The cord-cutting trend increasingly shows that people are dumping expensive cable TV packages. Does that mean everybody is giving up on live TV? Not really.
Several streaming services still include live TV options, and they're gaining in popularity as convenient and affordable alternatives to cable. But their pricing advantage over cable is shrinking, as live streaming TV service keep raising monthly fees on subscribers.
YouTube TV raised its base package price to $50 a month in April, up from $40. More recently, Hulu announced that as of December 18, subscribers for its Hulu + Live TV service, which features live pay TV channels like ESPN, CNN, FX, TNT, and Bravo, will be charged $54.99 per month, a $10 increase from the current $44.99 monthly rate.
This isn’t the first time Hulu has raised prices for its live TV bundle. In February, Hulu increased the same package’s price from $40 to $45, while simultaneously lowering the base Hulu subscription, which does not carry live TV and includes ads in programming, from $7.99 to $5.99 per month.
Even as live streaming services hike prices on subscribers, they are promoting how flexible, convenient, and cheap streaming packages are compared to cable — especially considering all the fees added onto cable bills. (Many people are paying over $200 a month for cable, so $50 per month is cheap by comparison.)
"We know that many people don’t watch live television year-round, so we’ve made it easy for Hulu subscribers to switch back and forth between our plans to best suit their needs," Hulu explained in press release last week. "If you love college football, choose Hulu + Live TV during the season, then switch to one of Hulu’s less expensive on-demand plans when it’s over. If you enjoy most of your TV on demand but really want to watch live election news, just switch to Hulu + Live TV for a few months."
Whereas cable providers typically require customers to call up (and wait on hold forever) to cancel, virtually all streaming services make it easy to cancel subscriptions or put them on hold like Hulu suggests. So what's the best live-streaming TV service package for the money today? The answer depends a lot on what you want to watch and how much you think access to pay TV channels is truly worth.
For some viewers who don't particularly care about watching TV live, a subscription to a basic on-demand streaming service, like Netflix, Disney Plus, or Hulu, is the most sensible and cost-efficient option.
As for live-streaming TV packages, here's a comparison of four popular services, priced from $25 up.
Best Live Streaming TV Deals
With a few different options for live streaming, AT&T TV Now’s cheapest choice, Plus, has 45 channels, including HBO (at no extra charge) and add-ons like Showtime, Starz, or Cinemax available for $11 more per month. The app allows for two users to stream simultaneously and includes cloud DVR storage. Reportedly, AT&T Now prices are expected to increase, though, and could go up as much as $15 per month. Take note, though, that an HBO streaming subscription on its own generally runs $15 a month.
Hulu has the advantage of its A+ original content, such as Emmy award-winner The Handmaid’s Tale. Bear in mind that you can watch that and other Hulu originals with a subscription to the base service, which costs just $5.99 per month and is even cheaper than Netflix or Disney+.
Hulu Live + TV packages cost significantly more, going up to $55 a month as of December 2019. For that price, you get over 60 live TV channels — including sports networks like ESPN, FS1, and NBCSN, as well as the Cartoon Network, History Channel, TLC, TNT, Lifetime, and more.
The most budget-friendly live-streaming TV option is undoubtedly Sling, but with that you lose options to pause, record, and watch all of your local network TV channels. (In most cases, though you can watch network TV for free with a digital antenna.)
There are two different Sling bundles: Sling Orange and Sling Blue each cost $25 per month, and there's a $15 monthly intro rate available at the month, good during the first month's service. The two bundles include different channels: ESPN channels are included with Orange but not Blue, while several Fox channels are part of the Blue packages but don't come with Orange.
YouTube TV sure seems to offer the most bang for your buck in terms of live-streaming TV bundles, especially after Hulu’s price increase. The service has more than 70 channels, including ESPN, ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, HGTV, and TNT, plus some local coverage. It also has one of the best deals in terms of DVR recording — up to nine months of unlimited storage.
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