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6 Best Live TV Streaming Services of 2021

After a long day at work, you probably just want to come home, settle into some comfy clothes, and catch up on your favorite shows without any fuss. But between network outages, rising cable company costs, and frustrating satellite dish issues every time there’s a storm, traditional TV service can be more stressful than relaxing.

If you’ve ever wondered if there’s an easier, better alternative, there is: TV livestreaming services.

With the popularity of on-demand streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, some people have forgotten about live TV altogether. But if you’ve been hesitant about cord-cutting because you want to be able to watch a live sports game or flip through the channels on a whim, livestreaming services like Sling TV and Philo can scratch that itch.

Livestreaming services bring your favorite shows to you in real time, just like traditional TV — but without the high monthly bills. Once you’ve decided to cut the cord, the only thing left is to choose the livestreaming service that meets your needs.

Which Live TV Streaming Service Is Right for You?

The sheer variety of livestreaming options is a TV lover’s dream come true. However, trying to choose among them can seem more like a nightmare. Of course, you could just sign up for every available service — but the cost would quickly add up to far more than you’d pay for cable.

To get the most for your money when shopping for a livestreaming service, think about what types of shows you want to watch the most. Then compare different services based on the types of content they offer and which streaming devices you can use to watch. Based on these details, you can choose the service or services that give you the best bang for your buck.

1. Sling TV

Sling TV offers streamers an experience very much like a slimmed-down version of cable TV. It provides various channels, including sports networks, country- and language-specific channels, and plenty of traditional cable channels, such as A&E, Disney, Bravo, ESPN, and the Food Network.

Sling’s simple-to-use interface and Cloud DVR capabilities make it an appealing choice for customers looking for an easy, inexpensive live TV option.

Pricing, Packages, & Add-Ons

Sling offers two basic plans. The company bills Sling Orange, which costs $30 per month, as a good choice for families and sports fans. It provides 33 channels, including all ESPN networks, Disney, and Nick Jr. With this plan, you can only watch one stream at a time.

Also $30 per month, Sling Blue offers a selection of 45 channels geared more toward news and entertainment. Its offerings include NatGeo, SyFy, Fox News, and MSNBC. This plan allows you to watch up to three simultaneous streams on different devices.

You can access some channels on both plans, such as HGTV, AMC, CNN, TNT, Lifetime, BET, and BBC America. However, if you want all the available channels from both Orange and Blue, you can sign up for both services at once. The Orange + Blue package allows you to watch up to four simultaneous streams. It also comes with a free month of Showtime, Starz, and Epix.

Sling also offers numerous add-ons for $5 to $10 extra per month. Options include Spanish and other foreign-language TV programming, sports, news, movies, lifestyle programming, kids’ programming, and outdoor pursuits. You can also add individual premium channels such as Showtime for $3 to $10 per month.

All Sling packages include 10 hours per month of free cloud DVR. That means you can store up to 10 hours of programming at a time in the cloud (online) to watch later.

Sling also provides access to a library of thousands of movies and TV shows on demand. One extra perk is Sling Watch Party, which lets you video chat with up to three friends or family members as you watch the same show from your own homes.

What’s Missing

None of Sling’s packages includes ABC, Animal Planet, CBS, MLB Network, MTV, Nickelodeon, PBS, or VH1. HBO also isn’t available, even as an add-on. Sling Orange doesn’t include Bravo, Fox, FS1, FX, MSNBC, NBC, or USA Network, while Sling Blue doesn’t have the Disney Channel or ESPN.

Another limitation of Sling TV is that, while you can store shows in your cloud DVR, you can’t download them for offline viewing. That means if the Internet goes down, you lose access to your TV service as well.

Compatible Devices

The Sling app works on computers and mobile devices running iOS, Android, Fire, Chrome, and Windows 10. It’s also compatible with most dedicated streaming devices, including Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Chromecast. If you don’t have a streaming device already, you can get a free AirTV Mini when you prepay for a two-month Sling TV subscription.

You can also view Sling content on Xbox One and some LG and Samsung smart TVs. And if you pair any of these devices with an HD antenna, you can watch all your local channels at no extra cost.

When to Choose It

Sling TV is the best option for those who want to save the most cash on their TV services but also want to keep major networks like ESPN, Fox, and NBC.

Sling is also a sound choice if you like to watch on the go using your mobile device. However, it’s worth noting you can only stream Sling Orange on one device, so if you have a family or a multiperson home and prefer the ability to stream on multiple devices at once, look into one of the other plans.


2. Hulu + Live TV

Hulu is a well-established name among on-demand streaming services, and they’ve recently added a live TV option to their spread. This new service, Hulu + Live TV, bundles livestreams with Hulu’s existing on-demand service.

Pricing, Packages, & Add-Ons

For $55 per month, Hulu + Live TV gives you ad-supported access to over 65 live and on-demand channels. Its channel lineup includes ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, ESPN, CNN, HGTV, the Cartoon Network, and the Disney Channel as well as local channels available in your area. There’s also an ad-free version of the service available for $61 per month.

In addition to the live channels, subscribers also gain full access to the thousands of shows and movies in the Hulu streaming library. If you don’t want this on-demand content, you can subscribe only to Live TV, but that only saves you $1 per month.

You can customize your Hulu + Live TV service with a variety of add-ons. For instance, premium channels such as Starz, Showtime, HBO, and Cinemax are available for $9 to $15 extra per month. You can also expand your choice of channels with the Entertainment add-on ($8 per month), which provides additional news, entertainment, and lifestyle programming, or the Spanish add-on ($5 per month), which gives you a selection of popular Spanish-language channels.

The standard Hulu + Live TV service allows two simultaneous streams and includes 50 hours of cloud DVR storage. However, you can expand these capabilities with add-ons. Enhanced Cloud DVR ($10 per month) gives you an additional 150 hours of cloud DVR storage. It also allows you to skip over ads in your recordings and stream them anywhere on any supported device.

The Unlimited Screens add-on ($10 per month) allows you to watch on an unlimited number of screens at home and up to three screens at once while on the go. You can add the Enhanced Cloud and Unlimited Screens add-ons as a combo for $15 per month.

What’s Missing

The Hulu channel lineup varies by area. Depending on where you live, you might be unable to get AMC, BBC America, BET, Comedy Central, MLB Network, MTV, NBA TV, NFL Network, Nickelodeon, PBS, or VH1.

Additionally, the basic service excludes the Cooking Channel, Discovery Family, DIY Network, Science, any premium channels, or any Spanish-language channels. While you can get these extras through add-ons, it starts to get pricey pretty quickly. And you can’t skip commercials unless you purchase the ad-free package, which adds another $6 to the cost.

In the past, there have been many complaints about Hulu’s terrible interface, which many users found confusing and hard to navigate. In May 2020, Hulu rolled out an updated interface intended to make navigation and show discovery easier. According to Mashable, the new interface is an improvement, but the format for individual show pages is still a mess.

Compatible Devices

Hulu + Live TV runs on all major streaming devices, including Chromecast, Apple TV, Fire TV, Fire TV stick, and some Roku and Roku stick models. It also works on Android, iOS, and Fire mobile devices, and you can view it through a Web browser on PC and Mac computers. Other supported devices include the Echo Show smart speaker, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and certain LG and Samsung smart TV models.

When to Choose It

If you already have a Hulu account and enjoy their digital library, upgrading to Hulu + Live TV for your live content could be a good value. Hulu + Live TV is also worthwhile for cord-cutters who don’t want to miss out on broadcast television. In addition to their original content, Hulu allows you to stream current shows from ABC, Fox, and NBC, older shows from CBS, and the entire “Seinfeld” collection.

However, if what you really want is a lighter version of cable TV, Sling TV offers that experience for less money.


3. AT&T TV Now

AT&T used to offer two livestreaming services. One, known as AT&T Watch TV, is no longer open as a stand-alone plan to new subscribers. (Existing customers and those who have a qualifying AT&T Unlimited plan can still use the service.) The other, formerly known as DirecTV Now, has been reborn as AT&T TV Now.

AT&T TV Now offers the widest selection of packages in the live TV market, with prices ranging from $55 to $183 per month. Reviewers like its intuitive interface, which will remind many users of traditional cable TV. However, one of the original DirecTV Now’s biggest selling points — the inclusion of HBO with every plan — is no longer a feature, making its value a bit questionable.

Pricing, Packages, & Add-Ons

The introductory AT&T TV Now plan, called Plus, offers 50 channels for $55 per month. It covers the basics for both kids and adults with ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox,  CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, BET, Comedy Central, ESPN, the Disney Channel, Hallmark, MTV, Nickelodeon, and VH1.

Premium movie channels — including HBO Max, Cinemax, Showtime, and Starz — are available as add-ons for $5 to $15 extra. You can also add Spanish-language or international programming.

For $80 per month, you can get the 60-plus-channel Max package. It includes Cinemax and HBO Max, with other premium channels available as add-ons for $5 to $11 per month. It also adds more sports coverage, such as the Olympic Channel, Tennis Channel, and Golf Channel on NBC.

Other packages offer more specialized content. For instance, Optimo Mas ($86 per month) has 90 channels with added Spanish-language programming. The top-of-the-line Premier package ($183 per month) has more than 140 channels, including all the premium movie channels.

Plus, Max, and most other plans available on AT&T TV Now come with 500 hours of cloud DVR storage. You can store a show on the cloud for up to 90 days. These plans also allow up to three simultaneous streams on different devices.

What’s Missing

You can get premium content on AT&T TV Now, but you’ll pay a hefty price for it. To get A&E, AMC, Animal Planet, BBC America, Discovery, HGTV, History, and Lifetime, you must choose one of the higher-end packages, such as the 65-plus-channel Entertainment plan ($93 per month). And PBS isn’t available on any plan.

For extra sports content like the MLB Network, NBA TV, and NHL Network, you need the 105-plus-channel Xtra plan ($124 per month). And some sports channels, like NFL Network and NFL Red Zone, aren’t available on any plan.

Compatible Devices

You can stream AT&T TV Now on Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Google Chromecast streaming devices. It also works with Samsung smart TVs from 2017 or later. For watching on the go, it’s compatible with Apple and Android mobile devices but not Fire or Windows. You can watch on the Web using the Chrome browser (version 58 or later) or Safari (version 10 or later).

When to Choose It

All AT&T TV Now plans, including the basic Plus plan, include some channels that aren’t available on either Sling or Hulu + Live TV, such as Nickelodeon, MTV, and VH1. For those who want premium movie content, the Max plan offers two premium channels and more cloud DVR storage than Hulu + Live TV.

However, for those who just want the widest variety of content at the best price, other options offer subscribers more bang for their buck.


4. YouTube TV

Don’t confuse YouTube TV with the original YouTube, a free forum where users can share their own videos. It still exists, but the newer YouTube TV is a completely different service with different content and features.

It offers a robust assortment of channels, up to six accounts on a plan, and unlimited cloud DVR storage — a rare feature among livestreaming services. And according to PCMag, both the TV interface and the DVR features are easy to use.

Pricing, Packages, & Add-Ons

YouTube TV currently offers only one package. For $65 per month, it provides access to over 85 channels. Its channel lineup includes AMC, CNN, Comedy Central, ESPN, the Food Network, Fox News, FS1, HGTV, MSNBC, the NFL Network, Nickelodeon, and TNT along with the basic network TV channels — ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, and PBS. Many of these networks also offer on-demand access to recent episodes of shows. Additionally, it provides access to local stations that vary by area.

YouTube TV doesn’t offer any upgraded packages, but it does offer a few add-ons. For an extra $10 per month apiece, you can purchase additional premium channels, including HBO Max, Showtime,  Starz, and Epix. For $3 per month, you can get the Sports Plus add-on, which includes extra sports channels, such as NFL RedZone, Fox College Sports, and Stadium.

You can also use YouTube TV to watch any video available on regular YouTube. Many of these videos are ad-supported, but you can avoid the ads with a YouTube Premium subscription, which costs an additional $12 per month.

A subscription to YouTube TV includes up to six individual accounts per household, each with its own personalized watching recommendations and live guide. Users can stream up to three shows simultaneously. One major perk of YouTube TV is its unlimited cloud DVR storage. Each account has its own library, and you can store shows for up to nine months.

What’s Missing

The channel lineup for YouTube TV varies by location. Depending on where you live, it may not include A&E, History, or Lifetime. Premium movie channels and NFL RedZone are available only as add-ons.

Additionally, there are a few places in the United States where YouTube TV isn’t available at all. However, over 99.5% of U.S. households can use it. Enter your zip code on the YouTube TV website to see if it’s available in your area and which channels it includes.

Live TV programming on YouTube TV comes directly from content creators, many of whom include ads in their programming. Most of the ad revenue goes to support the creators of the videos. You can’t fast-forward through these ads while watching a livestream, but you can when watching a stored show on cloud DVR. Also, if you pause while watching a show, you can fast-forward until you catch up with the live version.

Compatible Devices

You can stream YouTube TV to a standard TV set using a Roku, Chromecast, Apple TV, or Xbox One. It also runs on select smart TVs from Roku, Vizio, Samsung, and LG and on any Android TV, AirPlay for Apple TV, or Google Smart Display.

For on-the-go viewing, YouTube TV is available as an app for mobile devices running Android L or later and iOS 11 or later. You can also watch directly on the Web at tv.youtube.com. This site works best in the latest versions of Firefox and Chrome.

When to Choose It

YouTube TV offers just about everything you’d expect from a cable or satellite TV subscription at a lower monthly price. It’s an appealing choice for cord-cutters who want access to all their favorite cable TV shows in one simple package.

However, it’s pricier than many other TV livestreaming services, so it’s only worth the cost if you really need its full array of channels and features.


5. FuboTV

FuboTV started as a service that livestreamed soccer, which is called “futbol” in Spanish. Over the years, it has expanded to include more than 100 live channels with a heavy focus on sports. It has numerous sports channels as well as news, entertainment, and lifestyle content.

Pricing, Packages, & Add-Ons

Fubo offers a choice of three packages. Its basic Family service ($65 per month) offers 118 channels. The channel lineup includes ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, A&E, AMC, BBC America, Bravo, Comedy Central, the Disney Channel, Food Network, HGTV, Hallmark, Lifetime, and Nickelodeon. It also comes with plenty of sports channels, including ESPN, CBS Sports, and the NFL Network.

This package provides up to three simultaneous streams and 250 hours of cloud DVR space. You can test it out for seven days free before paying.

Upgrading to the Elite plan ($80 per month) gets you an additional 46 sports and entertainment channels. It includes the DIY Network, MTV, Nicktoons, Logo, Stadium, and NBA TV. With this package, you get up to five simultaneous streams and 1,000 hours of cloud DVR.

The Fubo Latino package offers only 32 channels for $30 per month. It focuses on Spanish-language content, with channels like NatGeo Mundo, Univision, Galavision, and Zona Futbol. It also provides 250 hours of cloud DVR, but it allows only two streams at once.

With any of these packages, you can get add-ons to expand your capabilities. For instance, adding Family Share ($6 per month) to the Fubo Latino plan boosts your simultaneous streams to three, and Family Share Max ($10 per month) increases them to five. With Cloud DVR 1000 ($17 per month), you can bump up your cloud DVR space on the Family or Latino plan to 1,000 hours. You can also add premium channels such as Showtime and AMC Premiere and various packages of additional foreign-language, entertainment, or sports channels for between $5 and $20 per month.

What’s Missing

None of Fubo’s packages include NFL RedZone. You can only get it by purchasing the Sports Plus with NFL RedZone add-on for $11 extra per month. BET is also unavailable with any of the packages, although BETHer and BETSoul come with the Elite plan and the Fubo Extra add-on ($6 per month). HBO and Starz aren’t available on FuboTV, even as add-ons.

Also, unlike many TV livestreaming services, FuboTV doesn’t offer any on-demand content. However, its generous cloud DVR allotment means you can easily save the game to catch later if you can’t watch it live.

Compatible Devices

Fubo runs on all the major streaming devices: Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, and Chromecast. You can also watch on certain Samsung smart TVs, Xbox One, and iOS and Android devices with the Fubo app. On a computer, you can watch online using the Chrome, Edge, Firefox, or Safari browsers.

When to Choose It

For hardcore sports fans, FuboTV offers access to all the sports you want for less than the price of a cable TV package with extra sports content. However, if sports aren’t your primary interest, FuboTV’s high cost makes it a poor value.


6. Philo

If you just want the basics at a reasonable price, Philo TV is definitely worth a look. This inexpensive, no-contract service offers both live and on-demand content, simultaneous streaming, and unlimited DVR. Its channel lineup isn’t as substantial as most, but it’s hard to beat for the price.

Pricing, Packages, & Add-Ons

Philo TV has just one basic plan: 63 channels for $20 per month. It focuses primarily on entertainment and lifestyle channels like A&E, AMC, BET, Comedy Central, the Cooking Channel, Discovery, Hallmark, HGTV, Lifetime, Nickelodeon, and VH1.

Available add-ons include Epix for $6 per month and Starz for $9 per month. You can try out the service for free for one week before subscribing.

With a Philo account, you can create up to 10 individual profiles and stream content on up to three screens at once. You can also record as many shows as you want on Philo’s cloud storage and keep them for up to 30 days. All you need to get started is a broadband Internet connection, a supported device, an email address or mobile number, and a payment method.

What’s Missing

Philo definitely isn’t the right choice for sports fans. It includes no sports channels, and even the major broadcast networks — ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, and Fox — aren’t represented here. It’s not a suitable choice for news, either, as it doesn’t include CNN or any other major news network. The only news channels are BBC America and BBC World News.

Compatible Devices

Philo works on Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, and Chromecast via Android. You can watch it over the Web on a Mac or PC with Chrome, Edge, Firefox, or Safari. There are also apps available for iPhone, iPad, and Android phones and tablets.

When to Choose It

This service is a solid choice for channel surfers who just want to lie back and be entertained at a bargain price. If you don’t mind the lack of news and sports content, you can get livestreaming cheaper with Philo than with just about any other livestreaming service.


Final Word

There’s no one best TV livestreaming service. Everyone’s needs are different, so it’s a question of choosing the right provider for you.

Consider what general type of content interests you most, what specific channels are must-haves, what other features you need, and how much you’re prepared to spend. Then choose the service or services that give you the most of what you want at the best price.

If none of the current services seem right for you, don’t despair. The market for streaming services is an ever-changing one.

Several networks have introduced their own livestreaming services that provide access to their content and nothing else, such as HBO Max and NBC’s Peacock Premium. And existing services often drop off the market — such as PlayStation Vue, which ended in January 2020. So if there isn’t a perfect livestreaming service for you today, there could be one tomorrow.

In the meantime, don’t forget that there are other ways to amuse yourself without cable TV. You can also get your video entertainment from on-demand streaming, old-fashioned DVDs, or network TV with an antenna. Or you could explore other alternatives, such as music, books, computer games, and tabletop games.

Amy Livingston
Amy Livingston is a freelance writer who can actually answer yes to the question, "And from that you make a living?" She has written about personal finance and shopping strategies for a variety of publications, including ConsumerSearch.com, ShopSmart.com, and the Dollar Stretcher newsletter. She also maintains a personal blog, Ecofrugal Living, on ways to save money and live green at the same time.

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