What Are the Best Live TV Streaming Services?

Cutting the cable cord doesn't have to mean giving up live TV, thanks to services like Hulu, YouTube TV, and more.
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While there are plenty of streaming services, they don't do much good if you want to watch currently running network television. At best, the streaming service Hulu offers next-day viewing of select network shows — but you're still missing out on a lot of entertainment.

SEE ALSO: Where to Watch Free Movies and TV Shows Online

That's where live TV streaming services come in. Instead of doing on-demand streaming from a fixed content library, these services stream live TV broadcasts. That means you can watch shows as they air, getting almost limitless content: if it's on traditional cable TV, you can stream it directly to your streaming player or smart TV.

Read on to learn about the live TV streaming services we think are worth considering, and what you'll get with each.

What Are the Drawbacks of Live TV Streaming Services?

This type of streaming service does have its downsides. While traditional streaming services tend to cost from $5 to $15 per month, live TV streaming starts at $20 and increases from there, depending on the networks you want to watch.

Live TV streaming starts at $20 and increases from there, depending on the networks you want to watch.

Most services have a specific package of available channels, and though some offer additional channels for an additional cost, you can't subscribe just to the networks you want for the most part. That means you'll be making your choice — and setting your budget — based on which channels you'd like to watch.

There's also the problem of commercials: because you're watching live, these networks will include commercials. Though services offer on-demand viewing for many shows, as well as cloud-based DVRs to record shows to watch later, both may still require you to watch ads. You'll just have to live with this annoyance if you want this kind of content.

The Best Live TV Streaming Services

So which live TV streaming services are the best? These are our favorites.


Hulu logo

Hulu + Live TV

  • Monthly Cost: $54.99 or $60.99
  • Add-Ons: From $4.99 to $14.99 each
  • Stream Quality: SD to 4K, depending on bandwidth
  • Commercials: No commercials for an additional fee
  • Cloud DVR: 50 hours, or more for an additional fee
  • Offline Viewing: With ad-free plan
  • Simultaneous Streams: Two; unlimited for an additional fee

Hulu + Live TV basically adds live television service on top of a standard Hulu subscription. That means you get access to many current shows the day after they've aired (without ads, if you've paid to remove ads), as well as Hulu's library of TV, movies, and originals.

Hulu + Live TV basically adds live television service on top of a standard Hulu subscription.

The live TV option adds more than 60 channels of live television. Hulu offers major broadcast networks, such as ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC — though these networks are only available to viewers in certain areas. Hulu + Live TV also includes the cable networks you're probably most interested in, with ESPN, CNN, Disney Channel, Discovery Channel, HGTV, Food Network, Bravo, Cartoon Network, and many more. It's a very strong lineup for a pretty reasonable cost.

You can subscribe with or without ads, but be aware that the no-ads plan only removes ads from Hulu content — not TV content. So even if you pay up, you'll still see some advertisements. You'll also need to shell out $9.99 per month for "enhanced cloud DVR," if you want a DVR that lets you fast forward through commercials in your recordings — otherwise, you're stuck with them.

Though the price is high — particularly if you go for the ad-free plan and enhanced cloud DVR — you're getting a solid selection of content for your money. If you watch a lot of TV, Hulu + Live TV has you covered.


woman viewing channel choices

Sling TV

  • Monthly Cost: $30 or $45
  • Add-Ons: From $5 to $10 per month for channel packages
  • Stream Quality: Up to HD, depending on bandwidth
  • Commercials: Yes
  • Cloud DVR: 10 hours, or more for an additional fee
  • Offline Viewing: No
  • Simultaneous Streams: One to four, depending on the plan

Sling TV can be a great budget option, but a high number of add-on packages can make it more expensive than you expect. Choose from two plans: Orange (32-plus channels) and Blue (47-plus channels), or you can combine the two to have more than 53 channels. In some locations, Sling also includes access to the broadcast networks NBC and FOX. This is a nice bonus for the price, but you can only expect access in large metro areas.

SEE ALSO: 7 Ways to Get Free HBO

Sling offers a good range of channels, with ESPN, Disney Channel, TNT, AMC, USA Network, CNN, Food Network, Cartoon Network, Comedy Central, Syfy, and Bravo, depending on your plan. An included cloud DVR service (10 hours with the standard subscription) lets you record a few shows and fast forward through commercials, too.

The biggest problem with Sling is the wide range of add-ons, which start at $5 each. Because many of the extra channels are bundled into packages rather than sold à la carte, you can wind up paying a lot even if you're only interested in a few stations. But if there's a package that includes the channels you're interested in, and you're careful about piling on add-ons, Sling TV can be a good deal.


Philo logo

Philo

  • Monthly Cost: $20
  • Add-Ons: N/A
  • Stream Quality: Up to HD, depending on bandwidth
  • Commercials: Yes
  • Cloud DVR: Save unlimited shows for 30 days
  • Offline Viewing: No
  • Simultaneous Streams: Three

Philo is designed for the budget streamer, and at only $20 per month for 59 channels, it's a great value. You won't find any of the major broadcast networks, but you will get a good package of cable channels, like AMC, Food Network, Comedy Central, Discovery, and HGTV. The cloud DVR is also solid; it saves as many shows as you'd like for 30 days and lets you fast forward through ads.

Philo gives you 59 channels, with no add-ons or extras.

We're a fan of this simple plan, which can really help control costs. Philo has no add-ons or extras — everything is included in the standard plan for the standard subscription fee. While that limits your viewing options, if Philo has the channels you want to watch, it's a fantastic deal.


YouTube logo


YouTube TV

  • Monthly Cost: $49.99
  • Add-Ons: From $3 to $40 each
  • Stream Quality: Up to HD, depending on bandwidth
  • Commercials: Yes
  • Cloud DVR: Save unlimited shows for nine months
  • Offline Viewing: No
  • Simultaneous Streams: Three

YouTube TV offers the best range of live TV content for the price. It gives you over 70 channels, including ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, and The CW, though these major networks are only available in select regions. It also has sports from ESPN, CBS Sports Network, MLB Network, NBA TV, and NBCSN. That makes it a solid choice for sports fans, who often have trouble finding their favorites on streaming services.

SEE ALSO: Want to Buy a Digital TV Antenna? Here's What You Need to Know!

YouTube TV features some of the biggest cable networks, as well, with AMC, Bravo, FX, Discovery, HGTV, Syfy, TCM, TBS, USA Network, and a lot more. The high number of channels means you get a fantastic variety of entertainment options.

YouTube TV offers the best cloud DVR service you'll find, too. You can make an unlimited number of recordings and save them for nine months at no extra charge. Plus, you can fast forward through commercials on DVR content. That's all included in the base subscription, with no extra charges.

If you want premium channels, you'll have to pay a monthly fee for each one you select. They range from sports options like NBA League Pass to movie channels like Showtime and Starz.

Readers, which service do you prefer for streaming live TV? Let us know in the comments below!


DealNews Contributing Writer

Originally working in IT, Elizabeth now writes on tech, gaming, and general consumer issues. Her articles have appeared in USA Today, Time, AOL, PriceGrabber, and more. She has been one of DealNews' most regular contributors since 2013, researching everything from vacuums to renters insurance to help consumers.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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