Considering cable alternatives? Here are the best live TV streaming services for your buck

Joe Supan

Jun 30, 2020 — 18 min read

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With much of the country sheltering in place to fight the spread of COVID-19, there’s never been a better time to re-evaluate your TV situation. If you’re paying for a pricey cable or satellite package, you could potentially save hundreds a year by cutting the cord and switching to a live TV streaming service.

There are plenty of options out there — the U.S. alone has more than 271 services to choose from — but only a few of them are actually meant to replace your cable or satellite TV. In other words, they don’t stream live TV. 

There are currently nine live streaming services that do (down from 10 after PlayStation Vue cut its own cord in January 2020). They cost anywhere from $15 to $135/mo., but most packages average around $50/mo. All of them operate on month-to-month contracts except for AT&T TV, which requires a two-year commitment.

If you already use a service like Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime Video, you probably already have everything you need to stream live TV. Most of the services we list here work with smart TVs, gaming consoles and streaming devices like Roku and Apple TV. AT&T TV is an outlier here, too — it includes a 4K streaming device with all of its subscriptions, so you won’t have to worry about your current device being compatible.

For additional information, we’ve written more about setting up your TV for streaming.

Click the links below to jump straight to a specific section:

How we found the best live TV streaming services

To evaluate each live TV streaming service’s channel selection, we used data from a recent survey from TiVo, which asked 3,330 adults, “Which channels would you be interested in including in your TV package?” The more people wanted a channel in their lineup, the higher we scored it. Here’s how the eight most popular live TV streaming services compared:

After evaluating each live TV streaming service’s channels, we then looked at more supplementary features like how many hours of DVR storage you get and the number of accounts that can stream at the same time. 

Finally, we spent about a week streaming live TV on each service on an Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick and Roku Streaming Stick to get a feel for the user experience. We looked for things like uninterrupted streams, easy navigation and a functional mobile app.

That left us with four factors to grade the services on: channel lineup, the value you get for the price, extra perks (like DVR and simultaneous streams) and user experience. We then calculated each overall score to weigh channels and value more heavily than extra perks and usability.

You can also take a look at our scoring process page for a more in-depth explanation of how we calculated these numbers.

Best for live sports and user experience: YouTube TV

YouTube TV launched in five markets in April 2017 and quickly became one of the most popular live TV streaming services around. According to Google’s most recent earnings call, YouTube TV has more than 1.5 million subscribers, behind only Hulu + Live TV. 

With the best user experience by far, generous extra perks and the most comprehensive sports lineup around, YouTube TV is the best live TV streaming service for most people.

YouTube TV supported devices: Roku, Google Chromecast, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Android TVs, Samsung smart TVs (2016 and newer), LG smart TVs (2016 and newer), Vizio smart TVs (select models), Hisense smart TVs (select models), Sharp smart TVs (select models)

Starting price: $64.99/mo.

  • Live TV package available

  • 95+ channels and unlimited DVR storage

Best-in-class interface and navigation

Unsurprisingly, YouTube knows a thing or two about streaming videos on the internet. Whereas most live TV streaming services use the same bland imitation cable TV design, YouTube TV is one of the only ones that actually innovates the channel-surfing experience.

We especially loved how you can see a preview of what’s playing when you stop on a channel in YouTube TV’s guide. Want to see if it’s still halftime of the game you’re watching? Just scroll past the game to check in on the status without actually changing the channel. 

YouTube TV also made it easier to find on-demand content than any other live TV streaming service by employing useful tags that actually work. When we searched “adventure” on YouTube TV, for instance, it showed us a relevant mix of live and on-demand content. When we tried the same on Sling and AT&T TV NOW, our results were limited to shows and movies with “adventure” in the title. 

Generous extra perks

YouTube TV has the best extra perks of any live TV streaming service. You’ll get unlimited DVR storage that keeps recordings for up to nine months, plus three simultaneous streams — more than any service except for Sling’s Orange + Blue plan.

Best service for sports

Along with Hulu + Live TV, YouTube TV is the best live TV streaming service for sports fans. There are a few differences between the two — YouTube TV is better for the MLB and NBA, Hulu for college sports — but for most people, either will work just fine. The only major sports channel YouTube TV is missing is the NFL Network. Unfortunately, no streaming services currently carry every channel that airs NFL games, though, so YouTube TV is still the best option for football fans.

YouTube TV also excels when it comes to your local MLB, NBA, NHL and MLS team’s games. It carries all the major regional sports networks, including FOX Sports and NBC Sports, plus NESN in Boston and YES and SNY in New York. 

Missing some popular channels

When it comes to the quality of channels it offers, YouTube TV ranks behind only AT&T TV. That said, you’ll still miss out on some well-known channels. Here are some of the most popular ones YouTube TV is missing:

  • A&E
  • Cooking Channel
  • Hallmark Channel
  • History
  • ION
  • Lifetime
  • MTV 
  • Music Choice

  • NFL Network
  • Nick Jr. 
  • Science
  • Weather Channel

If none of these are deal-breakers for you, YouTube TV more than makes up for their absence with its user experience and extra perks. But it does have more gaps than some of its competitors. 

Best channel lineup: AT&T TV

Launching nationwide in March 2020, AT&T TV is the latest streaming service from the telecom giant — not to be confused with AT&T TV NOW or AT&T Watch TV. That said, it’s not quite a live TV streaming service in the way that the others on this list are.

For one, you’ll have to commit to a two-year contract to use AT&T TV, while every other service lets you go month-to-month. What’s more, the price essentially doubles in the second year of the contract. 

AT&T TV includes a 4K streaming device as a part of the deal, too. Unlike cable and satellite service, though, you won’t pay any extra equipment fee, and the setup is as simple as plugging an HDMI cable into your TV. 

While those caveats might turn off some cord cutters, what you’ll get is the best lineup of channels of any live TV streaming service, and it’s not particularly close. If you want to cut the cord while keeping the hundreds of channels you get from cable or satellite, AT&T TV is your best bet. 

AT&T TV supported devices: AT&T TV streaming device (included), Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Samsung smart TVs

AT&T TV logo

Starting price: $59.99/mo.

  • Best channel lineup of any streaming service

  • 500 hours of cloud DVR storage

Solid user experience

To test out AT&T TV, we streamed live TV on its 4K streaming device for about a week. Overall, it was a very positive experience.

AT&T TV’s remote comes with Google Assistant built-in, so you can search for shows or movies using only your voice. That means you’ll never have to type out longer titles letter by letter on your remote again. 

You can also use almost any other streaming app on AT&T’s device. Popular streaming services like Netflix and Hulu come pre-downloaded, so you can easily switch between live TV and your latest binge-watch. That said, you’ll still need to subscribe to these services separately. 

Generous extra perks

AT&T TV provides 500 hours of cloud DVR storage on all of its plans, and you can keep recordings for up to 90 days. In addition, you can watch on up to three devices at once, an essential feature if you live in a house with diverse TV preferences. 

You’ll have to pay more to watch your local sports teams

Unfortunately, where AT&T TV falls short is in its collection of sports channels. It’s not that it doesn’t have them — it just makes you pay more for them. 

While channels like ESPN that air national games are available in AT&T TV’s cheapest package, you’ll have to upgrade if you want to watch your local MLB, NBA and NHL team’s games.

These air on regional sports networks (RSNs) like FOX Sports and NBC Sports, and you can only get them in the CHOICE package and above ($65/mo. in year one, $110/mo. in year two). For comparison, Hulu + Live TV has the same collection of RSNs for just $55/mo.

Best on-demand library: Hulu + Live TV

Most people know Hulu as the ad-supported alternative to Netflix, but it actually stands out as one of the best all-around live TV streaming services, too. It has more of the top-end channels than any service but AT&T TV, one of the best sports lineup in the game and it comes with Hulu’s popular on-demand service, too. 

Hulu supported devices: Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Roku, Xbox One and 360, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Samsung smart TVs, LG smart TVs, Vizio smart TVs, Android TVs

Starting price: $55/mo.

  • Live TV packages available

  • Great for live sports

Excellent overall channel selection 

For most people, Hulu + Live TV will have every channel they need. The only streaming service that had more in the top 25 of TiVo’s survey was AT&T TV, which requires a two-year commitment and doubles in price for year two.

Hulu excels at the very top end of that list, too. Out of the 10 channels that consumers said they want the most, Hulu includes nine — ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, Discovery Channel, FX, A&E, TNT and TBS — more than any other live TV streaming service. The only one it’s missing is HBO, which is only included in AT&T TV NOW’s $80/mo. MAX plan.

Great for live sports

After the demise of PlayStation Vue, Hulu + Live TV has grabbed the crown (along with YouTube TV) as one of the best streaming services for sports. It has nearly every channel you need to watch each of the four major American sports — the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL — plus the best collection of college sports networks around.

In addition to carrying most national games, Hulu also has nearly every regional sports network for your local MLB, NBA, NHL and MLS team’s games. The only markets it’s hit or miss on are New York, Los Angeles and Boston. If you live in these areas, fuboTV and AT&T TV have better local coverage. 

Includes Hulu on-demand

Hulu + Live TV has one trump card that no other service can match: It includes a world-class on-demand streaming service. You’ll have access to Hulu’s entire library of shows and movies, including award-winning originals like The Handmaid’s Tale and The Looming Tower. Hulu + Live TV includes the ad-supported version of Hulu ($5.99/mo. on its own), but you can also upgrade to Hulu (No Ads) + Live TV for $11.99/mo. Keep in mind, you’ll still have to sit through the commercials on live programming. 

Mediocre user experience

Hulu left a lot to be desired when it came to interface design and navigation. It wasn’t easy to figure out where the live TV portion of the service was, requiring several clicks from the home screen. And once you get there, channel-surfing was more frustrating than on any other service.

You can only see about four channels at a time, and only in the current time slot. If you want to see what’s coming up later in the day, you have to click on a channel and arrow over. And even then, you’re still limited to the next immediate time slot. 

Decent extra perks

Hulu + Live TV comes with 50 hours of DVR storage and two simultaneous streams. But unlike many services, Hulu’s DVR storage never expires, so you can keep those shows you’re saving for as long as you want. If you want to increase those amounts, you can upgrade to 200 hours and unlimited streams for an extra $14.98/mo.

Best for soccer fans: fuboTV

When fuboTV launched in 2015, it was primarily a service for soccer fans in the U.S. looking to keep up with the game overseas. Since then, it’s expanded beyond soccer to the larger sports world, even calling itself “the world’s only sports-focused live TV streaming service.”

That’s a bit misleading. Among live TV streaming services, fuboTV actually has one of the worst channel lineups for fans of American sports, but it excels at almost everything else. That comes at a price, though. FuboTV starts at $65/mo. — one of the more expensive streaming services around.

FuboTV supported devices: Amazon Fire TV, Android TVs, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Roku, Samsung smart TVs (2015-19 models)

Starting price: $64.99/mo.

  • Live TV packages available

  • 100+ channels with 30+ hours of DVR storage

Great all-around channel lineup

FuboTV has more of the channels that viewers actually want in their lineups. Out of the top 100 channels in TiVo’s survey, fuboTV included 57 of them — behind only AT&T TV’s 63. If you want the most channel variety, but aren’t ready to commit to AT&T TV’s two-year contract, fuboTV is a worthy second choice.

You’ll get local channels like CBS, FOX and NBC, plus cable classics like Discovery, FX and A&E. With 102 total channels, fuboTV is the best live TV streaming service to replicate the breadth of cable or satellite TV. 

Great for fans of international soccer

FuboTV is unique in its selection of international sports channels. Along with Vidgo, it’s the only streaming service that carries beIN Sports, a network of eight different channels that air soccer matches from the biggest leagues in the world, including the Premier League, La Liga, Ligue 1, Champions League, Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana. It also has 11 different channels from the TUDN network, which air soccer matches from around the world in Spanish. 

Exceptional user experience

In addition to its excellent channel lineup, fuboTV was also one of our favorite services to use. The guide will feel familiar to anyone who’s ever had cable. It shows about five channels on the left, with the upcoming two hours of programming to the right. 

The only thing we didn’t like was that you’re not able to browse and watch at the same time. (Most services leave a small window open with your current channel while you surf the guide.)

Where fuboTV really stood out was with its sports categories. You can pick whichever sport you’re interested in, and fuboTV shows all the games that are coming up. This might not sound like a big deal, but it cuts out a ton of scrolling time when you’re trying to find your game.

Only service with 4K sports

FuboTV has been on the cutting edge with 4K streaming. It’s currently the only service that carries channels entirely in 4K, with FOX, FS1 and the Big Ten Network. If a marquee sporting event is being played on one of these channels — including the NFL, MLB, NBA and NCAA sports — you’ll probably be able to watch it in 4K with fuboTV. You can find a full list of fuboTV’s 4K schedule here

Missing key channels for American sports

While fuboTV brands itself as “the world’s only sports-focused live TV streaming service,” the truth is it’s actually one of the worst for Americans. That’s because it’s missing two of the most important channels: ABC and ESPN. 

Without these, you’ll miss Monday Night Football from the NFL, the College Football Playoff, some of the MLB playoffs and almost every marquee NBA game, including the NBA Finals. There’s virtually no American sport that doesn’t broadcast games on ABC or ESPN. 

You’ll have better luck watching your local team’s games — fuboTV carries most of the regional sports networks in the country — but you’ll miss out on many of the nationally televised matchups. 

Mediocre extra perks

FuboTV does not impress when it comes to the extra perks it adds on, with only 30 hours of DVR storage and two simultaneous streams, both of which are around average. If you live in a house with eclectic viewing habits, YouTube TV offers three streams and unlimited DVR storage. 

You can also upgrade to 500 hours of DVR storage through fuboTV for an extra $10/mo., or add a third stream for $5/mo. 

Cheapest live TV streaming service: AT&T Watch TV

AT&T Watch TV is the cheapest live TV streaming service by far. For only $15/mo. — the same price as HBO NOW — you’ll get 40 total channels. Granted, that doesn’t include many of the channels that actually necessitate live TV, i.e. sports and news. 

But supplemented with a TV antenna or Locast (see below), Watch TV can be a perfectly adequate way to stream live TV for a price that’s well below the competition.

AT&T Watch TV supported devices: Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Google Chromecast

AT&T Watch TV logo

Starting price: $15/mo.

  • Cheapest live TV streaming plan available

  • 35+ channels

Bare-bones channel lineup

Watch TV has the most limited channel lineup of any live TV streaming service. That’s how it can afford to charge just $15/mo. But that doesn’t mean it’s completely devoid of popular channels.

It has 13 of the top 25 most popular channels in TiVo’s survey — the same as the $55/mo. AT&T TV NOW — including Discovery Channel, A&E, TNT, TBS, History, AMC and Food Network. 

You won’t get much in the way of live sports, local channels or cable news networks, but for the price, Watch TV arguably offers more per dollar than any other service.

Limited device compatibility

Right now, AT&T Watch TV is only available on Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV Sticks and Google Chromecast. That leaves out the 36.9 million people who use Roku, plus the countless others who stream live TV from their smart TVs or game consoles.

No DVR storage or simultaneous streams

AT&T Watch TV is the only live TV streaming service that doesn’t offer any DVR storage or simultaneous streams. If this is important to you, Philo includes unlimited DVR storage and three simultaneous streams for just $5 more per month. That said, its channel lineup is also slightly worse than Watch TV’s. 

Free local channels: Locast

Locast is like a TV antenna for the streaming era. The nonprofit service streams live TV stations like ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, The CW and PBS — all without charging you a penny.

For many people, that might be all the live TV they need. According to Variety, 46 of the top 50 telecasts in 2019 would have been accessible for free via Locast or a TV antenna. That includes events like the Super Bowl, the Oscars and the Olympics. 

Put simply, if Locast is available in your area, you should be taking advantage of it. 

For more information, you can read our full Locast review

Locast supported devices: Android TVs, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Google Chromecast

Only available in 19 markets

Locast is currently only available in 19 U.S. markets, but it’s been expanding to new cities consistently since it launched. Here’s everywhere you can get it today:

  • Atlanta
  • Baltimore
  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Dallas
  • Denver
  • Houston
  • Los Angeles
  • New York
  • Philadelphia
  • Phoenix
  • Puerto Rico
  • Rapid City
  • San Francisco
  • Seattle
  • Sioux City
  • Sioux Falls
  • Tampa Bay
  • Washington, D.C

Live TV streaming service FAQs

What is the best live TV streaming service for sports?

For most people, YouTube TV is the best live TV streaming service for sports. It has every channel you’ll need to watch MLB and NBA games, it’s only missing the NFL and NHL Networks from the other two major leagues. Unfortunately, there are currently no live TV streaming services that have every channel that airs games from either of these two leagues.

Here’s how each service compares for the major American sports leagues:

If you follow college sports more than the MLB or NBA, Hulu + Live TV is a slightly better option. It has an almost identical lineup to YouTube TV, but with ESPN College Extra instead of NBA TV and MLB Network. Finally, if international soccer is your thing, fuboTV is your best bet for catching these matches.

Can you stream TV for free?

There are several ways you can stream TV for free. We recommend trying the following options:

  • Locast: Streams around 50 live local TV channels in 18 U.S. markets
  • TV antenna: While not technically streaming, a TV antenna will get you the same local TV channels as Locast.
  • Free streaming services: Free streaming services like Hoopla, Tubi and Kanopy provide thousands of movies and TV shows on-demand.
  • Free live TV streaming: In addition to Locast, there are a number of other live TV streaming services like Pluto and STIRR that are entirely ad-supported. 
  • Free sports streaming: Streaming live games from Reddit links exists in a legal grey zone, but there are several legitimate ways you can catch live games for free.

Is streaming really cheaper than cable?

Unfortunately, you probably won’t end up saving much money by cutting the cord unless you switch to a skinny bundle like AT&T Watch TV ($15/mo.), Philo TV ($20/mo.) or Sling TV ($30/mo.). That’s because most providers offer significant deals if you bundle internet and TV. Here’s how some of the most popular cable and satellite packages compare to streaming services:

As you can see, live TV streaming services are typically pretty comparable to cable and satellite bundles. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth switching. 

For one, live TV streaming service subscribers are generally much happier with their service than cable and satellite customers. According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), streaming services as an industry rated 76/100 in 2019 — on par with the hotel and apparel industries. Traditional TV providers, on the other hand, ranked dead last with a score of 62/100.

With streaming, the user experience is usually a lot better, with fully functional mobile apps, cloud DVR and simultaneous streams. But best of all, if you don’t like your service, you’re free to cancel at any point, whereas most TV providers usually require year-long contracts subject to price hikes. 

What internet speed do I need for live TV streaming?

Most services recommend around 10 Mbps download speeds to stream live TV without buffering. That said, if multiple devices are using your internet connection at once, that number will need to go up even more. If you’re not sure how much speed you’re currently getting, take our speed test below to find out. You can also check out our guide to internet speeds for more information.

Your speed test results:

Download Speeds

888 Mbps

Upload Speeds

88 Mbps

Need more for the price?

Try these helpful hacks to improve your internet speed. Or if you just want more bang for your buck, check out providers near you with more speed for the price. Either way, we’ll help you find what you need.

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Pro Tip: For best results, use an Ethernet cord to connect your router or modem directly to your device before you run the test.

Our other live TV streaming service reviews

We’ve written extensively about every live TV streaming service around. For more detailed information, you can check out our full reviews below:

The bottom line

The field has leveled significantly since live TV streaming services first launched a few years ago. At this point, most of these services share a lot of the same channels. Which one is right for you will probably come down to a few decisive questions.

Is ESPN a necessity? Would you rather have A&E or AMC? Do you need every local channel or can you get by with a TV antenna or Locast?

The volatile nature of streaming services means that these channels and prices will continue to shift, too. To stay on top of the latest updates and news, bookmark our Resource Center and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Joe Supan

Written by:

Joe Supan

Senior Writer, Wireless & Streaming Content

Joe oversees all things wireless and streaming for Allconnect. His work has been referenced by McAfee, Fox network and more. He has utilized thousands of data points to build a library of metrics to help users n… Read more

Trey Paul

Edited by:

Trey Paul

Editor, Head of Content

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