Live TV Streaming Services: Features

Cloud DVR

DIRECTV NOW is the only service that doesn’t have a cloud DVR, but it will be added to the service later this year.

While Sling TV charges $5/month for its cloud DVR, all of the other services include a cloud DVR in the subscription.

Each service has slightly different restrictions on what can be recorded, whether commercials can be skipped, whether the recording begins from the beginning of the episode when you start late, and whether you can rewind while it’s still recording.

Recording Capacity

⚪︎ DIRECTV

Not Available

Expected to arrive in Fall 2017.

⚫︎ fuboTV

30 hrs

⚫︎ Hulu

50 hrs

⚫︎ Philo

Unlimited

30 days

⚫︎ PS Vue

Unlimited

28 days

Sling ($5)

50 hrs

⚫︎ YouTube

Unlimited

8 months

You can generally fast-forward through shows that you recorded to the DVR (unlike most on demand content).

There are some restrictions on the DVR functionality. For example, while YouTube TV offers unlimited DVR storage, it doesn’t allow you to skip commercials on shows that are also available on demand. Hulu Live TV requires you to upgrade to the $15/month “Enhanced Cloud DVR” if you want to skip commercials.

Oddly enough, Sling TV is the only service that offers a way to record a single episode. Every other service makes you create a “series” recording, in which every episode of a show will be recorded.

Simultaneous Viewing

All of the services allow you to have at least 2 simultaneous viewers, with the exception of the Sling TV’s “Orange” $20 plan (it only allows a single stream).

PlayStation Vue is the most generous: allowing up to 5 viewers, but limits it to a single PS4 game console and 3 mobile devices.

YouTube TV allows 3 simultaneous viewers and even lets you create “Family Profiles” so each user can have a personal account.

Hulu Live TV includes 2 viewers, but offers a $15/month “Unlimited Viewers” upgrade, which allows unlimited devices to stream on your home network or 3 devices outside your home.

Concurrent Devices

More is better.

PS Vue 5 streams
Philo 3 streams
Sling “Blue” 3 streams
YouTube 3 streams
DIRECTV 2 streams
fuboTV 2 streams
Hulu 2 streams
Sling “Orange” 1 stream

On Demand

All of the services offer video on demand (VOD), but require you to watch commercials (usually 2–3 minutes) during playback.

Hulu Live TV, PlayStation Vue, and YouTube TV make it the easiest to search for and watch on demand content. They have great show detail pages, which bundle the live, upcoming, and on demand episodes in one place.

We have lots of issues playing on demand content from DIRECTV NOW. Videos will often fail to start or spontaneously freeze during playback.

DIRECTV NOW, fuboTV, and PlayStation Vue also offer a “catch-up” feature, giving access to show episodes that aired within the last 3 days—that may not normally be available on demand.

TV Everywhere

Similar to traditional cable and satellite subscriptions, these cord cutting services provide “TV Everywhere” logins to certain channels’ apps (e.g.: AMC, CNBC, Fox Sports Go, FX, WatchESPN, etc.).

PlayStation Vue and DIRECTV NOW connect to the most channel apps, with access for up to 67 and 45 channel apps, respectively. The other services offer access to about 20 channels.

TV Everywhere App Access

More is better. App count may vary by plan tier.

PS Vue 67 apps
DIRECTV 45 apps
fuboTV 26 apps
YouTube 23 apps
Sling 18 apps
Hulu 14 apps

Original Content

Some of the services include additional content that is only available to their subscribers.

For example, Hulu Live TV subscribers get access to the entire Hulu streaming library, including full seasons of many TV shows, movies, and its original shows like The Handmaids Tale. For an additional $4/month, you can watch their streaming library without commercials.

YouTube TV subscribers get access to YouTube Red’s original shows. DIRECTV NOW subscribers can watch AT&T original shows like Tim Ferris’ Fear(less).

Parental Controls

Surprisingly, Hulu Live TV and Sling TV are the only services that offer parental controls.

Hulu Live TV lets you create a “Kids Mode” profile. Sling TV allows you to restrict content playback based on its rating level.

⚫︎ Hulu Live TV

Has “Kids Mode” Profiles

⚫︎ Sling TV

Has Ratings Restrictions