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 and PlayStation Vue have very primitive interfaces on Roku devices; Sling TV doesn’t offer a channel guide on Apple TV, iPad, or iPhone 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, fuboTV, Sling TV (except on Apple TV, iPad, and iPhone devices), and YouTube TV offer a traditional TV channel guide with a vertical list of channels, with live and upcoming shows. All the guides sort channels alphabetically because channel numbers don’t exist on live streaming services.

PlayStation Vue has a very informative guide but it lists channels horizontally, which makes scrolling through many channels tedious.

Hulu Live TV doesn’t offer a channel guide, but you can access a channel browser while watching live TV.

YouTube TV has by far the best search experience, with Hulu Live TV and PlayStation Vue 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 and PlayStation Vue 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 does not offer any way to search in its TV 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 Hulu Live TV, PlayStation Vue, fuboTV, and YouTube TV to have the clearest pages. These services 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.

DIRECTV NOW is sometimes confusing because it’s unclear whether you are on a listing for an individual episode or an entire show.

Playback

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

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

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.