Live TV streaming services offer a very similar experience to cable TV without the years-long contracts and astronomical price tags. They usually achieve this by providing a more tailored selection of networks that cater to specific tastes, rather than a cable package’s 700+ channels full of content you’ll never watch.
Read our guide to the best live TV streaming services to find the one that best fits your content needs.
Table of Contents
- YouTube TV – Best Cable Substitute
- Sling TV – Best Value for a Basic Channel Package
- Hulu TV – Best Live TV and Streaming Bundle
- Philo – Best Budget Service
- fuboTV – Best for Sports Fans
- Frndly TV – Most Affordable Family and Educational Content
Our Top Picks for Live TV Streaming Services
- Competitive pricing
- Has many popular networks, including local stations like PBS
- Unlimited cloud DVR storage space
- Lack of regional sports network variety
- Currently no option to watch offline
- Free Trial
- 7 days
- No. of Channels
- Price per Month
Why we chose this company: YouTube TV’s inclusion of the most popular cable channels at a reasonable price make it our pick for best cable substitute.
What makes YouTube TV stand out from many of its competitors is its well-rounded channel and content catalog. Whereas other live TV streaming services may focus on providing the most affordable subscriptions or the best sports packages, YouTube TV strikes a good balance between its overall cost and available features.
Though it may not have all of the sports channels, YouTube TV includes networks that broadcast the “big three” sports league games (NBA, MLB, NFL). Like with many of its competitors, sports fans who want more can sign up for individual league streaming packages such as the NBA League Pass and the NFL Game Pass.
YouTube TV also offers one of the largest number of channels, second only to fuboTV on this list (and $15 cheaper.) The service even includes PBS in its lineup, making it unique among its competitors on this list.
The service’s cloud DVR feature is notable for having unlimited storage space for each of the 10 allowed profiles on an account. This means that every member of the household can have their own library of saved content.
Overall, YouTube TV offers the best value for cord cutters who want a comprehensive set of options, emulating the cable experience without bloating your subscription bill with channels and content you will likely never watch.
- Good selection of channels at an affordable price
- All add-ons, including more sports content, can be bundled for $21 ($46 full price)
- Special offers include OTA antennas or Chromecast devices for first-time subscribers
- Basic channel selection comparatively small
- No local or national over-the-air channels offered
- DVR space limited to 200 hours even with add-ons
- Free Trial
- 3 days
- No. of Channels
- Price per Month
- Orange and Blue tiers: $35 / Combined tiers: $50
Why we chose this company: Sling TV’s offering of over 50 popular channels plus access to sports content for under $50 makes it the best value for a basic channel package.
Sling TV is a live TV streaming service that offers over 50 channels for $50/mo through their core subscriptions. Sling has three core packages: Orange, Blue and Orange & Blue. The two individual packages cost $35/mo, and they focus on NBA and family programming or entertainment and news content, respectively.
The Orange & Blue package combines both channel offerings for $50/mo. While the basic packages only offer access to football games streamed on channels such as ESPN and FOX Sports, Sling also offers a “Sports Extra” add-on for $11/mo. This add-on includes channels such as NBA TV, NHL Network and MLB network, for additional sports coverage.
Although Sling doesn’t offer local channels or affiliates of national networks such as ABC or CBS, it does offer packages that include a free over-the-air antenna that can pick them up. Sling even currently offers a Chromecast streaming device with the purchase of any one of its subscriptions, which can be especially useful for anyone without a smart TV.
- Includes ESPN+ and Disney+ access
- Sports add-ons available
- Mix of live and on-demand content
- Limited to two simultaneous streams without add-ons
- Add-on required for additional cloud DVR space
- Large number of add-ons with no option to bundle them all
- Free Trial
- Varies throughout the year
- No. of Channels
- Price per month
Why we chose this company: The combination of Disney+ and ESPN+ access with a large number of channels at competitive prices makes Hulu’s live TV subscription package our pick for the best live TV and streaming bundle
Hulu is probably best known for offering on-demand streams of live TV content shortly after it airs and its hit original shows such as “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Only Murders in the Building.” However, Hulu + Live TV offers exactly what it says in its name. You can choose to watch episodes from in-season shows after they air or tune in live to watch shows as they air, including sports events and late-night shows.
Hulu’s live TV subscription also includes access to ESPN+ — a curated selection of live sports content and original programming — and Disney+ — one of the most popular streaming services around. This makes it a solid choice for sports fans and families alike, given the massive catalog of content that both services offer.
While you can technically subscribe to Hulu + Live TV as a standalone service, the price difference is merely $1 ($68.99 standalone vs $69.99 for the bundle), which makes getting the bundle a no-brainer.
Hulu’s live TV streaming service includes national and local channels such as ABC, NBC and FOX, which tend to get left out of some competing live TV streaming services.
Hulu’s major drawbacks are its DVR and simultaneous streams features, which are not as good as other services. The bundle only allows for up to two simultaneous streams and 50 hours of cloud DVR storage. Unlimited streams and 200 hours of storage are available, but they cost $9.99/month each, significantly driving up the price of the service.
- Selection of over 60 channels for $25/mo
- Unlimited cloud DVR included
- Up to 3 simultaneous streams and 10 profiles per account
- No local channels included
- Very limited sports content
- Free trial
- 7 days
- No. of channels
- Price per month
- $25, add-on channels for $3/$6/$9 per bundle ($18 total)
Why we chose this company: A combination of live and on-demand content for only $25/mo makes Philo our pick for best budget live TV streaming service.
Philo is a live TV streaming service that offers a selection of some of the most popular cable channels for a low monthly price. Channels such as the Food Network, TLC, Nickelodeon and the Discovery Channel are all part of Philo’s offering for just $25/mo.
Philo stands out for its single-tier subscription, which includes unlimited cloud DVR recordings that can stay on your account for up to 12 months. You also get access to three simultaneous streams and up to 10 profiles per account. This makes it a great choice for large families or account sharing.
On-demand movie channels such as Epix and Starz are offered as add-on packages for $6 and $9 per month, respectively. Unfortunately, national and local channels such as ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX are not included, but they can be picked up through an over-the-air antenna (purchased separately).
- Includes all major sports networks at its highest subscription tier
- 1,000 hours of DVR and 10 simultaneous streams included
- One of the largest selections, with over 130 channels
- Local sports broadcasts still subject to blackout rules
- Dedicated sports subscriptions like NFL Game Pass not included
- Free trial
- 3 days
- No. of channels
- Price per month
- $32.99 - $79.99
Why we chose this company: The inclusion of channels such as Fox Sports, ESPN, NBA TV, MLB Network and NFL Network, as well as several add-on options for even more sports content, makes fuboTV our pick for the best live TV streaming service for sports fans.
With over 130 channels, including all major sports networks and national networks such as ABC, CBS and FOX, fuboTV is a great cord-cutting alternative for sports fans. At its most expensive, fuboTV is just $79.99/mo, which is still a better deal than most traditional cable packages with similar content offerings.
The most affordable package costs only $33 per month, but is mainly aimed at Spanish-speaking audiences. It includes a number of Spanish language sports channels and a handful of Spanish counterparts to familiar channels such as National Geographic and the Discovery Channel.
The Elite subscription tier includes all the major sports league channels such as NBA TV, NFL Network and MLB network. It also includes channels focusing on the NHL, golf circuits and many popular soccer leagues.
Cloud DVR is included, allowing you to record up to 1,000 hours of content. You are also allowed to stream from up to 10 screens at a time, which may seem excessive, but can be useful for streaming games on multiple screens and devices throughout the house. Very handy if you don’t want to miss a moment while doing chores.
Unfortunately, like any other live TV streaming service, access to every game of every sports season is not included with fuboTV. If you want to watch preseason, off-season or games broadcast by sports channels with exclusive rights to the local teams, you often still have to pay extra. Typically, this involves subscribing to regional sports networks (often included in standard cable packages) or league-specific subscription services such as the NBA League Pass or the NFL Game Pass.
fuboTV does allow you to integrate these subscriptions to your account, but they are not considered part of the package and must be purchased separately.
- Low-cost alternative full of popular daytime TV content
- Access to Curiosity Stream, typically a separate subscription service
- Unlimited DVR recording
- Very limited channel selection (just over 30)
- No access to news or sports content
- Free trial
- 7 days
- No. of channels
- Price per month
- $6.99 - $10.99
Why we chose this company: Low prices and the focus on networks such as the Hallmark Channel and the History Channel make Frndly TV our pick for most affordable family and educational content.
True to its name, Frndly TV’s channel offering focuses on family-friendly content from the Hallmark Channel, BabyFirst TV and Lifetime, to name a few. These channels full of popular daytime TV content are particularly good for families with stay-at-home parents.
In addition to the ever-popular Hallmark Channel and the like, Frndly includes channels that offer educational content such as Vice TV — which has produced acclaimed documentaries — and Curiosity Stream, which features original content on any number of topics from history to literary reviews and much more.
Despite its fairly limited channel offering — around 32 channels total — what makes Frndly a solid live TV streaming choice is its low cost. For as little as $6.99 per month, you get access to all of Frndly’s channels with no hidden fees or strings attached. The only wrinkle is that the basic tier only allows for a single stream at a time, in standard definition.
Its highest subscription tier of $10.99/mo upgrades you to four simultaneous streams, unlimited recording and the ability to keep those recordings for up to nine months. When paired with an over-the-air antenna to pick up local stations for news coverage, NFL games and such, Frdnly TV is an affordable cable alternative with content for the whole family.
Other live streaming services we considered
What follows is a list of other services that were considered for a top spot, but ultimately didn’t make the cut for a number of reasons. Some of these aren’t exactly live TV streaming services, while others simply don’t offer as good a value as our top picks.
- Good value for casual sports fans
- Able to stream some live games and on-demand bonus content
- Doesn't offer access to much of ESPN's regular programming
- No access to non-sports content
- Free Trial - None
- No. of channels - n/a
ESPN+ gives you access to original content not typically found on the network's main channels such as ESPN and ESPN2, as well as select live sporting events not broadcast on mainstream channels.
For $6.99 per month, having access to almost all of ESPN’s original content (like the acclaimed “30 for 30” documentary series) is a pretty good deal for sports fans who enjoy watching more than just live sporting events.
While not strictly a live TV streaming service, ESPN+ is a good option for casual sports fans who aren’t invested in following every game of a specific league’s calendar. The mix of live sports broadcasts (of many mainstream and niche sports) and on-demand content makes it a good value overall.
- Hundreds of channels for free
- Access to some local networks
- Few to no "mainstream" channels available
- Free trial - n/a
- No. of channels - Over 200 each
Pluto TV and Xumo are live TV streaming services that stand out for being completely free to use. They don’t ask for any credit card information and you don’t even need to create an account, simply open the app or visit the website and you’re ready to go.
As you might expect from something that’s completely free, these services lack many popular channels found in paid competitor packages. The list of “missing” channels varies per service. Channels such as MTV and Nick Jr. are available on Pluto TV, but not Xumo, for example.
Both services also include limited versions of certain staple channels such as FOX, FOX Sports, CNN, CBS and others. These channels typically don’t offer live broadcasts. Instead, they air curated and pre-recorded clips.
They also feature hundreds of mostly independent channels that offer a variety of feature films and programs not found on “traditional” channels. This makes them a good choice for channel surfing, as you’re always likely to find something that might catch your eye.
- Free subscription available
- Access to some live sports
- Huge library includes older, hard-to-find TV shows and original content
- Only offers NBC-affiliated content
- Offline streaming only available for some titles at the highest subscription tier
- Free trial - Free subscription tier
- No. of channels - n/a
Peacock is NBC’s entry into the content streaming arena, featuring access to the network’s usual news and sports coverage, as well as on-demand streams of its TV and original shows. Notably for a streaming service from a major network, Peacock offers a free subscription tier which gives you access to much of its content, with the exceptions of live sporting events and original shows like .
The service’s most expensive subscription tier is $9.99 per month, which only provides the benefit of watching most shows ad-free and the ability to stream some of them offline. If this isn’t a big draw for you, $4.99/mo is a very reasonable price for a large content library and access to live sporting events like the NFL on “Sunday Night Football.
- Offers sports access on many subscription tiers
- Some bundles include HBO Max, Showtime and other streaming services
- Most affordable bundle is more expensive than many competitors
- Getting all features is essentially like paying for a cable package
- Free trial - None
- # of channels - 140+
DirecTV Stream is the well-known satellite TV company’s live streaming service. The service includes every channel commonly found in cable packages, including local stations that broadcast news and live sporting events. Regional sports networks with exclusive broadcasts of local team games are often included in DirecTV Stream packages as well.
Some bundles even include popular on-demand streaming services such as HBO Max, Showtime and Starz. Unfortunately, DirecTV’s main drawback is its price. The most affordable subscription tier starts at $69.99 per month, which is comparable to Hulu + Live TV and includes access to fewer channels.
Its most expensive tier is $149.99 monthly, which is comparable to a cable TV package, and still leaves out a handful of channels, particularly Spanish language content and international channels.
Live TV Streaming Services Guide
How to pick the live TV streaming service that’s best for you
While live TV streaming services are not as big a commitment as a traditional cable package, you want to make sure you settle on the right one so you don’t waste your money.
Here are some basic points to consider when shopping around for the best live TV streaming service for you.
Identify what channels you want
The first step to finding a live TV streaming service that works for you is knowing what exactly you want to watch. These streaming services don’t really have an option that includes every channel for every type of content.
Some services focus on offering basic cable staples such as MSNBC, TNT and Nickelodeon, to name a few. Other services may be more dedicated to sports content, with some focusing only on more of the major leagues such as the NBA, MLB or NFL. There are also services that only offer content such as the Hallmark Channel, TLC and other similar channels.
Depending on your content preferences, you may have to sign up for more than one of these services at once, or supplement your live TV streaming package with a subscription to Netflix, HBO Max or Apple TV+.
Do you want to record and watch later?
Almost all modern cable plans include a device called a DVR that allows you to record live broadcasts so you can watch them later. If you’re looking for a live TV streaming service to replace your cable subscription, you may not want to lose access to the recording feature.
Many live TV streaming services currently offer a similar feature for subscribers. If recording live broadcasts is important to you, make sure to look out for services that allow you to record content that otherwise would not be available on-demand.
Unlike DVRs that rely on physical storage space, streaming services make use of cloud storage, which allows you to access recordings from any device that is linked to your account. This means that you don’t always have to be at home to watch what you’ve saved.
Do keep in mind that there is generally a time limit on how long you can hold these recordings in your account, typically anywhere from 6 to 12 months. Some streaming services also limit how many hours of content you can record, much like with DVRs, so be mindful of these limits.
Do you want to watch live sports?
In much of the U.S., the broadcasting rights for the local MLB, NBA and NHL games are controlled by regional sports networks. These networks are usually included with local cable packages, but you won't necessarily get them in a live streaming TV subscription.
So if watching your local teams is important to you, it's essential to find out what is and isn't included in your service. For example, if you live in New England and want to watch the Boston Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics regularly, you must make sure your streaming package includes the regional sports network, NESN.
Different leagues also have different rules regarding blackouts. While navigating these rules can be complicated, to say the least, most leagues offer online tools to check what games are unavailable to you on their streaming services. For example, MLB.TV allows you to type in your ZIP code to get a list of blacked-out games, based on your location. NHL TV has a similar tool available on their website, while the NBA League Pass website tells you which games are blacked out when signing up for any of their packages.
How many devices do you use?
Regardless of how many people are in your household, you should be aware of which devices will be used to stream live TV. Almost every streaming service has a limit on how many devices can be used to stream from a single account at the same time.
For example, if you have three streaming-capable devices in your house, but your streaming service plan only allows two simultaneous streams, you may want to set ground rules for who gets to stream at what time.
How many people will be sharing this account?
On the topic of sharing accounts, many services allow you to set up multiple profiles on a single account. This is especially handy when multiple users have access to the same account, since it allows them to customize their content library according to their tastes. It can also come in handy when creating a family profile that can be used to watch TV as a group.
Most services normally allow anywhere from two to five users per account, though some — such as Sling TV — allow as many as 10. These profiles will be updated and accessible in any logged-in device.
Keep in mind that the number of connected devices allowed may be lower than the maximum number of profiles, which may be a small inconvenience for large households.
Look for special deals and trial plans
Though not always the case, live TV streaming services can be considerably more expensive than on-demand services such as Netflix. Not only that, but these services are also affected by content exclusivity — meaning that some channels or shows may only be available in one service but not another.
Since the whole point of live streaming is to move away from the generally bloated and expensive model of cable TV, you want to make sure you’re getting the most value for your money. To that end, many of these streaming services offer special promotions and trial periods that you can take advantage of.
Free trials tend to last anywhere between 3 to 7 days and can be useful for getting a feel of the service, though perhaps not long enough for sampling a good chunk of their catalog. Special deals tend to pop up around major holidays (typically for first-time subscribers) and can be an economic way of getting month or two’s worth of content for a more accessible price.
If you’re not sure whether a particular streaming service is for you, trying it out via a free trial or special promotion is the best way to determine whether it’s worth adding another monthly expense to your budget.
Plan out your budget
As previously mentioned, not every service carries every channel or show, which means that you may end up subscribing to more than one streaming service to fulfill your content needs.
To avoid paying as much as a traditional cable package, you’ll need to plan out your budget and avoid going overboard. While the most obvious way of doing this is to only pay for the services you want, it’s not your only alternative.
Another common tactic is to cancel your subscription anytime you feel like there’s nothing to watch for the month and renew your subscription when you want.
Remember that you can always cancel
One of the biggest perks these services offer is the ability to cancel whenever you want. Unlike traditional cable packages, streaming services don’t have cancellation penalties, since they don’t come with contracts. Streaming services can generally also be easily canceled or put on hold with a few clicks online, whereas you may have to endure a 30-minute phone call with the cable company to cancel or change your package.
This means that if you only want to watch a handful of shows or movies available on a single platform, you can subscribe for as long as it takes to watch what you want and cancel until something catches your eye again.
This makes it easy to keep your monthly bills low, since you’re not necessarily paying for multiple platforms every month.
Other cord-cutting alternatives
As you may have noticed by now, trying to cut the cord and switching to streaming can end up costing you almost as much as a cable subscription (without the contracts, thankfully). If your main concern was lowering your monthly bill, there are a few alternatives to consider for live TV streams.
Over the air (OTA) antennas are fairly affordable — typically in the $10 to $40 range — and will pick up the local affiliates of national networks like CBS, ABC and NBC for free and in high definition when available. This is a particularly good alternative if you’re not looking to watch anything specific and just want to keep up with the news.
If you’re partial to movies and binge-worthy shows, you can always consider other streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Paramount+ and HBO Max, to name a few. Much like with live TV streaming, you can subscribe for as long as it takes you to go through your watching wishlist and move on to a different service at your convenience.
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What is the cheapest live TV streaming service?
How We Chose the Best TV Live Streaming Services
Live streaming services operate over the internet. This means that any internet-capable device should be able to run these services.
We chose services that run on a variety of internet-capable devices (computers, smartphones, smart TV, etc.) so you can access them whenever you want, wherever you are.
Some features common to cable TV (such as recording programs to watch later or the ability to watch on multiple TVs at the same time) are not necessarily present in all live TV streaming services.
We focused on services that offered features such as cloud DVR (no need for a physical recording device), multiple simultaneous streams and the ability to set up multiple profiles per account.
One of live TV streaming services’ main draws is their lower cost when compared to cable TV packages. However, many of these services carry a hefty price tag all the same. We chose services that offered the most content relative to their monthly price, to ensure you don’t end up paying the same or more than you would for cable.
Summary of Money’s Best TV Live Streaming Services
|Company and Specialty||Free trial||# of channels|
|YouTube TV (Best Cable Substitute)||7 days||85+|
|Sling TV (Best Value for a Basic Channel Package)||3 days||50+|
|Hulu TV (Best Live TV and Streaming Bundle)||Variable||75+|
|Philo (Best Budget Service)||7 days||60+|
|fuboTV (Best for Sports Fans)||3 days||100+|
|Frndly TV (Most Affordable Family and Educational Content)||7 days||30+|