One of the best things about signing up for cable TV is knowing that you’ll never miss the latest episode of the hot new show or your sports team’s big match since most cable providers enable users to record and save content.
Until recently, the lack of this feature contributed to people being reticent to cut the cord on cable. But streaming services now provide a wide range of recording options to help subscribers never miss a minute of live TV.
The answer to this problem is Cloud Digital Video Recording (DVR). This feature saves TV shows in a data center rather than directly on a set-top box, as is the case with cable. Now, nearly every live TV streaming option enables subscribers to save content. The difficulty is now knowing which provider to pick. So, which streaming service has the best DVR?
To make things easier, we shortlisted the top four cloud DVR options available across the live TV streaming market — AT&T TV NOW, Hulu + Live TV, Philo and YouTube TV. We assessed them based on the price of the streaming service, whether DVR is included in the monthly subscription, the amount of storage space available, how long recordings are retained for, whether they enable ad-skipping and how many profiles are available on the account.
|Streaming service||Starting price*||DVR included in plan||Hours of storage||DVR upgrade available||Time DVR available||Ad skipping available|
|AT&T TV NOW||$65/mo.||Yes||500||No||90 days||Yes|
|Hulu + Live TV||$55/mo.||Yes||50||Yes – Up to 200 hours of storage ($9.99/mo.)||Unlimited||Requires upgrade|
|YouTube TV||$50/mo.||Yes||Unlimited||No||Nine months||Yes|
*Pricing per month plus taxes for length of contract. Additional fees and terms may apply. Pricing varies by location and availability. All prices subject to change at any time. May or may not be available based on service address. As of 11/18/19.
Best streaming service DVR for content: YouTube TV
YouTube TV enables subscribers to record unlimited amounts of content as long as they watch it within nine months. The only other provider that doesn’t cap the number of shows and movies that users can record is Philo, but its viewers must watch saved shows within 30 days.
AT&T TV NOW and Hulu + Live TV cap recording at 20 hours and 50 hours, respectively, although both enable subscribers to keep content for as long as they like. Upgrading to Hulu’s Enhanced Cloud DVR service for an extra $9.99/mo. quadruples users’ recording limit to 200 hours.
YouTube TV is a clear winner in this category, allowing users to record unlimited content across its 70+ channels.
Starting price: $49.99/mo.
Live TV package available
70+ channels and unlimited DVR storage
Best streaming service DVR for value: Philo
All DVR services on this list are included in the price of their streaming service packages. They’re also available through the various free trials that the platforms offer new users.
Philo enables live TV viewers to record as many shows and movies as they like for just $20/mo., although viewers must watch saved material within 30 days. Realistically, any show that’s still waiting to be viewed after 30 days probably won’t ever be watched, so this offers great value.
Philo’s service is more than three times cheaper than AT&T TV NOW ($65/mo.), which only offers 20 hours of recorded content. It’s also less than half the price of Hulu ($55/mo.) and YouTube TV ($50/mo.). This makes Philo a clear standout in terms of the value.
Best streaming service DVR for user experience: Philo
Philo provides subscribers with up to 10 personalized profiles per account, with each getting their own unlimited DVR storage for 30 days. By comparison, AT&T TV NOW only allows one central bank of recorded content. Philo is a great option for families or groups of people with varied viewing preferences.
AT&T TV NOW, Philo and YouTube TV all permit users to skip through commercials on recorded content. Hulu + Live TV is the only service on this list that doesn’t. Instead, users need to upgrade to Hulu’s Enhanced Cloud DVR service for an extra $9.99/mo., which takes their first monthly total subscription to approximately $65/mo. However, it’s worth noting that YouTube TV’s contracts with Disney, Fox and NBC prevent it from providing ad-free versions of recorded shows. That means no ad-skipping on some recorded selections.
Philo also takes the prize for user experience, with an impressive number of user accounts and recording options.
The bottom line
The storage options provided by streaming services have moved closer in line with what people have become accustomed to with cable TV. This makes cutting the cord much easier to accomplish, especially as the amount of content users can save for later increases.
That said, the answer to which streaming service has the best DVR comes down to what’s most important to you. Philo provides a great storage option considering the price of the service. While people on the lookout for a full-on cable replacement can’t go wrong with YouTube TV, which has an unlimited storage amount for your recorded content.