Every live TV streaming service has its strengths and weaknesses and each household will favor some over others. However, there are plenty of ways to draw direct comparisons between services which can help to rank one over another. This not only includes the actual subscription cost or the number of channels, but also the DVR and the number of devices that can be used to watch live TV on at the same time.
The main and best options for streaming live TV channels over the internet include, in alphabetical order, DirecTV Stream, fuboTV, Hulu Live TV, Philo, Sling TV and YouTube TV. After reviewing each of these services, some on more than one occasion, here’s how we think they rank.
Best Live TV services, ranked:
YouTube TV $64.99
YouTube TV is a hugely popular live TV streaming service and for good reason, it is a good live TV service. In fact, it is one of the best options around and will suit many households looking for access to entertainment, news and sports channels. At the same time, it is not a cheap live TV service.
Large channel selection
Good on demand options
Great for DVR
Good for families
Emphasis on sports
Cheaper options available
Locals might be an issue
Interface won’t suit everyone
DVR has some limitations
Hulu Live TV $69.99
Hulu Live TV offers good value overall and provides access to a lot of content, and a subscription is likely to be a very good option for any households interested in Disney Plus and ESPN Plus as well. However, if these additional subscriptions are not of much interest, an alternate live TV subscription might be the better choice.
Free Disney+ and ESPN+
Colorful rich apps
Wide device support
Unlimited cloud DVR
Home network restrictions
Missing some popular channels
Apps can be confusing
Philo is a good Live TV streaming service for those looking for a more affordable option than the likes of Hulu Live TV and YouTube TV. The major downside with Philo is the channel lineup. Although the selection of channels may suit some households, it won’t meet the needs of others, and especially those looking for access to local live TV or sports channels.
Easy to use
No local channels
Not for sports fans
Limited device support
fuboTV will suit those looking for a live TV streaming service with a focus on sports content, but also enough entertainment channels to keep the rest of the household busy. However, the price is a little on the high side and some may find that one of the competing services may offer a plan that better suits their needs at the same price.
Good for sports
4K (limited events)
Sling TV $35+
Sling TV is a really good option for homes looking for an affordable live TV streaming service with a choice of two main plans and channel lineups at a cheaper price than many competing services. However, for those looking for a more robust live TV service, there are better options.
Cheap base price
Wide device support
Some free content
Rentals and PPV
Can get expensive
Lacking premium features
Not great for locals
DirecTV Stream $69.99+
DirecTV Stream is a good live TV streaming service, but there are just too many caveats to the subscription. Not only can device support be an issue, but the various plans and channel lineups can also be confusing. Still, if you are willing to pay the price of the more expensive plans, you do get a lot of TV in return. For everyone else, there are probably better and more suitable options available.
Channel selection (at a cost)
Good for sports
Good for local channels
Can be expensive
Too many plans and options
Device support can be an issue
Difficult to cancel
There are plenty of live TV streaming services to choose from, but Vidgo is a little different thanks to its emphasis on social-watching. For most households, however, there are better options available for the money.
Good mobile experience
Interesting social features
Good channel selection
Not for everyone
Limited on demand content
Limited smart TV support
Basic TV apps
It is important to keep in mind that Streaming Better’s rankings of these live TV services is based on our experience. For some households, our lowest ranked service may actually appeal more than the highest ranked service. After all, aspects like the experience can be very subjective. What is less subjective, however, is the price, channel lineups, recording limitations, and simultaneous streams. All of which can greatly impact on the overall experience.
Best Live TV services for price
The cost of a live TV subscription is evidently going to be one of the main selling points or hurdles. While the price is often more than just the actual dollar amount, different services offer more or less value for similar amounts, the dollar amount still matters. In this sense, Philo and Sling TV are two of the best live TV services overall. Both are designed to be affordable and while that does mean they compromise in certain respects, it’s hard to argue with their prices.
|Service||Price p/m||Free trial|
|DirecTV Stream||$69.99+||7 days|
|Hulu Live TV||$69.99||X|
|YouTube TV||$65||7 days|
For reference, there are even cheaper options for watching live TV over the internet. For example, frndly TV is one of the cheapest options around. However, its channel lineup is considerably lighter than what many of the other services offer and it is likely to be too limiting for many households. There are also plenty of streaming services that provide access to some live TV content. For example, the Paramount Plus Premium plan unlocks local CBS and offers access to other live channels. However, the overall live element of the service is just too light to be considered comparable to the best live TV services.
Then there are the services that offer access to free TV. Two prime and popular examples of this type of service are Pluto and Tubi, but these are not what many will consider to be real live TV services. Yes, they do include channels you can tune in to and watch at any time, and for free, but these are typically show or genre-based channels that constantly repeat older episodes rather than live TV in the traditional sense. For what they are, they’re worth using, but they are not going to be a replacement for an actual live TV plan.
Best for channels
When removing price from the equation, consumers do have quite the choice of plans with robust channel lineups. Arguably, DirecTV Stream is one of the best options for channels overall. DirecTV Stream is pretty much the streaming version of DirecTV so for those that want the ability to sign up for a live TV package with 100s of channels, and don’t mind the cost, DirecTV Stream is going to be a good choice.
fuboTV is also a good choice when it comes to the number of channels. Similar to DirecTV Stream, fuboTV also offers more than one plan for consumers to choose from with the selection of channels increasing along with the cost. At the top end, the newest Ultimate fuboTV plan provides access to more than 200 channels and also offers the option to bundle additional add-ons to further increase the number.
Speaking of add-ons, a honorable mention goes to Sling TV. In reality, Sling TV is designed to be an affordable live TV service. However, Sling TV does offer plenty of customization options making it possible to take one of the base plans and considerably increase the number of channels. Naturally, this will also considerably increase the cost, and likely to a point where the price is directly comparable to DirecTV Stream or fuboTV.
Best live TV services for DVR
A cloud DVR had been one of the staple features of live TV streaming services since the very beginning. However, even the best live TV services have been slow to really embrace the DVR and make sure it is as rich as the rest of the experience. YouTube TV is one of the few services that has always understood the importance of recordings.
YouTube TV offers an unlimited cloud DVR making it possible to record as many shows and movies as a household wants. While many other services now also offer an unlimited DVR, YouTube TV still tends to offer the best version thanks to each subaccount (family member) getting access to their own unlimited cloud DVR, removing the need to worry about having to scroll through all the recordings made by others. To be clear, YouTube TV’s DVR is far from perfect, but is the best overall and when taking all the different factors, benefits, and limitations into consideration.
|DirecTV Stream||Free||Unlimited||9 months||30 episodes (per show)||X|
|Hulu Live TV||Free||Unlimited||9 months||X||X|
|Sling TV||Free||50||Indefinite||Not all channels||✔ ($5 for 200 hours)|
|YouTube TV||Free||Unlimited||9 months||X||X|
Outside of YouTube TV, DirecTV Stream, Hulu Live TV and Philo all also offer an unlimited DVR. Similar to YouTube TV, they all do come with some limitations with a notable one being how they automatically delete recordings after a pre-set amount of time — typically nine months. For those that do want the ability to just record and keep those recordings for as long as they want, fuboTV or Sling TV are likely to be the better options. However, neither fuboTV nor Sling TV offer an unlimited DVR, so there’s the rub.
Best for streaming on multiple devices
Similar to the cloud DVR, simultaneous streams (the ability to stream on multiple devices at the same time) is something many live TV services were slow to really appreciate and take advantage of. In fact, it is only recently that the best live TV services have started improving their simultaneous streams allowances by greatly expanding the number of devices that can be used at the same time. Still, they are far from perfect and allowances vary wildly between services.
DirecTV Stream offers the most as it is unlimited. fuboTV is also a good option with support for up to 10 devices at the same time. In contrast, Hulu Live TV, Sling TV and YouTube TV all offer considerable fewer simultaneous streams. Hulu Live TV and YouTube TV do offer the option to upgrade to unlimited, but at an additional monthly cost on top of the base plan.
|Service||How many streams||Upgrade|
|DirecTV Stream||20 (at home)||X|
|fuboTV||10 (at home)||✔|
|Hulu Live TV||2||✔|
In spite of these services having improved their simultaneous streams policies, none have perfected their support and still apply limitations that can impact on the experience. The most common one is that the number of simultaneous streams is greatly reduced when watching outside of the home area. This is the area, often defined by either a physical address or a Wi-Fi network that the service associates with the home of the account holder. Even the best live TV services with the most generous simultaneous streams allowances only offer a few streams at the same time outside the home.
Best live TV services summary
Although we’ve looked to rank the best live TV services according to our experiences and by factors we consider important, there’s a lot of caveats that should be taken into consideration. Value is one which wasn’t really touched on here but is a very important one. For example, Hulu Live TV not only provides access to live TV channels, but the base price also includes access to basic Hulu, Disney Plus and ESPN Plus. For any homes that already subscribe to these services, and especially all three, Hulu Live TV is likely to be the best live TV service overall.
The takeaway here is that while it is easy to compare these services on single factors like the price, DVR, channels and simultaneous streams, and even overall, no one live TV service wins in all categories. For almost all households, the best live TV streaming service is going to be the one that checks the most boxes for their needs and comes with the fewest limitations.
That’s not meant to sound like us sitting on the fence. In our opinion, YouTube TV is the best live TV service overall as it checks the most boxes that we consider important. However, it is not a perfect live TV service and while it will work out best for many households, there are just as many that will prefer the value offered by Hulu Live TV, the choice of channels offered by DirecTV Stream, or the low cost of Philo and Sling TV.