You’re probably already paying for high-speed internet, and if you’re also shelling out for cable, you could be spending more money than you need to — unless you decide to stream from your TV.

With a streaming service that offers live TV, you can catch live games, watch those smaller “cable only” channels, and stay in the loop on what’s up in your neighborhood and beyond with live local and national news.

Think of a live TV streaming service as the missing piece that completes your streaming experience. We’ve found five of the best live TV streaming services, along with their current prices, key features, and pros and cons, and determined which service is best for which viewers.

— Best Overall: YouTube TV
— Best for Sports Fans: fuboTV
— Best Budget Option: Philo
— Best for Hulu and Disney Fans: Hulu + Live TV
— Best for Large Households: DirecTV Stream

How We Picked These Products

When you step away from cable and move to an all-streaming setup, you generally lose four main elements: live sports, live news, smaller “cable” channels (TBS, MTV, Bravo, AMC, TLC, etc.), and your local broadcast networks (your region’s CBS, ABC, NBC, and Fox stations). We zeroed in on live TV streaming services that could replicate all, or at least some, of those elements. 

Four of our picks handle all missing elements to some degree, but we also included one option (Philo) that covers only the popular “cable” entertainment channels at a rock-bottom price. As media companies consolidate and grow, there are fewer options for live TV services, so there’s really only one major service that didn’t make the cut. While Sling TV offers some sports and news channels, it has no local stations. And to get the best mix of offerings, you need to sign up at the $50-per-month rate. For $15 more, we think it’s a better bet to get everything that’s included with YouTube TV. 

Best Live Streaming Services: Reviews and Recommendations

Best Overall: YouTube TV

Wide-Ranging Selection. YouTube

Why It Made The Cut: YouTube TV offers an excellent selection of news, sports, and “cable” channel must-haves at a price that lands at the lower end of most live TV services. 

Specs: 

— Price: $65 per month
— Number of Channels: 85+
— DVR: Unlimited, 9-month cloud storage
— Simultaneous Viewers: 3 

Pros:

Balance of lifestyle, sports, and news channel coverage
Includes local channels and PBS
Unlimited DVR storage space
Familiar YouTube interface

Cons:

Monthly fee doesn’t include YouTube Premium

YouTube TV is our pick for the best way to replicate a cable TV experience with a streaming service. Assuming you already have high-speed internet service, YouTube TV ends up costing less than most mid-tier cable plans, while offering more channels and unlimited DVR storage. 

Sports fans get five ESPN channels, two Fox Sports channels (FS1 and FS2), MLB Network, NBA TV, NFL Network, CBS Sports Network, and about seven more. Local broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox) round out the live sports coverage of pro and college games, so you can always keep up with your home team. 

On the entertainment and news side, YouTube TV covers nearly all the familiar “cable” channels. Its offering of 15 news channels includes BBC World News, CNN, MSNBC, and the millennial-focused Cheddar News. For entertainment, you get an impressive 50-plus channels, including AMC, Bravo, FX, SYFY, and three MTVs. 

The DVR storage is unlimited and keeps your recorded content for up to nine months. Three people can stream at a time, and you can create up to six profiles so everyone in your household can set preferences, create their library, and access their own recorded content. A seven-day free trial offer and periodic discounts (for example, $10 off your first three months) help to lower the cost of entry, so you can see if YouTube TV really is the right pick for you.

Best for Sports Fans: fuboTV 

Game On. fuboTV

Why It Made The Cut: At the Elite tier, fuboTV offers comprehensive sports news and live game coverage, while also providing local stations and a decent mix of news and lifestyle channels. 

Specs: 

— Price: $70 per month (Pro), $80 per month (Elite)
— Number of Channels: 124+ (Pro), 148+ (Elite)
— DVR: 1,000 hours cloud storage, no expiration
— Simultaneous Viewers: Up to 10 screens at home, plus 2 on the go

Pros:

Great sports coverage at the Elite tier
1,000 hours of DVR recordings that don’t expire
Includes local channels
Allows up to 12 streams at once 

Cons: 

No free trial
$80 Elite plan required for full sports coverage

Beginning as a soccer streaming service in 2015, fuboTV now covers all sports and even offers eight of its own fubo Sports Network channels. While it wins for best streaming service for sports, it also manages to cover non sports content admirably. Along with local broadcast stations, fuboTV includes entertainment and lifestyle channels like AMC, HGTV, Bravo, FX, and TLC, as well as a few news and business channels like MSNBC and Bloomberg. CNN isn’t available, however, even with the Elite tier. 

The service currently offers two tiers, Pro and Elite. The cheaper Pro plan has 124 channels, with more than 35 devoted to sports, including the NFL Network, multiple ESPN channels, Big Ten Network (college sports), beIN Sports (global sports), TUDN (Mexican and European football), and their own fubo Sports Network. But if you want access to channels like NBA TV, the NHL Network, and the MLB Network, you’ll need to upgrade to the Elite plan. The upgrade also grants you a better news selection with BBC World News and Cheddar News. Both plans include the fascinating science- and tech-based Curiosity Stream channel

Currently, both the Pro and Elite plans come with three fuboTV add-ons included at no extra cost. You get 1,000 hours of DVR storage (instead of the original 250), and your recordings never expire. Keep in mind, though, the 1,000 hours are shared with everyone in your household who uses the service, regardless of whether you use different profiles. You also get their Unlimited Screens add-on, which allows for an impressive 10 simultaneous streams inside your home and another two outside.

Best Budget Option: Philo 

Keep Up With the News. Philo

Why It Made The Cut:At just $25 per month, Philo offers a great range of lifestyle and entertainment channels, making it the best option for anyone who doesn’t need local or sports coverage. 

Specs:

— Price: $25 per month
— Number of Channels: 60+
— DVR: Unlimited, 1-year cloud storage
— Simultaneous Viewers: 3 

Pros:

Low monthly price
Good coverage of familiar “cable” channels
Unlimited DVR storage space

Cons: 

No local broadcast channels
Limited news offerings and no sports

If you get your news (like so many do) somewhere other than your TV, and live sports coverage isn’t critical, Philo is your best bet. It allows you to let go of your cable subscription while maintaining access to many of the “cable” channels you like to watch. AMC, BET, Food Network, Discovery, TLC, and 60 other channels are offered, along with four Nickelodeon channels for kids and three news channels (BBC World News, Cheddar News, and Bloomberg). 

The unlimited DVR cloud storage beats YouTube TV’s nine-month expiration length, letting you keep your recordings for up to one year. Allowing three viewers at a time, Philo matches YouTube and gives you one more simultaneous stream than Hulu + Live TV. 

While many other streaming services keep raising their prices, Philo has managed to remain the cheapest live TV streaming service with a monthly cost at a remarkably low $25; plus they offer a seven-day free trial. With no complicated add-ons or leveled tiers, Philo is refreshingly simple: what you see is what you get.

Best for Hulu and Disney Fans: Hulu + Live TV

Must-Have for Disney Fans. Hulu

Why It Made The Cut: In addition to its comprehensive local, sports, and news coverage, Hulu + Live TV also grants access to the massive on-demand library from Hulu and Disney+. 

Specs: 

— Price: $70 per month
— Number of Channels: 75+ live channels plus Disney+ and Hulu content
— DVR: Unlimited, 9-month cloud storage
— Simultaneous Viewers: 2 

Pros:

Combines live TV with three popular on-demand services
Includes local channels
Unlimited DVR storage space 

Cons: 

On-demand Hulu content is ad-supported
Requires add-on for more than two simultaneous streams 

Hulu’s own programming (and its relationship with Disney) is what sets Hulu + Live TV apart from YouTube TV. Hulu began offering a live-component streaming service in 2017; then in late 2021, it added Disney+ and ESPN+ to the mix. Its broad coverage offers local broadcast channels, 13 news channels, and sports coverage that includes Fox Sports and the most ESPN channels of any service. The addition of the ESPN+ streaming service adds even more live sports and a bevy of on-demand sports content. 

Hulu’s live option comes in at $5 more per month than YouTube TV, but that higher cost disappears if you also plan to pay for the on-demand streaming service from Hulu, ESPN, or the must-have Disney+ (aka the exclusive home for most Marvel, Pixar, Star Wars, and Disney content). Keep in mind that the on-demand Hulu content is ad-supported at the $70 price point. If you want the ad-free option, that’ll run you $76 per month. 

While Hulu + Live TV doesn’t offer PBS (which YouTube TV does), local PBS programming can be accessed with the free PBS app. Hulu’s cloud storage is the same as YouTube’s (unlimited storage with a 9-month expiration date), but Hulu allows only two simultaneous streams, which could pose a problem in larger households. Take advantage of the seven-day free trial to see what you think.

Best for Large Households: DirecTV Stream

Something for Everyone. DirecTV

Why It Made The Cut: The base package from DirecTV Stream mostly matches other services in terms of channel offerings and price, and it doesn’t limit the number of simultaneous streams. 

Specs: 

— Price: $70 per month (Entertainment package)
— Number of Channels: 65+
— DVR: Unlimited, 9-month cloud storage
— Simultaneous Viewers: Unlimited in home, 3 outside home 

Pros:

Unlimited number of screens streaming at once
Includes local channels and PBS
Unlimited DVR storage 

Cons: 

Limited sports offerings in base (Entertainment) package
Expensive and complicated package system feels like traditional cable

As the name makes clear, DirecTV Stream (formerly AT&T TV) is a streaming alternative to cable, offered by a company whose main focus is traditional cable. Like traditional cable, DirecTV Stream offers multiple packages, with different channels offered in each tier. The cheapest package comes in at a fairly standard $70, but the top tier costs $150, which likely negates any savings over a traditional cable plan. 

The base plan (called the Entertainment package) offers local broadcast channels (including PBS) and around 40 lifestyle channels like AMC, Bravo, TLC, and Discovery. The base-level news offerings are also decent, with around 15 channels that include CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News. However, the sports offerings for the lowest tier are small (just two ESPNs, FS1, and MotorTrend). It isn’t until the $105-per-month package that the sports offerings start to compare with fuboTV’s or even YouTube TV’s. 

Like other live TV streaming services, DirecTV Stream offers a DVR plan — this one is unlimited, and your saved content doesn’t expire for nine months. For large households, DirecTV offers an advantage by letting you access the service through an unlimited number of screens at once, provided you’re in your home (out-of-home access is limited to three simultaneous streams). A five-day free trial and introductory deals help bring down the initial cost.

Things to Consider Before Signing Up for a Live TV Streaming Service

As with anything related to entertainment, the most important consideration will be your personal preferences. Cost will also be a factor, of course. Since live streaming is different from on-demand streaming, we also considered features like recording (DVR) availability and function. 

All the services we’ve selected work just like a traditional streaming service, in terms of basic requirements. You’ll need a high-speed internet connection and a device that can handle content streaming. That means a computer, tablet, or smartphone. For a more traditional viewing setup, you’ll need a smart TV or a standard TV equipped with a streaming device like an Amazon Fire TV Stick, Roku box, or Chromecast fob. 

Nearly all live TV streaming services require no sign-up fee or contract, and have no “hidden” or additional fees. Combined with a lower price tag, that’s a big improvement over cable. 

Channel Offerings: Is access to live sports non-negotiable for you? Can you straight-up not live without MTV’s reality shows? Do you need CNN’s “New Day” playing live as you brew your morning coffee? Each service offers a different mix of programming, so if there’s a channel — or suite of channels — you absolutely must have, it’s a good idea to check for that before you sign up. For example, all five services we recommend include MTV, but two (Philo and fuboTV) don’t offer CNN, and some services offer more sports than others. 

Price: The prices for nearly all live TV streaming services have shot up recently, putting most in the $60 to $70 per month range (except for the bargain-basement Philo, still holding strong at a monthly $25). Considering cable can cost anywhere from $50 to $150, there are still savings to be had, but not quite as much as in the early days. 

If price really is your main motivating factor, it’s important to note that some smart TVs (Samsungs, for example) and streaming devices (like Roku) have their own live TV channels included. There’s also Plex, a free streaming app that offers a live TV component. You may not get the exact offerings you were hoping for, but those are all ways to add some free live TV streaming to your life. A digital antenna is also a low-cost option for grabbing local broadcast channels (regional ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, and PBS stations) out of literal thin air. 

Special Features: Unlike on-demand streaming, live TV doesn’t just sit there until you’re ready to watch it. Sports and news happen when they happen. Being able to record content so you can watch when you’re ready is important. All five services featured here offer some form of digital video recording (DVR) with different amounts and lengths of storage. Some services limit the number of people who can stream a service at the same time. We’ll point out both factors for each service.

FAQs

Q: What is the cheapest live TV streaming service?

The cheapest live TV streaming service we considered was Philo, at just $25 per month. Another service, Frndly TV, offers a $7-per-month plan with 35 channels, but the robustness of the offerings isn’t quite strong enough yet to make our list. Keep in mind that some smart TVs (like Samsung) and streaming devices (like Roku) come with their own live TV components at no extra charge. 

Q: Who has the best live TV streaming service?

The best live TV streaming service is offered by YouTube TV. At $65 per month, it costs slightly less than other services that have similar channel offerings. With local broadcast channel access and a solid offering of sports, news, and lifestyle channels, it’s our overall best pick. 

Q: What’s the difference between live TV and streaming?

The difference between live TV and streaming is the way you access the content. Live TV plays at the same time for every viewer; for example, a live football game that happens on Monday nights or a news channel's daily morning show. Traditional streaming is generally accessed “on demand,” such as when you choose to play a show or movie from Netflix using its app. Live TV streaming services allow you to watch live TV games and shows using an app that’s similar in function to traditional streaming apps. 

Q: What streaming service has the most live channels?

The streaming service with the most live channels in our reviews was fuboTV. Their Elite plan offers more than 148 channels at $80 per month, though a large portion of those channels are sports-related. The runner up is DirecTV Stream with more than 140 channels offered in their top-tier Premier package ($150 per month).

Q: How can I get rid of cable and still watch TV?

You can get rid of cable and still watch TV by signing up for a live TV streaming service. Most of these services offer local broadcast channels (like your region’s ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox networks), which also offer live sports coverage. Most live TV streaming services offer news and lifestyle channels that are typically associated with cable services. A low-cost option for keeping access to your local stations without cable is to purchase a digital antenna that plugs into your TV and receives local broadcasts. 

Q: What is the most cost-effective streaming TV service?

The most cost-effective streaming TV service is Philo. At just $25 per month, it offers more than 60 live lifestyle and entertainment channels. People who also want to watch sports, news, and local content will have to pay more than twice that amount. Most live TV streaming services with those options cost between $60 and $90. Our recommendations are YouTube TV ($65 per month, 85+ channels) or Hulu + Live TV ($70 per month, 75+ channels plus Disney+ and Hulu content).

Final Thoughts

If you’re tired of the contracts and expensive costs of traditional cable, live TV streaming is a way to cut out cable and still watch your favorite live channels. While it’s important to check that a service has the specific channels you want, we felt YouTube TV had the best mix of sports, news, and lifestyle channels, while also offering your local TV stations — all for a reasonable price.

This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.

 


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