Best Live TV Streaming Services: Hulu, YouTube TV, and More
Cutting the cable cord is en vogue, and networking and streaming giants are falling all over themselves to provide the best alternatives for live TV streaming. From Hulu to Sling TV to YouTube TV, there are a number of ways to watch televised events live or catch up on your favorite network shows without paying for cable. Each of these services has its own price tag and list of special features to stand out from one another.
However, differentiating between them as a consumer can feel overwhelming. We've done our best to simplify the shopping process for you and explain the best live TV streaming services available today. Editor's note: Each streaming service has conditional rules dictating the major networks it carries.
Some markets have access to live network channels, including local programming, while others will be on-demand only. In some select locations, one or more of the networks -- or even an entire live TV streaming service -- may not be available. Check each service's website for availability in your area.
Hulu + Live TV
Price: £65 per month (increasing to £70, December 21) for more than 75 channels and Hulu's ad-supported, on-demand movie and TV library; add-on channels and features range from £7 to £15 each.
If you want no ads, you can upgrade to Hulu (No Ads) + Live TV for £71 (also increases to £76 on December 21). Free trial: Seven-day free trial Included major networks: ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, CW
Supported devices: Amazon Fire TV, Android, Apple TV, Chromecast, iOS, Mac, Nintendo Switch, select Roku and Roku TV models, select Samsung and LG smart TVs, Echo Show, Xbox consoles, web browsers. Number of simultaneous streams: Two at home; Unlimited Screens add-on (£10) allows for unlimited at home and three on mobile. Who it's for: Hulu users looking to upgrade to live streaming TV, and just about everyone else.
Where you can watch: U.S. only As one of the original streaming titans with a specialty in content made for TV, Hulu was always destined to be a force in the live TV streaming game. It was only a matter of time, and sure enough, Hulu has overtaken Dish's Sling TV in overall subscriber count with 3.7 million paying bingers as of the third quarter of its fiscal 2021. (By contrast, Sling's last reported subscriber count sat at just under 2.44 million after suffering losses throughout 2021, while YouTube TV has recently surpassed 3 million.)
Hulu's Basic £65 per month plan (called simply Hulu + Live TV) gives subscribers 75 live channels. You will get ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox, either live or on demand depending on your location, plus dozens of other popular channels, which Hulu lists in full on its website. The service also added ABC News Live, CBSN, and Cheddar to bolster its news lineup.
Premium channels like HBO, Showtime, Starz, and Cinemax can be added for an additional fee, and prices are significantly lower than competing services. Hulu + Live TV also provides 12 different sports channels, including ESPN, CSN, and Fox Sports 1. Hulu + Live TV also presents some stiff competition when it comes to sports, providing a variety of channels, including ESPN and Fox Sports 1.
Hulu + Live TV lets users follow their favorite sports teams from the NFL, NCAA, NBA, MLS, MLB, and NHL, and record their games, provided they're available. You can also use your Hulu + Live TV login information to sign in to the ESPN App to access live ESPN coverage via ESPN Plus. Sweetening matters further, Hulu + Live TV subscribers have full access to Hulu's full on-demand streaming library and Hulu original content, essentially coupling a basic Hulu subscription (normally £7 per month) with live TV. Note that this is the ad-supported version of Hulu, so you'll need to add another £6 if you want no interruptions.
This gives the service a serious edge for current Hulu subscribers. Hulu's on-demand library of TV shows is already very good, with some of the best original TV series around. You can also add 50 hours of DVR storage for recording live TV for £10/month.
Hulu's guide and curation also are worth mentioning. Hulu allows users to organize the programming into a favorites tab and control content suggestions by removing items from their watch history or by selecting the Stop Suggesting This option on recommended content they're not interested in. Learn more about Hulu + Live TV in our comprehensive guide.
Price £65 per month for 85-plus channels; add-on packages range from £3 to £40.
Free trial: Seven-day free trial Included major networks: ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, CW Supported devices: Android, Android TV, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, iOS, Nvidia Shield, Roku, Chrome web browser, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles, Vizio SmartCast TVs, and select Samsung, LG, Hisense, and Sharp smart TVs
Number of simultaneous streams: three streams on six accounts Who it's for: Those who are deeply devoted to Google and want a simple package. Where you can watch: U.S. only
YouTube TV's sole package costs £65 per month for new subscribers ready to ditch cable TV. In the past, availability was limited, but as of March 2019, it is available nationwide. Still, you may want to check its website to confirm which local channels are available in your area.
YouTube TV costs £65 per month for 85-plus channels, including all major networks (ABC, NBC, Fox, CBS, and CW). If you are eligible, YouTube TV includes major networks for you to get your fix of TV shows -- ABC, NBC, Fox, CBS, and CW -- and a bevy of other popular channels at a reasonable price, and its local affiliate programming has also expanded and is now available to 100% of customers. It also has a large number of sports channels for the price.
Add-on networks include Showtime, Fox Soccer Plus, Shudder, Sundance Now, and Starz. In May 2020, YouTube TV also made HBO Max available on the service for an additional £15 per month. YouTube TV users enjoy some of the most flexible cloud DVR support, allowing users to store unlimited hours of programming for up to nine months after recording, with standard pause/rewind and catch-up features available.
If you have a Google Home device and a Chromecast, YouTube TV can be controlled with voice commands via Google Assistant. Similarly, Google Assistant can even inform you of what content is currently saved to your DVR. If you're an Android diehard who uses Google's ecosystem to its fullest, then YouTube TV may be the perfect addition. Read our YouTube TV guide for more info.
Price: Sling Orange: £35 per month for 30-plus channels; Sling Blue: £35 per month for 40-plus channels; Blue + Orange: £50 per month for 50-plus channels; additional channel add-on packs and features range from £5 to £25.
Free trial: No, but Sling offers £10 for the first month of Orange or Blue and £20 for the first month of Blue + Orange. Included major networks: NBC and Fox Supported devices: Amazon Fire TV and Fire tablets, Android, Apple TV, Airplay, AirTV, AirTV 2, Chromecast, iOS, Mac, Nvidia Shield, Select LG Smart TVs, LeEco devices, Roku, Samsung Smart TVs and Blu-ray players, Chrome web browser, Windows, Xbox One consoles, Xfinity X1, Xiaomi Mi Box, ZTE devices, Oculus devices.
Number of simultaneous streams: Sling Orange: One; Sling Blue: Three Who it's for: Customers who want a customizable, a la carte experience. Where you can watch: U.S. only
Sling TV currently offers the most flexibility of all the live TV streaming services out there, at least when it comes to your content and pricing options. Sling TV uses an a la carte model, with base channel packages and a bevy of add-ons. The base packages, while largely similar, do have some major differences -- namely that ABC and Disney-owned channels (including ESPN, and therefore support for ESPN Plus) are only present in Orange, while Blue carries NBC, Fox, and other sports channels like NFL Network and NFL Redzone, and soon, the Big Ten Network.
If you want all of those channels, you'll need to spring for the £50 package, which includes everything in Blue and Orange, or you can augment either package with add-on channels. Add-on packages also vary in pricing and included channels, depending on which package you're subscribed to, but you can expect to pay between £5 and £25 per month for each. In addition, a dispute over licensing with AT&T has resulted in a blackout of HBO and Univision channels on Sling TV and its parent company, Dish Network.
The packages can be a little confusing. For instance, even though Sling advertises the Blue + Orange package as a £20 discount at £50, that's some seriously questionable logic given how many channels the two plans have in common. You are definitely not getting twice the number of channels.
Still, it's fairly easy to parse when you see all the packages laid out in front of you. You will find full listings on Sling TV's website. In terms of bonus features, Sling TV is pretty standard, but it does have some unique standouts.
The first is Game Finder, a search feature on the Sling TV website that finds live any upcoming sports content available for your channel package and region. There's also a bandwidth limiter, which will help keep you from going over your data limits -- streaming video content can eat up data quickly, after all, so this is a welcome feature. Sling Orange subscribers will have access to a single stream, while Blue allows for up to three streams simultaneously.
As for other features, video on demand, pause/rewind/fast-forwarding, and "catch-up watching" are content-specific. Sling recently added 50 hours of cloud DVR to the service's built-in cost, so you pay nothing for the privilege to catch up on any missed broadcasts. For more room, users will have to add another £5/month for 200 hours of cloud DVR.
Despite the extra cost, the good news is that cloud DVR is available on just about every Sling-supported device except for the Xfinity X1, and your recordings stick around as long as you maintain your account. You can get the gist of everything Sling has to offer by reading our Sling TV guide.
Price: Entertainment: £70 per month for 65-plus channels; Choice: £85 per month for 90-plus channels, including HBO Max and regional sports channels; Ultimate: £95 per month for 130-plus channels including regional sports networks; Premier: £140 per month for 140-plus channels; add-on channels and features available from £5 per month; additional cloud DVR space for £10 per month. Free trial: Seven-day free trial
Included major networks: ABC, Fox, NBC, CBS Supported devices: Amazon Fire TV, Android, Apple TV, Chromecast, iOS, Mac, Roku, Chrome web browsers, Safari, Xbox One console. Number of simultaneous streams: 20
Who it's for: Those who don't mind trading features for lots of channels. Where you can watch: U.S. only Formerly known as DirecTV Now and then AT&T TV Now, and then AT&T TV, DirecTV Stream is another service with high channel counts and multiple package tiers, and it's close to the experience you'll get with cable or satellite when it comes to available channels.
Along with the rebranding, DirecTV Stream has revamped or added a number of features. DirecTV Stream offers a base DVR for free, with 20 hours of recording per month, and will store recorded content for up to 30 days, after which it will be deleted to make room for new recordings. If that's not quite enough for you, an upgrade is available for £10 per month that increases your DVR allowances to an "unlimited" number and 90 days for storage.
It's "unlimited" because the service claims that you'll max out your allowance at 30 episodes of single series. You can also record multiple things at once, which is a step up from other DVR offerings. While AT&T TV offered just two simultaneous streams, DirecTV Stream allows you to stream on up to 20 devices provided they are all on your home network.
If you share the account with multiple people, you'll still be limited to just three simultaneous streams when you're not on the same network. Additionally, DirecTV Stream now offers the DirecTV Stream device, which is similar to a Roku or Apple TV box. This box gives you access to thousands of apps with a voice remote that can manage all of your entertainment and smart home devices.
It's a nice touch for people who just want all of their entertainment in a single, central hub.
Price: £25 per month for new subscribers for 60-plus channels, £20 per month for subscribers before June 8, 2021. Add-ons start at £3 per month. Free trial: Seven-day free trial
Included major networks: Zero Supported devices: Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, iOS, Chrome, Roku, Android TV Number of simultaneous streams: Three
Who it's for: Lovers of popular cable channels who don't mind skipping local networks and sports. Where you can watch: U.S. only Philo, like nearly every other service listed here, gives you a long list of popular cable channels to watch live over the internet.
Though it no longer offers the ultra-cheap £16 per month package for new subscribers, its sole £25-per-month option remains a compelling offer. It differs significantly in what content it supports, though -- or, more accurately, doesn't support. Despite boasting a bunch of channels, including Viacom-owned favorites like MTV and Comedy Central, the four major networks -- Fox, NBC, CBS, and ABC -- are not carried by Philo, nor is anything from ABC's parent company, Disney.
That means, along with no local affiliates, there is also no ESPN. When it comes to local stations, though, many viewers can get them over the air with a simple (and affordable) HD antenna. Feature-wise, Philo is similar to the other services above (and cheaper, to boot).
DVR access allows for recording and storing content, though your DVR content will only stick around for a limited time -- 30 days, in this case. Another feature Philo includes is the ability to access content from paywalled apps for channels carried by Philo. For example, since Philo's channel package includes AMC and Nickelodeon, you'll be able to download and watch through the dedicated AMC and Nickelodeon apps at no extra charge by signing in with your Philo account.
Philo does lack the comprehensive app and device support of its rivals. For a long time, only Roku, iOS devices, and the Chrome browser were supported, but the service came to Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV devices in July 2018. Philo claims even more devices are on the way, but for now, the truncated device support is a drawback.
That said, if you have a supported device and don't mind skipping sports and the big networks (or can find them with an antenna), Philo is one of the more affordable ways to get live TV. For more on the service, check out our Philo guide.
Amazon Prime Live Channels
Price: Free with Prime subscription; premium channels range from £3 to £25 monthly for more than 400 live streaming channels across 20 providers. Free trial: 30-day Amazon Prime trial
Included major networks: None Supported devices: Live channel features only available on Amazon Fire TV; channel content can be accessed by any device that supports Prime Video Now. Number of simultaneous streams: None
Who it's for: Amazon Prime users who want to consolidate their apps and monthly bills to a single location. Where you can watch: U.S. only Amazon Prime has a long list of perks for its members, but one of the lesser-known incentives is the ability to augment your Prime Video library with a handful of curated TV channels.
It's not quite like cable or other Live TV providers; Prime simply offers a small number of channels currently supported by just Fire TV. Amazon Fire TV users can browse live channels via an "On Now" menu, which includes a programming guide so you can see what's next. Some of the free (with ads) services that don't require a subscription include Xumo, IMDbTV, and Amazon News.
There is also a small number of premium channels available -- including CBS All Access, HBO, Cinemax, Starz, Showtime, Epix, and PixL -- if you're subscribed to them through Amazon Prime's channels. (Amazon also offers niche options like BritBox, PBSKids, and PBS Masterpiece.) The biggest perk of Amazon Prime Live Channels, however, is that it integrates with a wide range of services, including many on this list. For different fees, you can access other subscription services like YouTube TV, Sling TV, Tubi, Pluto TV, Philo, Prime Video Channels, Prime Video Live Events (like Thursday Night Football), and more.
Plus, because it's all directly integrated into Amazon's ecosystem of connected devices, you can check what's on the premium Prime add-on channels just by talking to Alexa. It may not be a game-changer, but it's helpful.
Amazon also is increasingly involved in live sports streaming, with the company most notably offering several games per year from the NFL, NBA, and MLB -- some for free -- across Amazon Prime and its game-streaming platform, Twitch. And with Amazon's recent £8.45 billion acquisition of huge film and TV company MGM, their library will soon include its list of more than 4,000 movies (including the James Bond franchise) and 17,000 hours of TV programming.
For now, this isn't quite an option for supplanting a subscription to more well-rounded services like Sling TV or Hulu + Live TV, but it is a worthwhile Prime feature that will hopefully continue to grow and evolve.
Price: Free Included major networks: None; CBSN, NBC News, CNN, and MSNBC news programming available. Supported devices: Amazon Fire TV and Fire tablets, Android, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, iOS, Roku, web browsers; select Sony, Samsung, HiSense, and Vizio Smart TVs under the WatchFree brand
Number of simultaneous streams: None Who it's for: Live TV streaming newbies who want to see what all the fuss is about. Where you can watch: U.S. and U.K.
Now owned by ViacomCBS, Pluto TV might be a new name to some, but the service has been quietly plugging along since 2013, and today has more than 54 million active users as of Q4 2021, making it the largest free TV streaming service in the U.S. Like the other services on this list, it has become a solution for those who want easy access to a library of both live and on-demand content -- everything from TV series to movies, to popular internet content creators. Unlike the others, however, Pluto TV is entirely free.
Pluto TV features more than 100 live channels, including CBSN, Bloomberg, MSNBC, Sky News, movie channels, and live sports, plus music streaming channels. No, really. For the cool price of zero dollars a month, Pluto TV will provide you access to select content from more than 100 live channels, including, CBSN, Bloomberg TV, MSNBC, Sky News, movie channels, and live sports, plus 35 music-streaming channels.
New additions include Pluto TV sitcoms, offering a selection of aging comedies like 3rd Rock from the Sun and The Lucy Show, and Spanish language channel Pluto TV Cine. Dog The Bounty Hunter even gets his own channel. Users also will enjoy a library of on-demand content. You're likely thinking, "What's the catch?" The answer is simple: ads.
Pluto TV is entirely ad-supported. These ads are not skippable, and some have found them intrusive, but it may be a worthwhile price to pay for totally free content. The other caveat is that the majority of these channels aren't actually TV channels but internet channels, meaning stuff from websites and online creators like IGN, CNET, and Cheddar, rather than from traditional TV channels.
You'll still get those, too, but you won't find any of the major prime-time networks or cable favorites like Comedy Central, Syfy, or FX here. Still, major broadcasters are beginning to show up, like CNN, which has its own channel of curated highlight segments pulled from its live cable TV offering. You also won't find many special features, either -- no DVR, no user profiles (though you can easily sign up for multiple free accounts), etc.
Still, PlutoTV has a solid collection of free, curated TV, film, music, and internet video content, and it's available on a respectable number of platforms. For those considering the dive into online TV streaming, Pluto TV is a good first dip of the toes. For a more in-depth examination, head over to our PlutoTV explainer.
Price: £65 per month for Fubo Starter, £70 per month for Fubo Pro, £80 per month for Fubo Elite, £33 per month for Fubo Latino Quarterly.
Free trial: Seven-day free trial Included major networks: NBC, CBS, Fox, CW, AMC Supported devices: Amazon Fire TV, Android, Android TV, Google TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, iOS, Roku, Samsung Smart TVs, Vizio's SmartCast TVs, web browsers
Number of simultaneous streams: Three; unlimited with Pro and Elite plans. Who it's for: Those who mainline live sports, but still want access to entertainment and lifestyle content. Where you can watch: U.S., Canada, and Spain, though only a handful of channels are available outside of the U.S.
A few of the previous services have been notable for their sports content (YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV, in particular), but if sports are one of your primary interests, you'll want to look into FuboTV. This is another relatively new service that has been gaining some recognition for the niche it appeals to. Its most recent subscriber count, by 2021's second quarter, was 682,000.
That may not be the millions of subscribers boasted of by Hulu and Sling, but it is substantial growth. FuboTV offers a multitude of plans. Fubo Starter is the base package.
For £65 per month, it offers 117 channels, 250 hours of cloud DVR, and support for three screens at once. It also promises over 130 live events to be broadcast in 4K. For £70 per month, the Pro package upgrades to 1,000 hours of cloud DVR space plus the ability to use what FubuTV calls "unlimited screens," which is 10 devices at once on your home internet connection, plus two outside of the house.
The Elite package bumps the cost up to £80 for 163 channels (including 48 entertainment channels from Fubo Extra), 1,000 hours of cloud DVR space, and unlimited screens. FuboTV also offers a wide array of add-on plans for all kinds of users. The plans include a healthy mix of both sports and non-sports channels, such as NBC Sports Network, NFL Network, NBA TV, and the Pac-12 Network on the sports side, along with staples like HGTV, FX, and widespread local network channel support on the other.
In 2018, FuboTV signed a multiyear deal bringing the Turner networks -- including TNT, TBS, CNN, Cartoon Network, and Adult Swim -- to the service. Alas, after signing a deal with Disney last year, FuboTV no longer offers these channels. However, the Disney deal did add ESPN, ABC, and several college sports networks to Fubo's roster.
In April 2019, FuboTV added a roster of Viacom channels, including, BET, CMT, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., Paramount Network, TV Land, VH1, BET Her, BET Jams, BET Soul, Logo, MTV2, MTV Classic, MTV Live, MTVU, Nick Music, Nicktoons, and TeenNick, as well as Viacom's Telefe and MTV Tr3s networks. One notable way in which FuboTV differs from every other service on this list is that it is currently the only service to offer streaming in 4K resolution with HDR10 high dynamic range. Content is limited, but you can generally expect many major sporting events and championships to have 4K feeds.
Fubo keeps a running schedule of its Ultra HD programming on its website, so refer to that if you're looking for something to take advantage of your new crystal clear TV. It does contain plenty of sports extras, though. Both of the subscription packages allow for optional monthly add-ons, such as:
- 26-channel Sports Plus with NFL RedZone (£11/month)
- 8-channel International Sports Plus (£7)
FuboTV wasn't too well-rounded when it first launched, but it's quickly evolved, increasing its focus on entertainment options.
It's still probably not for everyone, but hardcore sports fans and even casual soccer fans might want to take a look.
If you want to know more about FuboTV, our FuboTV guide will give you a more in-depth picture of all it has to offer.