Best stay TV streaming providers for cord-cutters

Cable TV can appear rather a lot like a landline telephone: an pointless expense shacked by outdated . All the cool youngsters, and a number of the cool grownups, are slicing the cable TV wire.

If you need to be a part of them however do not need to ditch stay TV fully, you have come to the best place. Live TV streaming providers within the US like Sling TV and DirecTV Now allow you to watch most if not your whole favourite stay TV channels — from ABC to CBS to CNN to ESPN to Fox News to Nickelodeon — streamed over the web. And the month-to-month payment is probably going far lower than you are paying the cable firm for TV.

Prices begin at $15 per 30 days with no additional charges or contracts. In place of a cable field, you may use an app in your sensible TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV or Apple TV. And you possibly can watch at residence or on the go through a telephone or pill, or perhaps a PC browser.

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These providers have loads of advantages — no extra cable charges, no extra contracts, yay! — however the financial savings will be outweighed by different downsides similar to web charges, DVR restrictions, buffering and a scarcity of issues to observe, particularly stay sports activities. Chances are your native cable service has extra channels.

With all that in thoughts, here is a information to courageous new world of stay TV streaming over the web, in addition to different cord-cutting choices obtainable in the present day.

Originally printed Aug. 2, 2018 and often up to date.
Latest replace, March 15, 2019: Updates DirecTV Now part and adjustments total suggestion.  

Disclosure: CNET might earn commissions from the providers featured on this web page.


In March 2019, our favourite stay TV streaming service is YouTube TV.

David Katzmaier/CNET

Which one is one of the best?

Before we wager into the nitty-gritty, let’s get one factor out of the way in which up high. As of March 2019, YouTube TV is CNET’s favourite stay TV streaming service. At $40 per 30 days, it gives an excellent mixture of channels, together with all 4 locals in most areas of the nation, and one of the best cloud DVR we have used.

See at YouTube TV

There are loads of different choices although. Some are cheaper with fewer channels than YouTube TV, some are costlier with extra channels. Maybe one of many channels lacking from YouTube TV, similar to Comedy Central or HGTV, is a must have for you. Or possibly you need to use your Fire TV stick or tv, which lacks a YouTube TV app.

This suggestion might additionally change, particularly if YouTube TV raises its value, like most of its opponents have performed within the final 12 months. We would not be stunned. Read on for every part you could learn about stay TV streaming.

How to buy cord-cutting providers

In ascending order of month-to-month value, the most important multichannel stay TV streaming providers obtainable in the present day are:

Yes, it is a large checklist. But chill out, we’ll break it down for you. And do not forget that each has a free trial and no contacts, so making an attempt (and canceling) are painless.

Each gives a distinct mixture of channels, so your first step must be selecting a service that carries your “can’t miss” channels and reveals. And a few of the most vital channels are locals, specifically ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC. Not each service gives all of them in each space.

Other vital components embrace cloud DVR and the interface itself. Yes, a lot of the providers above let you file and play again reveals, similar to a conventional cable or satellite tv for pc DVR, however they usually include restrictions. Some providers have a conventional, cable-box-like menu system, whereas some are extra experimental (learn: they’ve a steep studying curve).

Then there’s the multistream concern. If you need to watch multiple program on the similar time — for instance, in your front room TV and on a bed room TV, or the principle TV and a pill — you may need to ensure that the service you are watching has sufficient simultaneous streams. Some of the least costly providers solely permit one stream at a time, and should you attempt to watch a second, it is blocked.

Keep in thoughts that, particularly should you do have multiple individual watching without delay, you could be sure to have quick, dependable broadband web. A 100Mbps obtain service will value round $50 to $60 a month, and here is the place the financial savings of slicing cable can get swallowed up. 

Here’s a stay TV streaming procuring checklist to contemplate: 

What streaming TV providers will not offer you

Streaming TV providers are nice, however there’s some issues they can not do in comparison with a conventional cable field. 

First, it is value trying on the channels that you may’t get with any of those providers. A giant one is PBS, because the broadcaster reportedly hasn’t acquired the streaming rights to the entire reveals that it airs. (You’ll discover Ken Burns’ iconic documentaries on Netflix, for instance.)

Another biggie is sports activities. Sure, most providers carry ESPN and native channels for NFL soccer, however should you observe knowledgeable baseball or basketball staff, chances are high you may want their particular channel — referred to as an RSN, or regional sports activities community — to observe common season video games. RSN protection varies broadly for every service.

While DirecTV Now gives HBO as a part of its base subscription, most different providers both promote it as an add-on or require you to enroll individually for HBO Now. In addition, NFL Red Zone and NHL Network are both not obtainable or solely as a part of a bundle. 

If you are used to the 5.1 encompass supplied by cable and even OTA, you then’ll most likely be upset that the entire providers solely embrace stereo sound on stay broadcasts. DirecTV Now and PlayStation Vue do embrace 5.1 audio on some on-demand materials, although.

(Note that CNET is owned by CBS, which is a compensated programming supplier on all cable, satellite tv for pc and on-line TV providers that provide CBS channels, which embrace Showtime, Pop, CBS Sports and The CW, amongst others. CBS additionally owns and operates its personal on-line service, CBS All Access, which is talked about under.)

The Big Five in contrast

Time to slim down the checklist. Here are the 5 largest providers by way of identify recognition, channel depend and options, offered in alphabetical order.

Screenshot by David Katzmaier/CNET

Best for: HBO followers who need stay TV streaming (however don’t need YouTube TV)

Starting value: $50

Step-up packages: One different bundle with extra channels for $70.

Missing channels: A&E, AMC, BBC America, Animal Planet, Comedy Central, Discovery, HGTV, History, Lifetime, MLB Network, MTV, NBA TV, NFL Network, NFL Red Zone, Nickelodeon.

The good: Includes HBO, usually a $15 add-on, within the $50 value; TV-like interface together with the flexibility to swipe left or proper to vary channels; reductions for AT&T Wireless prospects.

The dangerous: Now the most costly service; fewer high channels than some other service in its value vary; DVR is proscribed; no member of the family profiles.

In March 2019, DirecTV Now turned a lot, a lot much less interesting than it was beforehand. Not solely did company proprietor AT&T jack the value from $40 to $50 per 30 days, it reduce quite a few key channels, together with AMC, Comedy Central, Discovery and HGTV, from its base bundle. The upside is that HBO is included as a part of the value. Getting a standalone HBO Now subscription prices $15 per 30 days, so a rise of $10 to get HBO included is technically a $5 month-to-month low cost. But it locks you right into a bundle, simply the sort of factor wire cutters need to keep away from. On high of that, its DVR and app are a step behind most opponents.

In quick, DirecTV Now is now one of many worst offers in streaming TV. If you need HBO and stay TV, including HBO or HBO Now to any of the providers under is a greater discount.

See it at DirecTV Now02-streamingservices02-streamingservices

Best for: Current Hulu subscribers who need to add Live TV.

Starting value: $45

Step-up packages: Optional “enhanced” DVR and multistream plans.

Missing channels: AMC, BBC America, Comedy Central, MLB Network, MTV, NBA TV, NFL Network, NFL Red Zone, Nickelodeon.

The Good: Includes Hulu’s large on-demand library, together with exclusives similar to The Handmaid’s Tale.

The Bad: Confusing interface, customary DVR would not allow you to skip commercials.

With the least cable-like interface of the Big 5, Hulu’s best asset is the mixing of stay TV with its important catalog of on-demand content material for one value. Unfortunately, the interface frustrations obvious with the usual service are amplified when you add stay TV. The app usually confuses “simple” with “incomplete.” It technically gives a information, for instance, but it surely’s extraordinarily bare-bones. Another concern is that you will have to pay additional, a hefty $15 per 30 days, to get the flexibility to skip commercials on Hulu’s cloud DVR. Its channel depend is stable, however YouTube TV at $5 much less is a greater worth should you do not care about Hulu’s catalog.

See it at Hulunfl-network-playstation-vue.jpgnfl-network-playstation-vue.jpg
PlayStation Vue

Best for: Commercial skippers and PS4 house owners

Starting value: $45

Step-up packages: Three different packages with progressively extra channels for $50, $60 and $80.

Missing channels: A&E, Comedy Central, History, Lifetime, MTV, Nickelodeon.

The good: Solid DVR with limitless storage that does not substitute recorded reveals with the on-demand model (ahem, YouTube TV). PlayStation four customers can split-screen a number of channels without delay.

The dangerous: More costly than others with a worse channel choice.

PlayStation Vue has an “evolved” interface that can be straightforward to make use of when you get the dangle of it, however can have a studying curve. Its DVR is great, with limitless storage and the flexibility to skip commercials on any present — though not like YouTube TV, reveals in Vue’s DVR are deleted after 28 days. The largest knock is that it is probably the most costly primary packages, but it surely has fewer channels than any of the Big Five, except for Sling TV and DirecTV Now. You do not want a PlayStation four to observe it — similar to the others, Vue has apps for quite a few streaming units together with Roku, Apple TV and Fire TV, in addition to telephones and PCs — however a PS4 is the one option to get its candy multiscreen view.

See it at PlayStation01-streamingservices01-streamingservices
Sarah Tew/CNET

Best for: Saving cash however nonetheless getting ESPN (or Fox and NBC), supplementing with an antenna

Starting value: $25

Step-up packages: Sling Orange + Blue for $40 month, $5 cloud DVR add-on, quite a few $5 minipackages

Missing channels (all packages): ABC, CBS, Animal Planet, Fox News, MLB Network, Nickelodeon

Missing channels (Sling Orange): Fox, NBC, Bravo, FS1, FX, MSNBC, USA Network

Missing channels (Sling Blue): ABC, Disney Channel, ESPN

The good: Relatively low cost, versatile channel packages.

The dangerous: Can solely stream to 1 machine (TV, telephone, pill) with Orange bundle; little or no assist for native stations; cloud DVR prices additional.

Aside from sports-free choices Philo and AT&T Watch TV (see under), Sling is the most cost effective multi-channel stay TV streaming service on the market. That’s as a result of it carries few native stations (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC). It has two base packages, Orange and Blue. Orange would not provide any locals, whereas Blue has Fox and NBC however solely in a handful of cities. That’s why Sling makes an excellent complement to OTA antenna TV. Sling’s interface is not a lot to take a look at, but it surely gives the entire choices you want with out cluttering the display. The solely actual letdown is its arcane stay pause and DVR exceptions (you possibly can’t file Disney-owned channels like ABC, for instance). Its choices are myriad, so take a look at Sling TV: Everything you could know for all the small print.

See it at Sling04-streamingservices04-streamingservices
Sarah Tew/CNET

Best for: Channel lineup for the cash, limitless DVR

Price: $40

Step-up packages: N/A

Missing channels: A&E, Comedy Central, Discovery, Food Network, HGTV, History, Lifetime, NFL Network, NFL Red Zone, Nickelodeon.

The good: Intuitive interface and complete program information; consists of all 4 native channels in most of US households; limitless storage on cloud DVR.

The dangerous: DVR reveals changed by on-demand variations.

Google was comparatively late to the sport, however YouTube TV is now our favourite stay TV streaming service on this value vary. The fundamental purpose is as a result of it is the most cost effective of the 4 to supply native channels, and its native channel protection consists of all 4 locals in most areas of the nation. It additionally has one of the best DVR of the bunch, together with limitless storage, with one catch: If an episode you have recorded seems in YouTube TV’s VOD library, it will get changed by the on-demand model — so that you lose the flexibility to fast-forward via commercials. Its interface is no-nonsense, even drab, and but it gives a lot of the contains a cable service may give you. And not like Sling and others, it is useless easy: one bundle, one value, performed.

See it at YouTube TV

Big Five TV streaming providers in contrast

Hulu with Live TV

YouTube TV

Sling TV

PlayStation Vue

DirecTV Now

Base value

$45/month for 60+ channels

$40/month for 60+ channels

$25/month for 30+ channels

$45/month for 55+ channels

$50/month for 40+ channels

Free trial






ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC channels

Yes, in lots of markets

Yes, in lots of markets

FOX and NBC solely in choose cities

Yes, in lots of markets

Yes, in lots of markets

Video on demand from native channels






Step-up packages with extra channels



Yes, an additional $5/month every

$50/month, $60/month or $80/month


Simultaneous streams per account

2 ($15 possibility for limitless)


1 or Three


2 ($5 possibility for Three)

Family member/consumer profiles






Pause, rewind, fast-forward



Yes, aside from Disney or ESPN channels



Record reveals for later (cloud DVR)


Yes (maintain for 9 months)

Yes ($5 per 30 days, cannot file Disney or ESPN channels)

Yes (maintain for 28 days)

Yes (20GB, maintain for 30 days)

Fast-forward via or skip commercials with cloud DVR

No (Yes with $15 possibility)





DVR present changed by on-demand model






Video on demand/Three-day replay






Parental controls






Bandwidth limiter






Other (largely cheaper) providers

AT&T Watch TV

Price: $15 per 30 days, or “free” with sure AT&T Wireless plans  

AT&T’s has two separate providers: DirecTV Now and Watch TV. The much-cheaper Watch TV consists of 30 channels and plenty of of them, similar to AMC, HGTV and BBC America, are not obtainable on DirecTV Now. Watch TV would not have any sports activities or native channels, and most of the reveals on its channels will be watched on-demand with a Hulu subscription for much less. It additionally would not work with Roku units, however it’s obtainable on the opposite main streaming platforms. And some AT&T wi-fi plan prospects get it without spending a dime.

See it at AT&T


Price: Starts at $16 per 30 days 

Another low cost service with no sports activities or native channels, Philo has bread-and-butter cable choices like AMC, Comedy Channel, Nickelodeon and BBC America. Unlike Watch AT&T, it features a cloud DVR, but it surely lacks a big-name 24-hour information channel like CNN. 

See it at Philo

CBS All Access

Price: Starts at $6 per 30 days

The solely main broadcast channel to supply a stay channel a la carte, this service provide stay native TV from only one channel — CBS, duh — in some cities, along with video-on-demand and unique content material similar to Star Trek: Discovery. The on-demand stuff had advertisements, however you will get an ad-free possibility for $10 a month. (Editors’ word: CNET is owned by CBS.)

See it at CBS

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Fubo TV

Price: Starts at $45 per 30 days

Fubo TV is a sports-centric service that additionally gives quite a lot of different channels together with native OTA stations (besides ABC) — and extra RSNs (regional sports activities networks) than some other service. Especially for followers of professional baseball, basketball and hockey groups, Fubo may be the one option to watch regular-season video games with out cable. There’s no ESPN, nonetheless, and a convoluted consumer interface and excessive value imply it isn’t the primary service we might select.

See it at Fubo

Don’t care about stay TV? More cord-cutter staples

Netflix: One of the primary streaming TV providers and it is so standard that it is develop into a catch-all time period in the identical manner as “Magic Marker” or “Coke” within the South. Plans begin at $13 a month, and it covers hundreds of TV reveals and flicks, together with originals like Daredevil and Orange is the New Black.

See it at Netflix

Amazon Prime Video: The “other” main streaming service, which is included as a part of a $99 annual Prime Membership or $9 a month. The interface is not as user-friendly as Netflix, however the service usually gives reveals not on Netflix, together with originals like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Amazon Prime additionally has the flexibility so as to add channels (HBO, Starz and extra), making it a possible one-stop store.

See it at Amazon

Vudu/Movies Anywhere: A digital library (or locker) that includes each UltraViolet content material and streaming films and TV which can be solely obtainable for buy, like new releases.

See it at Vudu

It’s additionally value investigating free, ad-supported providers similar to Roku Channel, IMDB Freedive, TuBi TV, Pluto and Sony Crackle, which provide a wealth of content material.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Is an indoor or outside antenna a viable possibility?

If you will have a TV in your home — that’s, a display that includes a tuner — you are part-way to slicing the wire already. An reasonably priced indoor antenna hooked as much as your TV will allow you to watch free TV over the air from any channel you obtain in your native broadcast space. Antennas value as little as $10. See our comparability of indoor antennas right here.

You may add a DVR such because the Amazon Fire TV Recast or TiVo Bolt OTA in order for you. Then you possibly can file these stay TV antenna channels, play them again and skip commercials, similar to on an ordinary cable TV DVR. Here’s CNET’s roundup of one of the best OTA DVRs for cord-cutters.

A stable, lower-cost various to stay TV streaming providers is the mixture of antenna for stay native channels with an on-demand service similar to Netflix or Hulu (which is now solely $5.99 a month). That manner you may nonetheless be capable to watch stay programming and still have a selection of on-demand content material.   


Amazon’s Fire TV Recast DVR is a cord-cutting antenna consumer’s pal.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Conclusion: Try it your self

Streaming stay TV providers are nonetheless of their infancy, and the trade continues to be in flux. Since launch each service has elevated costs by $5 a month, channel alternatives and cities with native channel entry are altering on a regular basis, and stories persist about some providers shedding cash. While streaming is undoubtedly the longer term, it will likely be a while earlier than each costs and the providers supplied settle in.

That mentioned, in order for you a cable-like expertise each at residence and on the go with out the useless weight that a cable subscription brings, then a streaming service is value a glance. There’s no contract to signal, and should you do not just like the service you are on, you possibly can simply change. So whether or not you are on the lookout for a primary bundle similar to Sling TV or need to pay extra for a deluxe expertise from the likes of PlayStation Vue, there must be a streaming TV service to go well with you.