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Live TV streaming services are a hot topic in cord cutting. They’re even a little controversial — to some purists, paying for live TV channels isn’t “cord-cutting” at all. We respectfully disagree, because the best live TV streaming services are more affordable, more flexible, and all-around better than the clunky cable and satellite TV options of yore. Of course, not all live TV streaming options are created equal. Here are our picks for the best live TV streaming services of 2021.

The Best Live TV Streaming Service

It’s very hard to pick an all-around “best” live TV streaming service, because — unlike cable and satellite — live TV streaming services come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Your best option will be the service that suits you best. For lovers of big-time bundles with lots of channels, DIRECTV Stream will be a hit. Budget shoppers will gravitate towards Philo’s affordable subscriptions.

But we're here to pick the very strongest “all-around” option, and we don't shy away from tough choices here at CordCutting.com — even when that means choosing between staff favorites like Hulu + Live TV, DIRECTV Stream, and our top pick (drumroll, please)…

Editor's Pick
Best for Live TV

YouTube TV

  • Price Range: $64.99 per month
  • Channels: 85+
  • Free Trial: 7 days

Why YouTube TV? By the slimmest of margins, YouTube TV is our top pick. Like Hulu + Live TV, YouTube TV features a superb user experience and a simple single-bundle setup that hits a bang-for-your-buck “sweet spot.” Right now, we favor YouTube TV’s channel lineup over Hulu’s selection of networks, and that gives YouTube TV the upper hand.

The Best Live TV Streaming Service Channel Selection

A live TV streaming service is only as good as the channels that you can watch on it. Many live TV streaming services opt for leaner bundles, hoping to undercut cable’s pricing — that’s why these services are sometimes called “skinny bundles.” But not everyone is looking for the “skinniest” live TV option. Here’s where you should turn for a big-time bundle with cable-like experience and all the channels you could hope for.

DIRECTV Stream

  • Price Range: $69.99 - $139.99 per month
  • Channels: 65+
  • Free Trial: None

Why DIRECTV Stream? DIRECTV Stream’s entry-level bundle — “Entertainment” — offers a mid-sized selection at a fair price, making it a worthy competitor to YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV. But — unlike its competitors — DIRECTV Stream also offers other bundles, and they grow progressively larger as you climb the price ladder. At the top is the truly epic “Premier” bundle, which includes more than 140+ channels and comes loaded with premium add-ons like HBO Max. Who’s “skinny” now?

The Best Live TV Streaming Service for Live Sports

To get all the live sports that you’d get with cable or satellite, you’ll need a skinny bundle that includes national sports networks like ESPN, as well as regional sports networks (RSNs) like YES, NESN, and the Bally Sports family of networks. RSNs are sometimes tough to find in streaming, but they’re must-haves for fans of their local baseball, basketball, and hockey teams. If you care about sports, make sure that you choose a live TV streaming service that has RSNs. (Keep in mind that RSNs are regional, meaning that you’ll only get the ones that serve your local market. If you’re an out-of-market fan, consider a league streaming service like NBA League Pass or MLB.TV. Services like this typically offer all out-of-market games, making them the perfect choice for any fan whose favorite team is rarely on TV in their area.)

DIRECTV Stream

  • Price Range: $69.99 - $139.99 per month
  • Channels: 65+
  • Free Trial: None

Why DIRECTV Stream? DIRECTV Stream’s comprehensive channel lineup makes it the safest bet for sports fans who want their local RSNs as well as national sports broadcasts. Our only gripe: Unlike its satellite TV counterpart, DIRECTV Stream does not offer NFL Sunday Ticket. For more, check out our DIRECTV Stream review.

The Best Live TV Streaming Service for Local Channels

Most live TV streaming services have familiar cable channels like FX and HGTV. But local channels — including your local versions of major networks like FOX and CBS — can be tougher to find. Not all of the live TV streaming services have channels like PBS and NBC, and even those that do have local channels may only offer them in select markets. Which live TV streaming service does the best job of providing the most local coverage?

DIRECTV Stream

  • Price Range: $69.99 - $139.99 per month
  • Channels: 65+
  • Free Trial: None

Why DIRECTV Stream? DIRECTV Stream’s impressive channel selection makes it a great choice for local TV. It’s the service we consider most likely to have all four major networks (ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC) in your area, as well as PBS, regional sports networks, and other local channels. DIRECTV Stream includes local networks in its cheapest package, “Entertainment.” Upgrade to the “Choice” package or better, and you’ll get regional sports networks (RSNs) as well.

The Best Budget Live TV Streaming Service

Cord cutting is about saving money, but the cash you save by cutting cable can dry up quickly if you turn around and spend it on a pricey live TV streaming bundle. If you want to reap big savings while still enjoying live TV, you should prioritize price when you’re shopping for a live TV streaming service.

Philo

  • Price Range: $25 per month
  • Channels: 60+
  • Free Trial: 7 days

Why Philo? Philo is the most affordable live TV streaming service. It manages this feat by trimming out some of the most expensive types of live TV channels, which is why Philo’s channel list doesn’t have any sports or local networks, and has only limited news channels. If you can live with those omissions, Philo is a no-brainer. This skinniest of skinny bundles is channel-surfing heaven for fans of networks like AMC, HGTV and FX.

The Best Live TV Streaming Service for Customizing Your Channel Bundle

Cable’s bloated bundles are especially frustrating because they give us so little flexibility. Some live TV streaming services improve on cable’s bundles by offering leaner and more cost-effective options. However, some of the best services go a step further and offer “add-on” bundles. This makes their channel selections as customizable as they are cost-effective.

Sling TV

  • Price Range: $35 - $50 per month
  • Channels: 30+ - 130+
  • Free Trial: 3 days

Why Sling TV? More than any other live TV streaming service, Sling TV lets you take control of what you watch. Sling TV offers two base bundles and dozens of add-ons. Start with one (or both) base bundles, then tack on add-ons like Sports Extra and Hollywood Extra to build your ideal bundle. Pay for the add-ons you want and leave the rest behind. You’ll end up with a customized subscription that gives you everything you want and nothing that you don’t, and that’s what we love about Sling TV.

The Best Live TV Streaming Service for On-Demand Content

Live TV channels aren’t the only things you can watch on live TV streaming services. Services like this typically offer on-demand content, too, including recently aired TV show episodes, Hollywood movies, and more.

Hulu

  • Price Range: $5.99 - $85.96 per month
  • Channels: 68 - 88
  • Free Trial: 7 or 30 days

Why Hulu + Live TV? Plenty of live TV streaming services offer a cable-like selection of on-demand movies and TV shows. But only Hulu + Live TV includes a full-fledged Netflix competitor at no extra cost. True to its name, Hulu + Live TV will give you a live TV streaming service and a subscription to Hulu’s on-demand service, complete with Hulu original series and movies. We’re talking about Hulu’s entire streaming library, here — it’s the exact same content you’d get if you subscribed to the on-demand-only version of Hulu, and it’s all included.

18 thoughts on “Best Live TV Streaming Services

  1. Dude says:

    I tried them all and they all have problems. It’s not quite there yet but will be once they do the hardware and app upgrades. Google/YouTube has the potential to take over once they get the channel lineups like cable. One thing is for sure, the picture quality is true HD and you don’t have to pay $200 a month for upscaled crappy video.

  2. Skeeter says:

    I have had Direct TV NOW. Canceled it after a few months. Had Spectrum streaming, and their cable. Charged more for streaming local channels. Cable TV was charging me $120 for TV alone plus internet and phone also increased in price. Canceled both of those too. I’ve had Hulu twice. Still have it. Like all the features except I don’t like fact that programs in my stuff can’t be removed or deleted. These are TV series that have ended. Also when you record a program, watch it and then delete it. That should be the end of it. (Right ). No, every time It comes on again, it records again. It’s ridiculous. But I do get local channels and even Fox News channel. Talk about your good and bad. And it wii record stuff you didn’t want. Again ridiculous.

    1. Uncommonsensesc says:

      I had that problem in Hulu too – then found out that apparently I had just 1 episode of the show saved so it kept showing up in my saved list. Go into the saved and see if you can find that episode, then delete that episode and it should go away.

    2. Teri says:

      Couldn’t give a review without injecting a little of your politics? As if that has anything to do with a streaming service! 🙄

      1. Anonymous says:

        Where is the politics? Because he mentioned FoxNews? Check your sensitivity meter

      2. Anonymous says:

        😩

  3. Tara colleton says:

    It seems as if with sling and philo you have to have both cause you want what the other do not offer but then I looked up fubo tv and it has all I want but extreemly little for my twins eaither way unless you have two companies no one is happy So with that in mind I need to get somthing I am satisfied with and get somthing else for the kids but it still cheaper then my cable provider and with it all if you dont have an smart tv what good is any of it so for those who need an roku stick that is an one time buy then you have your sign up and to make it worse companies grow so they are all fighting for bragging rights

  4. Pat Wilden says:

    Pricing information is outdated. Also sling now offers fox news channel.

  5. Mark H says:

    We offer this, but not that, and the buffering……buffering. Internet television services have a ways to go before they can really compete with satellite and cable. I have tried them all Fubo has been on for 5 months but no ABC ESPN /Fox sports north.
    hopefully someone will offer all at a reasonable price and better technology soon.

  6. Gary Collins says:

    I have been impressed with Fubo with several exceptions. No ABC and Pricing. While they offer 100+ channels for the price, many people aren’t interested in most of them. With the exception of not being able to get a financial (CNBC, Bloomberg) and local channels. Philo provides many popular channels at 1/3 the cost. Local channels can be gotten with Locast for $5 and if not, with an HD antenna. I would prefer Fubo if they offered less unwanted channels or limited sports for around $30-35. I’d jump on it

    1. Uncommonsensesc says:

      The commercials on Philo are driving me crazy though. They’ve finally gotten their grid (at the very beginning, it was a hunt and find thing) and the recording option is great. But now the majority of their channels/shows are VOD instead of DVR. That means I’m forced to watch commercials (VOD) or hunt for just the shows or episodes that are listed as DVR so I can skip the commercials. I’ll watch 3 to 5 minutes of the show (if I’m lucky) then watch 5 minutes of commercials. Does any of the streaming services have true commercial-free packages?

      1. lwr32 says:

        Hulu advertises commercial free tv. I don’t pay for it since it’s more expensive. I Use Hulu’s DVR for everything I watch weekly. Other than that, I watch non-live tv on Hulu and Netflix mostly

  7. Peter says:

    Although I don’t have either currently (although I am accessing through my sister’s account, until she can set-up for me to drop, xfinity cable, again, the former), I’m surprising not mentioned was pairing YouTube tv live (which is supposed soon get the Viacom/CBS network channels, plus I suspect more of the Discovery channels; and yes I do believe YouTube tv live has the superior video picture quality and the best buffering quality) with the skinny bundle: frndlyTV that has the Hallmark Network of channels, UPtv, CuriosityStream (@ no extra cost), PiXL (also @ no extra cost) and nine other family friendly channels for only $5.99/mo. To me that pairing would probably the best in pricing available for what you get, and what we will probably soon get.

  8. Larry S says:

    I am looking for a streaming service that has ME TV, Antenna TV, HGTV, Food Network plus the 3 network channels. I haven’t come across it yet. Anyone know of one?

  9. Lillian says:

    What does it mean when a price is given$ then the number of channels you will get. Then a price per channel exp .80 per. Do you pay the price exp $39.99 then .80 cent per say 50 channels. That is high

  10. Gordon Smith says:

    Your live streaming channel comparison is so badly out of date, it is useless. Just using Fubo as an example, they carry a great number of the channels which you claim they don’t, and even more if you upgrade to the Elite package.

  11. Frustrated says:

    I am looking for a cord cutting service and have been researching. What I have found is the big corporations that own all the content will not allow for a true cord cutting service. The streaming live tv landscape is looking just like regular old cable tv. The price is also in the same ballpark. Since the big corps own several networks, example like Disney which owns abc espn, fx, and A&E networks it is near impossible to have an ala cart service. Having the ability to pick and choose what channels we want for a base price is what’s really needed, not the same old take this 120 channel package to get the 10-15 channels you will actually watch. Along with it comes terrible customer service and outdated user interfaces (Spectrum). Corporations are buying all the content like Amazon buying MGM portfolio is the big problem here. A handful of big corporations who own 75%+ of the all the networks will never allow the consumer to choose and pay for the channels they actually watch. Cable model is here to stay whether its a streaming service or the traditional cable model.

  12. Mimi says:

    Update to the chart – Fubo recently dropped A&E, History, Lifetime, FYI, Vice, Lifetime Movies from its lineup.

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