Live TV Streaming Services: Reviews
We spent more than 100 hours testing these live TV streaming services. This is what we liked and didn’t like with each live streaming service.
DIRECTV NOW stands out from the pack with its great channel selection. For just $35/month, you get 34 of the top 35 cable channels and local channels in most markets—no other service comes close.
- Best channel selection of any provider.
- Includes local channels in all plans (starting at $35/month).
- Live streams are very stable.
- On demand content has playback issues.
- No cloud DVR until Spring 2018 (in beta).
While early reviews knocked DIRECTV NOW’s stream stability, the service has improved significantly since then. Live streaming is generally rock solid and works just as well as other providers. We do receive playback issues with on demand content sometimes.
Unfortunately, DIRECTV NOW is the only service that doesn’t offer a cloud DVR (but it’s coming early this year). The service does have a feature called “72-Hour Rewind,” which lets you watch many shows that aired in the last 3 days.
DIRECTV NOW is also the only service that offers a “channel surfing” feature, which lets you swipe to switch between channels.
The standard channel guide makes it easy to find what to watch and helps overcome a lackluster search experience (which does a poor job sorting results).
DIRECTV NOW announced that a cloud DVR will be included later this year and that interface design will be overhauled in early 2018, so we expect our Top Pick to get even better.
Read more in our full DIRECTV NOW Review.
On most platforms fuboTV has a great user experience, with the exception of their Roku app which is very basic.
The fuboTV app includes a dedicated screen showing live sporting events, on demand TV shows and movies, and a standard channel guide.
- Great user experience on most devices.
- Great channel selection for soccer fans (Fox Soccer Plus and beIn).
- Offers easy way to see all live and on demand sporting events.
- Has had some recent issues with downtime of the service.
- Does not include ABC, Disney, or ESPN channels.
- Cloud DVR only has 30 hours of storage (and no playback until recording is done).
fuboTV includes Regional Sports Networks, NFL Network, NBA TV, beIn, and Fox Soccer Plus (a $15 add-on with other services). If you don’t need ABC, Disney, or ESPN—this is a good option for sports fans.
Read more in our full fuboTV Review.
Hulu Live TV
Hulu Live TV shows promise, but needs a complete design overhaul to make it an ideal experience for live TV viewers. Search works incredibly well, but it definitely needs a standard channel guide.
- Great channel selection for college sports fans.
- Includes Hulu streaming library and original shows.
- Does not offer AMC, BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Network, VH1, or pro sports networks.
- Confusing user interface and no channel guide.
Hulu Live TV has a good selection of locals channels, RSNs, national sports networks, but is missing channels like AMC, BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Network, and VH1. Hulu doesn’t offer any of the pro sports networks (like NFL Network).
This service is a great option for college sports fans because it includes Big Ten Network, CBS Sports Network, and SEC Network.
Many channels allow you to rewind to the beginning of a show, even if you join late—one of our favorite features. You also get access to Hulu’s entire streaming library, including their original shows like Casual and The Handmaid’s Tale.
Read more in our full Hulu Live TV Review.
Philo is a great entry-level option for those who want entertainment channels and can get their locals via antenna.
- Cheapest entry level option for entertainment TV.
- Includes channels from A&E, AMC, Discovery, Scripps, and Viacom.
- Unlimited cloud DVR storage, for up to 30 days.
- Does not offer any locals or sports channels.
- Horizontally scrolling channel guide feels odd.
Philo includes a lot of the major entertainment channels, but offers no news, sports, or local channels.
This service is a great option for those who want some live entertainment content, but nothing else. It is the cheapest way to get some live TV at just $16/month.
Read more in our Philo Review.
We love PlayStation Vue. Videos streams are rock solid and look good in 720p at 60 fps, but the service recently raised prices and removed many channels. For non-sports fans, we think there are better options, but PlayStation Vue is the best value for sports fans.
- Best value for sports fans.
- Rock solid streaming that looks good in 720p at 60 fps.
- Unlimited cloud DVR storage, for up to 28 days.
- Does not offer BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Network, or VH1 channels.
- Channel guide scrolls horizontally, which feels weird.
The “Core” $45 plan includes local channels, RSNs, national sports networks, 3 of the 4 major pro sports networks, Big Ten Network, SEC Network, and ESPNU. For $10/month, you can add NFL RedZone, MLB Strike Zone, Longhorn Network, national Comcast Sports Networks and NESN.
The PlayStation Vue apps are great on all devices (except Roku). The apps have a personalized home screen and great show listing pages, which display recorded, on demand, and upcoming episodes. PlayStation Vue was only service with a remote control shortcut to quickly jump to your last channel.
We dislike that the channel guide scrolls horizontally through channels because it feels very odd with a long list of channels.
Read more in our full PlayStation Vue Review.
Sling was the first company to offer a cord cutting service. It is the cheapest option $20 to have some live TV, but it adds up quickly if you add additional channels or a DVR $5.
- Cheapest way to have some live TV.
- Great budget option for pro sports fans.
- New channel guide greatly improves user experience.
- Inconsistent stream stability.
- $5/month upgrade for a 50-hour DVR.
- Outside of top 7 regional markets, local channel availability is sparse.
Sling TV “Blue” with “Sports Extra” is a great budget option for pro sports fans. For $35/month, you can get most national sports channels (except ESPN), RSNs, NBA TV, NFL Network, NFL RedZone, and NHL Network.
Sling is currently adding a channel guide to its app on all devices, which greatly improves the user experience. Currently, the guide is not available on Apple TV, iPad, or iPhone.
Unfortunately, video playback is very inconsistent: live streaming frequently buffers, especially when changing channels.
Read more in our full Sling TV Review.
YouTube TV has an amazing user experience that is hurt by a weak channel selection. While it offers all local channels in the major markets the service is available in, it only has 18 of the top 35 cable channels.
- Amazing mobile apps with live channel previews.
- Offers local channels in majority of markets.
- Includes YouTube Red originals and unlimited cloud DVR storage, for up to 9 months.
- Weaker channel selection than other services.
- Video stream frame rate is limited to 30 fps, which can blur sports programs.
YouTube TV recently added support for Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, Android TV, and Xbox One. Unfortunately, it is not available on Fire TV or PlayStation.
The smartphone and tablet apps are the best of all the services. We love the live channel previews as you browse the app. As expected, search works incredibly well.
Your subscription also includes YouTube Red original shows and an unlimited DVR. You can record as much you want and keep it for up to 9 months.
Read more in our full YouTube TV Review.