Updated

Best TV streaming service: YouTube TV vs. SlingTV vs. Hulu vs. PlayStation Vue, and all the rest

Which streaming TV bundle is the best deal for cord-cutters? Our head-to-head reviews hash it out.

best streaming service Rob Schultz / IDG

It’s great what a little competition will do. Ever since cord cutting became a genuine trend, TV networks and pay TV providers have scrambled to bring their channel bundles to the internet.

But with more competition comes more confusion. Between Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, DirecTV Now, Hulu with Live TV, YouTube TV, FuboTV, and Philo, prospective cord-cutters who still want a bundle of traditional TV channels have a lot to consider before making the leap. And while these services tend to be cheaper and more flexible than cable, each comes with its own quirks and caveats.

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 August 22, 2019 to add a link to Jared Newman’s Cord Cutter Confidential column about a new streaming TV service that offers a limited number of channels—including The Hallmark Channel—but costs much less than the services casting a broader net in the hopes of signing up millions of subscribers. Frndly TV offers only a dozen channels, but its pricing starts at just $6 per month.

Best TV streaming service 

YouTube TV is finally available nationwide. Between that expansion and its availability on every major video-streaming platform, it has become the best overall choice for cord-cutters. 

Runner-up

On the surface, Hulu with Live TV doesn’t seem much different from other streaming TV bundles. You get dozens of live channels for $45 per month, but what sets it apart is the inclusion of Hulu’s on-demand service (normally $8 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

PlayStation Vue offers the most complete selection of sports channels, including national sports, regional sports, and league-specific networks (NFL Network/Redzone, MLB Network, and NBA TV). PlayStation Vue’s DVR lets you record an unlimited number of shows, but it will only store them for 28 days. Sony has significantly increased the number of local broadcasters it carries, but you should check Sony’s website to make sure the ones you want are on the list; otherwise, you’ll need a TV antenna for backup.

Other options to consider

Sling TV offers a less-expensive starting point than most other streaming bundles, with Orange and Blue plans priced at $25 per month each. (The former includes ESPN and other Disney-owned channels, while the latter includes channels owned by Fox and NBC.) From there, you can add several channel packs and still come out ahead of other bundles, especially if you’re using an antenna for local channels. Still, DVR service is $5-per-month extra, and while you can combine the Orange and Blue packages for a total $40 per month, at that point you’re not really saving over other bundles, which offer slicker interfaces.

DirecTV Now has improved considerably in recent months, and the service has finally added cloud DVR, although AT&T allows you to record only 20 hours of video which is stored for a maximum of 30 days. It’s also the only bundle that faithfully reproduces 60-frames-per-second video on every applicable broadcast.

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 only streaming bundle that has 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.

AT&T WatchTV is a $15-per-month service that offers a grab bag of cable channels, most of them lacking sports. AT&T wireless subscribers with an “&More” unlimited data plan can get the service for free. It could help fill in some holes left by other streaming bundles.

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.)

To see which local stations are available in your area, visit the websites for Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, DirecTV Now, Hulu with Live TV, FuboTV, and YouTube TV.

Jared Newman / TechHive

To see which specific TV Everywhere apps each service reports, check out the support pages for Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, DirecTV Now, Hulu with Live TV, and FuboTV (along with this Reddit page for YouTube TV).

Here’s a rundown of which bundles work on each major streaming platform (click to enlarge to a readable size):

streamingchannelscompared Jared Newman / IDG

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:

streamingfeaturescompared Jared Newman / IDG

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.

streamingbundlescompared Jared Newman / IDG

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.

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