As cord-cutting becomes more popular, TV networks have responded by bringing their popular cable channels to the internet. That means you no longer need expensive satellite or cable TV service to watch local news, sports, and your favorite shows.
But with all this competition comes more confusion. Between Sling TV, YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV, and others, cord-cutters have a lot to think about. Each service has its own quirks and caveats, and their channel lineups (and increasingly, their prices) are constantly in flux.
We created this guide to make your decision easier. It compares the features of all the current TV streaming bundles, lists which devices each one supports, provides a full side-by-side channel list, and provides our bottom-line recommendations. It also shares the latest TV streaming news, and links to our in-depth reviews, where you can learn more about how each bundle works.
Updated January 1, 2021 to add our in-depth T-Mobile TVision streaming service and TVision Hub review. The price is right for cord-cutters looking for a highly tailored TV experience, but the Hub is a bit rough around the edges and there’s no guarantee pricing will remain as affordable given the pressure exerted by the big TV networks. Still, it’s worth a look.
Best TV streaming service
YouTube TV may not meet every cord-cutter’s needs, but even at $65 per month, we think it’s the best path to local stations, live news, national sports, and a broad selection of entertainment channels. It also includes cloud DVR service that can record an unlimited number of programs for up to nine months. If you’re looking to replace cable TV with something cheaper, this is still your safest bet.
What sets Hulu’s $65-per-month live TV bundle apart from others is its inclusion of Hulu’s on-demand service (normally $6 per month), which includes a large catalog of network shows, plus originals such as The Handmaid’s Tale and Castle Rock. Hulu’s interface can be busy, but it ties everything together in a way that encourages discovery, and the service is extendable with more DVR storage and additional simultaneous streams—if you’re willing to pay.
Best TV streaming service for sports fans
Cord-cutting sports fans lost their best option for sports when Sony shut down PlayStation Vue on January 30, 2020. Hulu + Live TV is the next-best thing, with broad local channel and regional sports coverage. Unfortunately, it lacks several of the sports channels that PlayStation Vue offered, including NHL Network, NFL Network, and Bein Sports. There’s also no way to add NFL Redzone (for now, at least).
FuboTV is a potential alternative if you need some of the sports channels that YouTube TV is missing, and it recently signed a deal with Disney to bring ESPN to its lineup. It still lacks regional Fox Sports channels, however, which could make it a non-starter for some sports fans.
Best family-oriented streaming service
Fans of the Star Wars saga might be interested in checking out Disney’s new service just to watch The Mandalorian, but there’s plenty of other great content to be had here, drawing from Disney’s own deep and broad library of movies and TV shows. We’ve reviewed the first five of the shows originally developed for Disney+ and came away impressed.
Other options to consider
Sling TV is an intriguing option if you’re using an antenna to get local channels, because it doesn’t include much local coverage on its own. As such, its starting price of $30 per month is a lot lower than other bundles, and you can add channel packs that otherwise might be cost-prohibitive. On the downside, integrating local over-the-air channels with the Sling app requires extra hardware, you only get 10 hours of cloud DVR storage. (An expansion to 50 hours is a $5 per month upcharge.) Also, some channels—such as regional Fox Sports networks—aren’t available with Sling TV at all.
AT&T TV Now (formerly DirecTV Now) improved considerably after finally adding cloud DVR, but then AT&T started squeezing the service for extra profits. In light of the most recent price increases from other services, however, AT&T TV Now has become one of the best values in streaming.
Apple TV+ Apple is one of the most cash-rich companies on the planet, and it has sunk a ton of money into developing its first streaming TV service, which launched in November 2019. The service is one of the least expensive at just $4.99 per month, but there’s not a lot of content in these early days, and there isn’t much that impressed our critic.
FuboTV is a $55-per-month sports-centric bundle that doesn’t include ESPN channels. Strange as that sounds, it does free up room for other channels, such as Fox Soccer Plus and Eleven Sports, at a much lower cost than with other bundles.
Philo is the biggest bundle you can get with no sports channels. As such, it only costs $20 per month, with channels from AMC, Viacom, Discovery, and A&E. Philo is a fine supplement if you can get prime-time shows and sports from an antenna.
Frndly TV offers about a dozen channels for $6 per month, most notably the Hallmark Channels and The Weather Channel. If those channels are missing from whatever larger package you’ve chosen, this might be a great supplement.
AT&T WatchTV is a $15-per-month service that offers a grab bag of cable channels, most of them lacking sports, so it could help fill in some holes left by other streaming bundles. Although AT&T used to offer this service for free with some of its unlimited wireless data plans, that’s no longer an option for new customers.
TV streaming features and channel guide
Ready to dig deeper? Below you’ll find even more information to help make your decision.
Let’s start with local channels. In certain markets—especially those outside of cities—live feeds may not be available due to ongoing rights negotiations with local broadcast affiliates. In lieu of those local feeds, most streaming bundles offer prime-time on-demand programming from whatever major broadcast networks they carry. (The sole exception is YouTube TV, which has opted to stay out of markets where it can’t offer live local coverage.)
Here’s a rundown of which bundles work on each major streaming platform (click to enlarge to a readable size):
As for features, the following chart shows how each live TV streaming service compares on DVR, simultaneous streams, ad-skipping, out-of-home access, and more:
And here’s a chart showing all the channels you can get through TV streaming bundles, along with the minimum price you’ll need to pay to get each one. If you see a “+” sign, that means the price is in addition to the cost of a base package. It’s a large chart that you can click to zoom into so that it’s more readable.
Our TV streaming bundle reviews
For deeper dives into each streaming bundle, check out the reviews below.
Because online services are often iterative, gaining new features and performance improvements over time, this roundup is subject to change in order to accurately reflect the current state of the service. Any changes to text or our final review verdict will be noted.