Live TV Streaming Services: Tech Specs

HD Video

For the most part, the video quality across the providers is not noticeably different.

However, the video quality of streaming services is less than HD broadcasts from cable and satellite providers, but all the services are more than good enough that it shouldn’t stop you from cutting the cord.

DIRECTV fuboTV Hulu Philo PS Vue Sling YouTube
720p
60 fps
720p
30/60 fps
720p
30 fps
-
-
720p
60 fps
720p
30 fps
720p
30 fps

All of the services stream in 720p HD resolution, with some services testing certain channels in 1080p HD.

There is a bigger difference in video frame rate between the services, but this feature really only impacts the clarity of sport streams because it minimizes motion blur.

DIRECTV NOW and PlayStation Vue have 60 fps on most tested channels; fuboTV has 60 fps on major sports networks.

Hulu Live TV, Sling TV, and YouTube TV stream at 30 fps. Hulu and Sling announced higher frame rates for later this year.

Frame Rate

Video frame rate is how many individual images make up video sequence, measured in frames per second (fps).

A high frame rate helps minimize motion blur, especially during sports programs.

Connection Quality

If you are considering subscribing to these services, you should assume that you need at least a 25 Mbps internet connection. While most of the requirements say “10 Mbps,” we suggest a faster connection. Most of our testing is on a 50 Mbps connection and an LTE mobile data connection.

None of these services are perfectly stable in our connection testing. Each service has some hiccups, but PlayStation Vue, Hulu Live TV, and YouTube TV are by far the most stable. These three services rarely have issues starting a video or switching between channels.

To reduce playback interruptions, all of the services will adapt the stream quality to match your network connection. This “adaptive streaming” feature gracefully degrades the video quality if your connection becomes worse.

Streaming Reliability

DIRECTV fuboTV Hulu Philo PS Vue Sling YouTube
Average Below Average Great - Great Below Average Great

Historically, DIRECTV NOW had issues with stream stability. While we still receive some errors, the live TV streams are generally very stable. (The on demand streams are less reliable though.)

fuboTV has a few small hiccups on newer devices (like Apple TV and iPad), but has major issues on some less powerful devices.

Sling TV is very hit or miss. During some tests the, stream work perfectly, but there are times where we have to relaunch the app to get video streams to work. Generally though, once a Sling TV stream starts we don’t have problems.

On Demand Reliability

DIRECTV fuboTV Hulu Philo PS Vue Sling YouTube
Below Average - Great - - - -

DIRECTV NOW frequently had issues trying to play on demand content.

Audio

All of the services have stereo sound on their streaming channels. Some services have some on demand content with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound on select devices (DIRECTV NOW, PlayStation Vue, and Sling TV).

Live Delay

One of the annoying aspects of streaming video—especially for live events—is that it lags behind cable and satellite TV. Nothing is worse than watching a sports event and hearing your neighbors scream when your favorite team scores a touchdown—before you even know what happened.

On average, the streaming services are about 30 seconds delayed compared to traditional live TV. fuboTV has the shortest delay (about 15 seconds), while Sling TV has the longest delay (about 60 seconds).

Delay Compared to Cable

Shorter is better.

fuboTV 15 sec
DIRECTV 20 sec
PS Vue 20 sec
YouTube 25 sec
Hulu 30 sec
Sling 55 sec

Channel Switching

None of the services offer true channel surfing experience like traditional television. This issue is mostly because it takes few seconds for streams to load.

DIRECTV NOW has a feature that simulates channel surfing: just swipe left or right to switch between channels, but it still takes about 2.5 seconds for the channels to load.

YouTube TV is the quickest at loading video streams: just 1.5 seconds, on average. Sling TV is the slowest, taking about 5.5 seconds to start playing.

Time to Change Channel

Shorter is better.

YouTube 1.5 sec
PS Vue 2.0 sec
DIRECTV 2.5 sec
fuboTV 3.5 sec
Hulu 3.5 sec
Sling 5.5 sec