Cord Cutting Guides, News, and Reviews
Last modified: February 14, 2019
By Stephen Lovely
Cord cutting has always been about saving money – it has never been about going without great entertainment! But, for a while there, it was pretty tough to get your hands on some of your favorite shows, news programming, live sports and other cable “exclusives.” That's all in the past, now, though: live TV streaming services, or skinny bundles, have changed the way we watch TV as cord cutters. If you've spent much time on Cordcutting.com, you probably already know about live TV streaming services and how much we like them. But there are a lot of these services out there. Which are the best live TV streaming services? Which skinny bundles actually deserve your hard-earned money? That's what we're here to discuss today, in our biggest post yet on the relative virtues of our favorite skinny bundles. Let's go!
What Is a Skinny Bundle, and Why Would You Want One?
First things first: we need to establish what we're actually talking about here. Those of you who already know about skinny bundles can scroll on, but the rest of you should stick around for a quick recap of what these things are and how, exactly, they work. If you're really new to skinny bundles, then consider checking out our entire post on the subject (What Is a Skinny Bundle?), which goes into a bit more depth than we're going to here.
Here's the short version: live TV streaming services, also called “skinny bundles” (we'll use the terms interchangeably) are a form of pay TV service that competes with cable and satellite. Like cable and satellite, skinny bundles offer live TV channels in a bundle. You pay a monthly subscription fee, and you can watch all the live TV you want.
But there are a few key differences between skinny bundles and their old-school competition. The biggest difference is that skinny bundles stream their content over the internet. Like Netflix and other famous streaming services, these skinny bundles are delivering the content you crave over the internet: “over the top,” in industry lingo.
That means there are no regional monopolies, which in turn means there is a lot of competition in the fast-growing skinny bundle space. Skinny bundles have responded by keeping prices low and expectations high. Among other perks, the live TV streaming services we'll talk about here tend to offer slimmed-down channel bundles that trim the fat off of their bulky, overpriced cable and satellite counterparts – that's where the term “skinny bundle” comes from, of course.
There are plenty of skinny bundles on the market. Some of them are great. Others are not so great. Below, we'll compare a bunch of our favorites and declare a few winners in a battle of the best live TV streaming services.
Now that we've explained what skinny bundles actually are, let's get to know some of the different ones that are vying for your hard-earned cash. This is not an exhaustive list of skinny bundles – it's just a selection of the ones that we consider trustworthy and high-quality. We'll compare these same services more later on in this post, and then we'll pick out the very best of these all various skinny bundles options.
Yep, that's Hulu as in the on-demand streaming service Hulu! They have a live TV streaming service of their very own, and they have called it – creatively enough – Hulu with Live TV. Sign up for $39.99 per month, and you'll get a whole lot of live TV. Plus, all of the on-demand content that you'd get from the long-tenured SVOD version of Hulu is included, too. You can test out Hulu's live TV efforts for yourself by clicking on the link below and signing up for Hulu with Live TV's free trial. It's a week long, and there's no risk at all.
Try Hulu with Live TV for free
Philo stands out in the crowded skinny bundle market for one reason: its price. Philo's whole goal is to make the skinny bundle a more affordable service, and they are succeeding admirably with their two bundle options, which come in at a stunningly affordable $16 and $20 per month, respectively. How do they do it? By making some tough cuts: Philo is also relatively unique among skinny bundles for the fact that it does not have local channels or live sports. If you approve of the cuts that Philo has made, though, you will find that it's the most cost-effective service for your tastes! It is, of course, even more cost-effective at the start of things: the first week is free thanks to Philo's free trial offer. Check out the link below to snag that.
Try Philo for free
Sling TV is the oldest of the skinny bundles, at least in the sense that it has been broadly available in different regions and on different devices for the longest. It's also unique because it places an emphasis on add-on bundles. Once you've snagged at least one base bundle (choose from “Sling Orange” for $20 per month, “Sling Blue” for $25 per month, or both for $40 per month), you can add as many or as few “Extras” as you desire. In addition to the standard premium channel add-ons, these Extras include small groups of similar channels lumped together for rates of $5 per month and up. Test out any bundle you can create by clicking the link below to sign up for Sling TV's free trial offer.
Try Sling TV for free
fuboTV began life as a streaming service that was entirely dedicated to soccer. It was a skinny bundle from the start, but it initially limited its options to channels that boasted a lot of live soccer. That's ancient history, though: fuboTV has long since reinvented itself as a skinny bundle with a much broader appeal. The modern version of fuboTV includes all kinds of channels, from major networks to AMC. In addition to two base bundle options (“fubo,” $44.99 per month, and “fubo Extra,” $49.99 per month), fuboTV offers foreign-language bundles and add-on bundles that can be tacked onto the base options. You can test it out for free by clicking on the link below.
Try fuboTV for free
PlayStation Vue is Sony's skinny bundle offering, which is why it shares its branding with the company's popular video game console. But you can watch PlayStation Vue on a ton of different devices, from Roku players to Chromecasts. PlayStation Vue offers four different skinny bundle options to its subscribers: you can choose “Access” ($39.99 per month), “Ultra” ($74.99 per month), or anything in between. And PlayStation Vue has a free trial, too: click the link below to snag five days of it on the house.
Try PlayStation Vue for free
YouTube TV is Google's horse in this race. It's a strong service that is still in the process of rolling out nationwide. For those that can get it, the $40-per-month skinny bundle option is a great way to watch live TV without cable. It works on a solid range of devices and boasts a great selection of channels from the get-to, though the add-ons are a little less impressive than is the case with some peers. As you might expect from Google, content discover features are scary good. You can test out YouTube TV for free by clicking the link below and signing up for the services free trial.
Try YouTube TV for free
Owned by AT&T (which also owns satellite provider DirecTV), DirecTV Now is a live TV streaming service that offers subscribers a choice of four different skinny bundle packages. The more you pay, the more channels you'll get – and some of the larger options aren't all that “skinny” at all! The options range from “Live a Little” ($35 per month) to “Gotta Have It” ($70 per month). You can also add on premium channels, which DirecTV Now makes available at very attractive price points. You can test DirecTV Now out for free by clicking on the link below.
Try DirecTV Now for free
Below, we'll take a look at the different live TV streaming services and see how they stack up directly in categories like channels and pricing. Get ready for some big tables – but stick around after the rows and columns, because we'll be providing more analysis and making our final picks for the best skinny bundles to subscribe to.
So here we are: we know what skinny bundles are. We know which ones are solid, trustworthy picks. And we know how they differ in terms of channel availability, features, and pricing comparisons. But which ones are just plain great? Which are the truly best live TV streaming services? We're not going to shy away from the decision. Let's do this.
Here at Cordcutting.com, our top skinny bundles are:
We've stopped short of ranking these, but we're quite comfortable with this podium no matter how you want to order them. Hulu with Live TV offers some of the most sensible price points, channel coverage, and features that you can find in a skinny bundle. Sling TV's flexibility and superb in-app experience help make up for its lack of CBS. And YouTube TV, a relative newcomer, boasts unparalleled streaming quality and content discovery features in a service that also offers strong content and decent pricing.
For our money, the best live TV streaming service for sports is Sling TV. That's because Sling TV combines strong regional sports coverage with the flexibility of being able to build your own bundle, which will allow you to load up on sports channels without having to climb into the higher reaches of a tiered pricing structure.
Sling TV is missing CBS, though, and therefore some quality NFL action. If that's a dealbreaker, check out Hulu with Live TV or YouTube TV. If foreign soccer leagues are your main sports obsession, then give fuboTV a look, too.
Hulu with Live TV leads the way here, thanks to the fact that a Hulu with Live TV subscription also includes access to the on-demand library that you'd get from Hulu's cheaper and older on-demand streaming service (you know, the one that's been competing with Netflix for ages).
Philo is the clear cheapest service, but it has a major drawback: its platform support is seriously lacking. If you're on a budget and don't use a Roku, then look at Sling TV's two base packages and see if you can live without Fox properties (Sling Orange) or Disney/ABC ones (Sling Blue). Failing that, your cheapest comprehensive options* are Hulu with Live TV, YouTube TV, or DirecTV Now's “Live a Little.”
* DirecTV Now, PlayStation Vue, and Sling TV will raise their prices by $5 soon.
We haven't been shy about sharing our opinions, but that doesn't meant that we're right. You can still investigate things for yourself and make your own picks for the best skinny bundle options. And you can do so without spending a dime, because all of the major skinny bundles that we trust offer great free trials. Click the links below to sign up for some and run your own tests – maybe you'll agree with us, and maybe you won't! We just hope we've offered you some guidance, and that if you're going to argue in the comments, you'll at least do so politely – okay?