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, AT&T TV 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 November 13, 2019 to provide our review of the all-new Disney+ streaming service, which we like—a lot. The Star Wars series ‘The Mandalorian’ is the highlight at launch, but there’s plenty more great content to be had, especially for families looking for wholesome entertainment. Disney+ is affordablly priced at $6.99 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.
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
With Sony announcing that it will shut down PlayStation Vue on January 30, 2020, cord-cutters are losing what we believed was the best option for sports fans. Next in line is YouTube TV, which excels on video quality, local channel coverage, and regional sports. Unfortunately, it lacks several of the sports channels that PlayStation Vue offered, such as 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, although its lack of ESPN channels 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 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.
AT&T TV Now (formerly DirecTV Now) had at one point improved considerably after finally adding cloud DVR, but AT&T has been squeezing the service for extra profits and it is now our least favorite streaming TV service..
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 on November 1. 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 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.)
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.