s $35 for the first year and $78 per month after that. You also have to sign a two-year contract, so you’re paying more than double the advertised amount for a year. The other packages also increase after the first year.

    • That's may be true with DIRECTV, but it's not the case with the DIRECTV NOW streaming service. There is no contract with DIRECTV NOW. It's month to month and is $35 a month. There is no hidden price hike with the streaming service.

  • Dennis, I have been researching this myself, and by far your list is the most comprehensive, and provides the most data, and is CORRECT data. Thank you for this!

  • My wife enjoys the Hallmark channels (current series and Hallmark movies.) Do any of the streaming services include these? I need to be certain before purchasing. Thank you for your help.

  • Thank you for the review. Curious as to why no one is addressing the huge differences in DVR between the services. Although I enjoyed the ease of use of YouTube TV, many of the major channels still require you to watch the commercials in DVR mode, example the SyFy channel. PS Vue does not. That alone should propel it over Youtube TV, and their $10 price hike coming on the 13th.

  • I recently signed up for Sling, prepaying for 2 months ($80) in order to get a free Roku Express. Unfortunately, Roku (who processes the shipments) refused to accept the validity of either my street address or my PO box. I went through many weeks of near-daily contacts with Sling and Roku (and multiple "escalations") to try to get delivery before finally giving up. Sling refused to refund my $80 (for service that I was unable to watch) and to truly cap things, they also charged me ANOTHER $40 . . . because by the time I finally cancelled my service, things had gone one day into a THIRD month.

    Needless to say, I will have no future dealings with Sling (or Dish) in this lifetime or any other. An outright refusal to correct errors caused by a company (or their marketing partner) is NOT is a good policy.

      • Thanks for the feedback. I feel bad that this experience worked out so badly, because aside from the $120, I rather like the idea of how Sling works. But I have read in comments by other (former) Sling users that Sling is very adamant about "no refunds" (even when Sling acknowledges being at fault). So I wanted to alert other potential Sling customers that this is a known defect in Sling policy that they're deliberately choosing to not-correct.

        It's also my (faint) hope that if Sling gets enough bad press for their no-refund policy, someone there will finally wake up to the fact that this attitude is actually costing them money. In my own case, had they even offered me some replacement time in exchange for the two months that I'd lost (which was what I'd initially requested of them), they would now be collecting hundreds of dollars a year from me . . . instead of being the focus of negative comments, both on the web and in Real Life.

        • I agree with you. Customer service has always been lacking in the pay TV industry. This new medium should be a way to change that.

  • Hi Dennis, Love your website! We will be trying to cut the cord! Been paying $300 per month to Verizon, not including 6 cell phones, on top of that! Live outside BMORE, and need my Orioles games. So gonna give it a whirl. Any advice? Also, wanted to say thanks!
    Greg

  • I do not see the golf channel. I live in florida my son Lives in the house.I live in motor home on the property . Do I need 2 accounts .

    • You should be able to use one account. All the networks have the golf channel except Philo. Sling TV with the sports add-on would be your most affordable way to watch at $35 per month.

  • I have Hulu Live TV and I get TCM. (Both East and West coast.) I think it's more reliable than Direct TV Now from what I read in most of the reviews.

  • Very good information! If I cut the cable cord and go with a streaming service like Direct TV Now, do I only need one Roku device to operate my 3 TVs and can we watch different channels at the same time or do I need 3 Roku devices for each TV?

    Sorry, we are very new at this streaming thing!