Live TV Streaming Services: User Experiences

We find that PlayStation Vue and YouTube TV have the best overall user experiences of the services. Both have great search capabilities, a standard channel guide, detailed show listing pages, and a good playback experience.

Most of the services vary slightly on different devices. For example, fuboTV has a very primitive interface on Fire TV devices; Sling TV doesn’t offer a channel guide on all devices.

Our individual service reviews have screenshots of each service on most devices.

Home Screen

The services generally have a personalized home screen that includes on-air shows, recently watched shows, and favorited content.

TV Guide

DIRECTV NOW, Hulu Live TV, Sling TV (on most devices), and YouTube TV offer a traditional TV channel guide with a vertical list of channels, with live and upcoming shows.

PlayStation Vue, fuboTV, and Philo (on Web) each have a very informative guide but it lists channels horizontally, which makes scrolling through many channels tedious.

All the guides sort channels alphabetically (with the option of adding favorites first) because channel numbers don’t exist on live streaming services.

YouTube TV has by far the best search experience, with Hulu Live TV, PlayStation Vue, and Philo right behind.

What sets YouTube TV apart is that its search page also allows you to browse by category and intelligently identifies shows, channels, and actors. YouTube TV’s search experience is the quickest and most efficient to find what you’re looking for.

Hulu Live TV, PlayStation Vue, and Philo make it easy to search by show, with large poster images of the shows in search results.

Search on DIRECTV NOW and Sling TV is good enough, but they often do a poor job sorting results. For example, searching for “Bach” presents unknown shows like The Diary of a Bachelor before The Bachelor.

Strangely, fuboTV only offers a way to search in their Apple TV and iOS Apps.

Show Details

For the most part, all of the services do an effective job showing live, upcoming, and on demand shows on the show detail pages.

We find that DIRECTV NOW, Hulu Live TV, Philo, PlayStation Vue, fuboTV, and YouTube TV make it easy to see episodes from the current season, but also let you quickly switch to previous seasons (if they’re available).

Sling TV is good enough at displaying show details, but is missing clear visual indicators that other services have to highlight content type.

Playback

On most services, live TV playback controls are limited to “pause” and “play.”

On some channels, PlayStation Vue let you rewind to when you started watching, while [fubo TV], Hulu Live TV, and YouTube TV will on certain channels let you rewind to when the episode started airing.

By default, Philo will start playing all channels at the beginning of the show. You can skip ahead to live, but you may be shown commercials if it’s also available on demand.

For recorded content, they generally all offer rewind, fast-forward, and 10–15 second skip options. Sling TV show a screenshot of the current frame so you can quickly scrub to the part of the show that you want to watch.

Live TV Streaming Pages