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How to Pick a Live-TV Streamer That Can Kill Your Cable Bill

This article was originally published in 2022 and has been updated with the latest services and prices.

There are a few things live TV has going for it: immediacy, sports, the news, awards shows and special concerts, and, in many cases, watching a show as it airs rather than waiting until it’s available on demand. The good news is you can still break up with your cable company and sign up for a streaming service that lets you watch events as they happen, letting you tweet along with other Bachelor fans or tune to a random channel and avoid the choice paralysis that comes with having too many viewing options.

The best part is that you can save a lot of money, unless you go the route of buying a digital antenna for the stations that are broadcast over the airwaves. The downside is that no service truly has everything that you’d get with a cable or satellite package — thanks to weird rights deals, it seems like there’s always one or two channels missing, so be sure to double check a streamer’s lineup to make sure all of your must-haves are there. Here, we present a handy primer to live streaming services for those who want to stay up to date with television while also cutting the cord, with info on price, DVR space, simultaneous streams, other features, and the popular channels that aren’t included.

YouTube TV

YouTube is one of only two services that offers all the channels you’d be able to pick up with an antenna, including your local PBS station. The DVR is the best of the bunch with unlimited storage and the ability to keep recordings for up to nine months. It’s got plenty of sports and news, with all of the ESPNs and the big three cable news networks. The only glaring holes in the programming are that it lacks some popular channels, including TNT, TBS, Lifetime, History, and A&E, among others. For an extra $20 a month, you can also get 4K content, unlimited simultaneous streams, and the ability to watch certain shows offline.

Cost: $72.99 per month.

DVR: Unlimited.

Simultaneous Streams: Three.

Free Trial? Yes, but lengths vary. Check YouTube’s explainer to see how much time you can get.

Want YouTube TV?

  • sign up

DirecTV Stream

DirecTV is the other streamer that gives you PBS and has a lot of channels in its base package, though you’ll probably want to upgrade to the $85 Choice package if live sports are what you crave. That’s the setup that’ll bring you regional sports channels, MLB and NBA networks, FS1, and pretty much everything else you could want with the exception of the NFL Network. One unique feature is that you can rewind many channels up to 72 hours, which could come in handy if you forgot to DVR something.

Cost: $70 per month.

DVR: 20 hours is standard, with an unlimited option for an extra $10 per month.

Simultaneous Streams: 20 devices on your home-internet network and three on the go.

Free Trial? You have to fully sign up for the service from the start but you can cancel for a full refund within 14 days.

Want DirecTV Stream?

  • sign up

Sling TV

Sling’s low price comes with some quirks. There are two packages at the $35 level, Blue and Orange, that offer different channel lineups, or you can get both for $50. Orange gets you the ESPNs, Disney Channel, and Freeform, but only Blue has FX, Discovery, USA, and MSNBC, plus the standard NBC and Fox. (The other mainstream broadcast channels are not available at all from Sling.) There are some other oddities about the simultaneous streaming that are described below, but again, it’s extremely cheap, especially if you don’t care about sports and just want your news and entertainment.

Cost: Starting at $20 per month.

DVR: 50 hours is standard, with 200 available for an extra $5 per month.

Simultaneous Streams: Only one for Orange, three for Blue, and four if you have both.

Free Trial? Three days.

Want Sling TV?

  • sign up

Fubo TV

Fubo has a broad lineup, with plenty of sports and your standard broadcast channels. There are a few add-on packages that have some more niche and expanded sports offerings, but the big drawback is the popular WarnerMedia channels it’s missing: CNN, TNT, TBS, TCM, TruTV, and Cartoon Network. Unfortunately, Fubo doesn’t have any package that offers those, so that’s your most likely dealbreaker.

Cost: $60 per month.

DVR: 250 hours is standard, but you can pay $5 extra per month for 1000 hours.

Simultaneous Streams: Three is standard, though you can get 10 for the same $5 you’d pay for the 1,000-hour DVR.

Free Trial? Seven days.

Want Fubo TV?

  • sign up

Hulu + Live TV

Hulu’s lineup is pretty solid, though it’s missing some big names, like AMC, IFC, and the MLB and NFL Networks. The standard DVR is lacking, with the real downer being that you can’t fast-forward through ads in your recordings, but that can be upgraded for an extra $10 a month. That’s about it for the negatives, though — aside from the live TV, you also get Hulu’s entire on-demand catalog, with plenty of original series and movies, as well as Disney+ and ESPN+ at no extra charge. ESPN+ offers a lot of live events like UFC, soccer, tennis, and a ton of college sports at no extra cost, if that puts you over the edge in your decision-making.

Cost: $70 per month ($76 for no ads when watching its on-demand library).

DVR: 50 hours is standard, and 200 is available for an extra $10 per month. Also, in the standard version, you can’t fast-forward through ads.

Simultaneous Streams: Two, or you can upgrade to unlimited screens for $10 per month. The caveat there is that it’s only unlimited in your home network, but it allows for three concurrent mobile streams. You can combine the larger DVR and the “unlimited” stream packages for $15 a month.

Free Trial? None.

Want Hulu + Live TV?

  • sign up


Philo is the option for you if you don’t care about broadcast TV, sports, or the news. For $25 a month, you’re getting a selection of 64 basic cable channels like Comedy Central, Discovery, History, HGTV, AMC, IFC, BET, and MTV, but you’re also missing a ton: ESPN, the major cable news networks, Bravo, TBS, TNT, and FX, among many others. For $9 extra, you can add on the Starz channels for your Outlander needs, but otherwise, it’s the cheapest live streamer for a reason.

Cost: $25 per month.

DVR: Unlimited.

Simultaneous Streams: Three.

Free Trial? Seven days.

Want Philo?

  • sign up


  • Which Streaming Service Do You Actually Want?
  • The Best Streaming Services for Every Kind of Sports Fan
  • Which Free Streaming Services Should You Be Using?

Dan Reilly , 2024-03-10 22:30:00

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