With much of the country sheltering in place to fight the spread of COVID-19, there’s never been a better time to re-evaluate your TV situation. If you’re paying for a pricey cable or satellite package, you could potentially save hundreds a year by cutting the cord and switching to a live TV streaming service.
There are plenty of options out there, the U.S. alone has more than 271 services to choose from but only a few of them are meant to replace your cable or satellite. In other words, they don’t stream live TV.
There are currently nine live streaming services that do (down from 10 after PlayStation Vue cut its cord in January 2020). They cost anywhere from $15 to $135/Month, but most packages average around $50/month. All of them operate on month-to-month contracts except for AT&T TV, which requires you to commit to two years.
WHAT IS LIVESTREAMING TV?
Live streaming TV is a television channel, or a group of channels people watch over the internet instead of traditional cable or satellite. It’s the same programming that’s happening live right now on your favorite networks, just delivered through different wires.
The channel grids look mostly the same as those of cable and satellite, but live streaming TV simply uses an app on a streaming device (like Roku, Apple TV, or Amazon Fire TV) instead of a physical receiver or DVR box. One less piece of equipment on the shelf is a definite plus.
Except for local TV stations, there are also no channel “numbers” in live streaming. Initially, that’s the weirdest difference when cutting the cord in favor of streaming, but you get over it. TNT is still TNT, numbered or not.
Though no single service covers every base for every viewer (yet), CableTV.com has reviewed 15 of the best live streaming and on-demand TV services currently available to potential cord-cutters.
There’s a long list of live TV streaming services to choose from, but here are the best of the bunch:
- AT&T TV Now
- Hulu + Live TV
- Sling TV
- YouTube TV
HULU + LIVE TV
Price: $55 per month for around 60 channels and Hulu’s ad-supported, on-demand movie and TV library; add-on channels and features range from $6 to $15 each.
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.
Hulu combines an impressive live TV list with a Netflix-worthy catalog of on-demand titles. And it does it all for one price. Get more than 65 news, sports, kids, and entertainment channels and thousands of on-demand programs for $54.99/month. (That includes all of Hulu’s award-winning original shows.)
You can enjoy ad-free on-demand content with the live TV plan for $60.99/month. It also gives you the chance to download titles for offline viewing ideal for frequent travelers.
Opt for the $9.99/month enhanced DVR add-on to boost Hulu’s storage space from 50 to 200 hours. The same extra monthly cost will also give you every family’s wish: unlimited simultaneous streams. (The standard plan only allows 2 people to watch at once.) A Seven-day free trial is available.
Price: Sling Orange: $30 per month for 30-plus channels; Sling Blue: $30 per month for 40-plus channels; Blue + Orange: $45 per month for 45-plus channels; additional channel add-on packs and features range from $5 to $25.
Supported devices: Amazon Fire TV and Fire tablets, Android, Apple TV, Airplay, AirTV, AirTV 2, 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, XiaomiMi Box, ZTE devices, Oculus devices.
If you only need a select few channels and aren’t bothered by a lack of local stations, try Sling TV. Both the Sling Orange and Sling Blue plans cost $30/month. The Orange package comes with 32 channels, including Disney and ESPN, and 1 simultaneous stream. The Blue has 47 channels, featuring FOX and NBC, and 3 simultaneous streams. Sling Orange + Blue costs $45/month and provides 4 simultaneous streams.
Don’t worry if you feel you’re missing something. Sling has many ways to customize your subscription. Add extra kids, comedy, or news channels for $5/month and add sports networks for a further $10/month. Give yourself more precious storage space by paying another $5/month to increase the standard 10 hours of DVR storage to 50.
While you may occasionally spot a week-long free trial, Sling TV tends to offer $10 off the first month.
Price $50 per month for 70-plus channels; add-on packages range from $3 to $40.
Supported devices: Android, Android TV, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, iOS, Nvidia Shield, Roku, Chrome web browser, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles, VizioSmartCast TVs, and select Samsung, LG, Hisense, and Sharp smart TVs
For a simple, no-nonsense package, opt for YouTube TV. Its sole plan is $49.99/month and features over 70 channels, including local channels that usually cost extra, such as ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC.
There is also the option to add premium networks for an additional monthly fee. Showtime costs $7/month, while NBA League Pass is $40/month.
YouTube TV’s cloud DVR capabilities are truly impressive. Each account comes with unlimited storage, and recordings can be kept for up to 9 months.
Up to 3 people can use the service at once to help curb TV-related family disputes. And 1 account can house up to 6 profiles, so each member of your household can view personalized recommendations. New subscribers can try a seven-day free trial.
AT&T TV NOW
Price: Plus: $65 per month for 40-plus channels, including HBO; Max: $80 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; OptimoMás: $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.
Supported devices: Amazon Fire TV, Android, Apple TV, Chromecast, iOS, Mac, Roku, Chrome web browsers, Safari, Xbox One console (coming soon)
If Cinemax and HBO are your go-to networks, you’ll love AT&T TV Now. It’s the only streaming service to include the channels for free, others charge an additional monthly fee on top of the regular subscription price. To pay nothing extra for these two premium networks, you’ll have to choose AT&T TV Now’s Max plan. It costs $80/month and boasts over 60+ channels.
The service has 6 other packages to choose from. The Plus plan is the cheapest. Costing $55/month, it comes with more than 45 TV channels. There’s also the $93/month. Entertainment plan featuring 65+ channels and the Ultimate package, which will set you back $135/month for over 125 channels. Each comes with a mixture of news, sports, entertainment, and kids’ channels. Plus, you can personalize each package with add-ons, ranging from movie packs to Spanish-language specials.
No matter which package you choose, you’ll get 3 simultaneous streams, and AT&T TV Now’s True Cloud DVR. This allows you to record a whopping 500 hours of content with each movie, game, or episode remaining in your library for 90 days. Plus, Max and international package subscribers can make use of a seven-day free trial.
Price: $20 per month for 58-plus channels.
Supported devices: Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, iOS, Chrome, Roku, Android TV
Philo is one of the cheapest live TV streaming services around. So if you’re on a budget, you’ll want to take a look at its $20/month plan. Offering almost 60 channels, including AMC, Comedy Central, Discovery, and Nickelodeon, it’s designed with pure entertainment in mind. (You won’t find local channels or sports networks, but you will find plenty of on-demand titles to while away the hours.)
The fact Philo comes with unlimited DVR storage may be a shock. But it’s true. The cost-effective service allows you to record as much as you want, and each title is saved for 30 days. Plus, you can instantly catch up on anything that’s aired in the past 72 hours.
Philo doesn’t offer add-ons, but it does allow up to 10 profiles per account and 3 simultaneous streams. So if you love history documentaries, your partner’s into reality TV, and your kids can’t get enough cartoons, you can all watch your faves with the click of a button.
Using a popular service such as Hulu + Live TV or Sling TV to live stream TV online is a cost-effective way to say goodbye to cable. With all the most popular channels and plenty of premium options, you won’t want for much more. While many of these services offer access to local channels such as ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC, some don’t. Serious local sports fans might consider using an HD antenna to enjoy free local sports action. If you are looking for an affordable way to boost your entertainment library, think about pairing your chosen live TV subscription with a free streaming service. Some offer thousands of classic and contemporary titles for no extra cost.