Elizabeth Clifford/ Youtube

The ultimate guide to live TV streaming

Here's how the competition really stacks up.


John-Michael Bond


Published Dec 4, 2017   Updated Jan 27, 2021, 2:15 am CST

There are few things more satisfying than breaking up with your major cable company. You no longer have to install a satellite or pay through the nose for a massive cable package when you only care about a handful of channels. But while Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime might satisfy your need for on-demand movies and TV shows, you may still find yourself wanting live TV streaming, especially if there’s a series you want to watch in real time or there’s a big game on you just can’t miss.

Thankfully, there are plenty of live TV streaming options to choose from—too many in fact. In the last two years, the market has been flooded with new services, and they’re gaining popularity quickly. According to a CNBC report, YouTube TV now has over 300,000 subscribers while Hulu with Live TV boasts 450,000.

Figuring out which live TV streaming service is right for you can get complicated quickly. We’ve broken down all of the best options below to help the decision-making process easy for you.

The best live TV streaming options

Sling TV

Sling TV is arguably the most established and well-known live streaming TV service. It launched in 2015 and has earned a loyal following for its cheap plans and à la carte options.

Cost: Sling TV’s Orange package is just $30 a month, its Blue package costs $30 a month also. Yes, you have to pay extra for ABC ($5/month). HBO costs $14.99, the same it does most other places. While the start-up cost is low, when you factor in add-on channels, Sling TV quickly adds up.

Channels: Sling Orange comes with around 30 channels, while the Blue package comes with 45, depending on what local options are available to you. If you bundle the two packages together there is some overlap, so you’ll only end up with about 50 channels. If you’re looking for the cheapest access to ESPN, Sling TV is for you, with the $30 Orange package delivering all the sports you can handle. Each of the three packages includes CNN, Comedy Central, Cartoon Network, FX, AMC, NFL Network, and more. Sadly there’s no MTV.

live tv streaming : sling tv orange + blue channels

Devices: Sling TV works on a remarkable number of devices, with the notable exception of Sony devices. Sling TV can be streamed via Amazon Fire devices, Apple TV, Android TV, iOS and Android devices, Chromecast, certain LG smart TVs, AirTV Player, Roku, Samsung TV, Oculus, Portal, and Xbox One.  

Special features: Sling offers DVR, but it costs an extra $5 a month for 50 hours of storage, but take note that many channels can’t be recorded. You can find a complete list of those channels here.

Why you’ll love it: Sling TV is a winner when it comes to price and interface. It’s hard to beat its $30 entry point, and once you’re logged in, navigating is a breeze. Unlike Hulu with Live TV and PS Vue, Sling TV has a menu system that’s easy to pick up from the get-go. Still, if you’re looking to add channels beyond the standard live TV streaming package, Sling TV’s monthly price can creep up.

streaming live tv : Sling TV
Sling TV
Orange + Blue$50

Hulu with Live TV

Launched in 2017, Hulu with Live TV is exactly what it sounds like: a live TV streaming option from one of the leaders in on-demand entertainment. The best part about it is that it comes with free access to Hulu with Limited Commercials (a $5.99/month value), unlocking its deep library of movies TV showsanimedocumentariesscary movies, and must-see Hulu originals.

Cost: Hulu with Live TV is $54.99 per month or $60.99 per month no commercials. Hulu also offers premium channel offerings like HBO ($14.99/month), Cinemax ($9.99/month), and Showtime ($8.99). 

Channels: Hulu with Live TV offers over 50 channels, though the exact number is dependent upon on the number of local channels you’ll be able to pick up. You can expect to find popular favorites like Food Network, Nat Geo, TNT, and the Travel Channel, along with ESPN and each of the major news networks. Sadly, Hulu doesn’t have a deal with Viacom, so you won’t get Comedy Central, MTV, Spike, or Nickelodeon. AMC is also missing. 

live streaming tv : hulu with live tv channels
Screengrab via Hulu

Devices: Hulu with Live TV works on iOS, AndroidRoku, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, Nintendo Switch, LG TV, Echo Show, Samsung, Vizio, Playstation, and Xbox One.

Special features: Each subscription comes with 50 hours of DVR recording time, with no time limits on how long you can store material. If 50 hours isn’t enough, you can get 200 hours of Cloud DVR for $15 a month. 

Why you’ll love it: Hulu is a brilliant middle ground, offering a world-class streaming service in addition to streaming live TV. However, while its design is beautiful, it can take some getting used to, especially given the way it curates channels based on what you watch. If you want to surf or find your DVR shows, you’ll need to dig through menus, which often feels like a hassle. Still, for the cost and what you get, Hulu with Live TV is an incredible deal. We just don’t recommend it if you find existing streaming services difficult to navigate.

Hulu Live TV Logo
Hulu Live TV $64.99
Hulu Live TV
(no ads on
Hulu content)


Originally launched as a way to watch sports online, FuboTV has expanded its offerings to compete with other live TV streaming, and it’s competitively priced.

Cost: FuboTV offers four levels of service. Fubo Standard, the standard package, costs $54.99/ per month. The Family Plan is $59.99/ per month. Family Plan with Showtime is $69.99/ per month. Ultra is $79.99 per month. The service also offers Futbol Quarterly at $19.99/ per month. 

Channels: If you want a mostly standard TV package, Fubo Standard is the only way to go. Subscribers get 100-plus channels, depending on what local channels are available in your area. FuboTV is heavily weighted towards sports, particularly soccer. In fact, over 20 of the channels that come with the basic package are focused on sports, but it glaringly omits ESPN. Other standard programming channels like Bravo, FX, FXX, Nat Geo, USA, MSNBC, Fox News, SyFy, Food Network, Travel Channel, History, and other major cable options are included. Yet again, Viacom properties like MTV, Comedy Central, and VH1 are absent.

Fubo’s Futbol Quarterly includes Univision, Univision TDN, Fox Deportes, UniMas, and Nat Geo Mundo among its channels. Meanwhile, Fubo Portugues comes with Benfica TV, a Portuguese sports channel; RTP International, the international service for Portuguese public broadcasting; and the soccer-focused GOL TV.

live tv streaming : fubotv channels
FuboTV’s Standard channels ($54.99/month)

Devices: FuboTV is another live TV streaming service that leaves game console viewers out in the cold, but thankfully there are plenty of other options to choose from. Roku, Apple TV, iOS and Android, Amazon Fire devices, Android TV, and Chromecast all support FuboTV.  

Special features: Fubo has recently upgraded its service, offering 30 hours of cloud DVR to all users, upgradable to 500 hours for an extra fee. In addition, the service has also introduced its own 72-hour lookback feature, letting you go back to your listings to watch shows that have already aired.

Why you’ll love it: FuboTV feels like a good service on the verge of becoming a great one. For a sports-focused company, the lack of ESPN is odd, but no one else in the game offers as many options for sports fans, and its’ Sports Plus package adds 15 additional channels that include NFL RedZone and five Pac 12 channels. 

live tv streaming : FuboTV
Fubo TV packages
Family with Showtime$74.99 ($69.99 for first 3 mos.)

YouTube TV

Launched in April 2017, YouTube TV offers solid competition in the world of live TV streaming and boasts some of the best features around. 

Cost: YouTube TV’s plan costs $$49.99/ per month. Additional sports and premium networks like Fox Soccer Plus, Showtime, and Starz can be added for an extra monthly fee.

Channels: The service boasts just over 70 channels, ranging from CBS to ESPN, though there are some odd holes in the lineup. You get Fox and MSNBC, but not CNN, for example.Still, there are plenty of solid options, including AMC, FX, and SYFY, and Nat Geo. 

live tv streaming : youtube tv channels

Devices: Other than the PlayStation ecosystem, YouTube TV works almost everywhere. It supports iOS, Android, Chromecast, Android TV, some Samsung and LG smart TVs, and Xbox One.  

Special features: YouTube TV has some of the most generous special features in the live TV streaming world. While every service allows multiple users to watch at the same time on one account, YouTube takes it to the next level by offering six accounts per household. Each with their own personal login and unlimited DVR, meaning you’ll never accidentally record over your roommate or Mom ever again. YouTube is also one of the only services that lets you fast forward through ads on your DVR’d shows, which is always a bonus. YouTube TV also gives you access to YouTube Red Originals. 

Why you’ll love it: YouTube TV is an odd choice for live TV streaming. Its unlimited cloud DVR is hard to beat. The interface takes some getting used to, but the service’s live TV grid view is helpful for planning your viewing schedule. YouTube TV is best for houses with multiple viewers all sharing an account.

live tv streaming YouTube TV
Youtube TV
1 Month$64.99
Sports Plus$10.99/mo.


Philo is a recently launched live TV streaming option focused on lifestyle, entertainment, and educational programming. It’s a budget-friendly option that makes it easy to get started.

Cost: Philo starts at just $20/month, with an extra batch of channels available for $4 more. Want to give it a try? Philo only requires a phone number for a free trial, no credit card or payment needed.

Channels: For a budget-priced service, Philo comes packing some big names, including all the Viacom channels other providers are lacking. Beyond MTV and Comedy Central, Philo alos offers Discovery, A&E, AMC, Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, and the Food Network. Oddly, the only news network included is BBC World News, and you can’t access local channels. It’s basically the perfect cable package for a college dorm.

live streaming tv : philo channels

Devices: Roku, iOS, Android, Fire TV, Apple TV, iOS, and browser options available.

Special features: Philo allows users to record shows. However, each program will be deleted 30 days after being recorded.

Why you’ll love it: While limited in its channel selection (there’s no ESPN or American news network) and ways to watch, you get more than you pay for with Philo, and it’s perfect for late-night channel surfing.

live tv streaming philo

Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance. 

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*First Published: Dec 4, 2017, 6:00 am CST