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The best live TV streaming services for cord cutters

The best live TV streaming services let you watch your favorite shows, news, and sports in real time -- including the Super Bowl. Here's how to choose between Sling TV, Hulu Plus Live TV, YouTubeTV, and more.
Written by Alison DeNisco Rayome, Managing Editor
Reviewed by Kayla Solino
Sling TV | Best live TV streaming service overall
slingtv
Sling TV
Best live TV streaming service overall
View now View at Sling TV
Hulu Plus Live TV | Best streaming service that combines live TV with VoD
hulu
Hulu Plus Live TV
Best streaming service that combines live TV with VoD
View now View at Hulu
YouTube TV | Best live TV streaming service for channel selection
youtubetv
YouTube TV
Best live TV streaming service for channel selection
View now View at YouTube TV
DirecTV Stream | Best live TV streaming service that feels like cable
directv
DirecTV Stream
Best live TV streaming service that feels like cable
View now View at DirecTV
FuboTV | Best live TV streaming service for sports
fubotv
FuboTV
Best live TV streaming service for sports
View now View at FuboTV
Philo | Best budget live TV streaming service
philo
Philo
Best budget live TV streaming service
View now View at Philo
Show more (1 item)

If you're ready to cut the cord, we've got you covered. The best live TV streaming services help you save money by getting rid of expensive cable contracts and equipment, while still allowing you to watch all of your favorite shows and sports, whether you're watching on your TVphonelaptop, or tablet. A bonus: Almost every live TV streaming service will be streaming the Super Bowl game this year, too. (You can also look into buying a TV antenna to help you stream the game.)

Also: How to watch Super Bowl 2024: All the best streaming service options

Streaming services fall into two main categories: Video-on-demand (VoD) streaming from providers like Netflix and Amazon Prime, and live TV streaming from platforms like Sling TV and YouTube TV. I've spent hours testing out and researching all of the live TV streaming services on this list, along with all of the VoD streamers, and have reviewed many of them for ZDNET's sister site CNET. 

My pick for the best live TV streaming service is Sling TV, thanks to its easy-to-use interface, its customizable options, and its low price compared to its competitors. Read on to find the rest of ZDNET's picks for best live TV streaming service, whether you're looking to watch the news, sports, your favorite TV shows, or anything else. (To see the full list of live channels that each service offers, click through to their website and enter your zip code.)

The best live TV streaming services of 2024

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Affordable price
  • Customizable package options
  • Great language options
Cons
  • Only 50 hours of DVR storage included
  • Few local channels
More Details

Sling TV features: Channels: 30+ | Plan options: 3 | Video storage: 50 hours | Price: Starts at $40 per month

Sling TV is my pick for best live TV streaming service overall thanks to its affordable price and options that help you tailor the service to the channels you actually want to watch. 

Choose from two plans: Orange ($40 a month), which exclusively includes seven channels like Disney Channel and ESPN, or Blue ($45 a month), which exclusively includes a few local channels like ABC, Fox, and NBC, as well as 14 more premium cable channels like FX, Bravo, NFL Network, and FS1. Both plans include 25 base channels like AMC, CNN, Comedy Central, TBS, and TNT. You also have the option to combine both plans for $60 a month. 

Get half off your first month of any plan when you sign up. Add on premium channels like Showtime, Starz, AMC+, and MGM+ for additional monthly fees. Right now, there's also a deal to prepay for six months of Sling Orange plus NBA League Pass at a discounted rate.

If you're looking for non-English channels, Sling TV has more options than any other service, including numerous Asian, European, Arabic, Brazilian, and Portuguese options. 

Where Sling TV falls short compared to other services is its DVR offering: It only includes 50 hours of DVR storage, unless you pay extra. It also doesn't come with many local channels, though the platform suggests adding on an antenna for that.

Bottom line: If you're looking for a basic and affordable live TV streaming service that still gets you a good number of channels and an easy-to-use interface, Sling TV is a great choice. However, you should note that this is the only live TV streaming option on this list that will not be streaming Super Bowl 2024, as its channels don't include CBS.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Includes live TV, Hulu VoD, Disney+, and ESPN+ (with ads) for one price
  • Local channel access
  • Unlimited DVR
Cons
  • Expensive
  • VoD streaming platforms include ads
More Details

Hulu Plus Live TV features: Channels: 90+ | Plan options: 2 | Video storage: Unlimited | Price: Starts at $77 per month

For those looking to take advantage of both live TV streaming and premium VoD streaming, Hulu Plus Live TV is a solid pick and gets you a lot of bang for your buck. For $77 a month, you get 90+ channels of live TV, plus Hulu's VoD catalog (with original shows like Only Murders In the Building and The Bear), plus access to Disney+ and ESPN+. 

Hulu Plus Live TV's live channels include your local ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox stations in most areas, as well as the ESPN and Fox sports networks. You'll also get popular channels like HGTV, Comedy Central, TNT, TLC, USA, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, and Disney Channel. You can add on Max, Showtime, Starz, Cinemax, NFL RedZone, and more for an extra fee.

Hulu Plus Live TV also includes unlimited DVR storage, and two simultaneous streams (though you can add on more). The only downside of this plan is that Hulu, Disney, and ESPN content has ads -- you can upgrade to the $90 a month plan to get ad-free content and downloads. If you can afford it, it's worth it to not have to deal with the ads.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • 100+ channels
  • Unlimited DVR
  • Exclusive home to NFL Sunday Ticket
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Many sports and 4K content costs extra
More Details

YouTube TV features: Channels: 100+ | Plan options: 1 | Video storage: Unlimited | Price: Starts at $73 per month

My family is currently a YouTube TV subscriber, in large part this is because it's the only streaming service that offers NFL Sunday Ticket, for watching out-of-market Sunday afternoon football games, for an additional cost. 

YouTube TV offers lots of perks, including more channels than its competitors (like AMC, Bravo, Comedy Central, FX, NBA TV, TLC, TNT, US, Disney Channel, and Nickelodeon), and unlimited DVR. You can add on Max, Starz, Showtime, and more sports networks for an extra fee. And for an additional $10 a month, you can add 4K viewing to certain content, unlimited simultaneous streams at home, and the ability to watch recorded content offline. 

The reason why it isn't higher up on this list is largely because the price has gone up fairly substantially this year, from $65 a month to $73 a month. (In comparison, Hulu TV costs just $5 more per month, and also includes access to Hulu, Disney+, and ESPN+.) 

If you're looking for the widest selection of channels (and/or NFL Sunday ticket) and don't mind the price tag, YouTube TV is a great live TV streaming service. 

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Mimics channel flipping experience with swiping
  • Strong sports offerings
  • Unlimited DVR storage
Cons
  • Very expensive
More Details

DirecTV Stream features: Channels: 75+ | Plan options: 3 | Video storage: Unlimited | Price: Starts at $80 per month

DirecTV Stream is the live TV streaming service that most resembles cable, both in terms of the user experience and the price tag. Its base offer costs $80 a month for 75+ channels. The next two tiers go up to $109 a month (for 105+ channels) and $120 a month (for 140+ channels). You can add on a sports pack to each of these plans for an extra $15 a month, which includes ESPN, NFL Network, MLB Network, and more regional sports networks than many others on this list. (At the time of this writing, there are deals to bundle each package with the sports pack for a discounted price.)

The base Entertainment package includes 75+ live channels (including AMC, FX, HGTV, TBS, TCL, and Nickelodeon) and local news channels (like ABC, NBC, Fox, and CBS) in most areas. Add-on channels Max, Showtime, Starz, MGM+, and Cinemax are included free for the first three months, and then for extra fees. 

DirecTV Stream also offers unlimited in-home streams (and three maximum out-of-home streams), and unlimited DVR storage. 

One fun feature that makes DirecTV Stream a good choice for those who still want a channel-flipping experience is the ability to swipe left and right to change channels. 

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Large network of sports available, including NFL, NBA, and MLB
  • 175+ channels
  • 1,000 hours of DVR storage
Cons
  • No access to local sports broadcasts
  • Expensive
More Details

Fubo TV features: Channels: 175+ | Plan options: 3 | Video storage: 1,000 hours | Price: Starts at $75 per month

If you're primarily looking for a live TV streaming service to watch sports, Fubo is likely the best choice for you. Watch ESPN, BeIN Sports, the Big 10, FS1, FS2, and the Golf channel, along with most local networks like ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox. That means you can access everything from NFL, NBA, and MLB games to English Premier League soccer games, NASCAR races, boxing, and more. Check Fubo TV's website below to see what specific local channels are available for your zip code.

Beyond sports, Fubo TV also includes live channels like FX, Bravo, E!, HGTV, Food Network, Disney Channel, Hallmark, Fox, and MSNBC. Add on Starz, Showtime, or MGM+ for additional monthly fees. With 1,000 hours of DVR storage, you're not likely to run out of space for a while. You can stream on up to three devices at the same time.

Choose from three different plan tiers, ranging from $75 to $95 per month. All plans offer local ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC channels in many regions. However, Fubo TV doesn't include TNT and TBS, both of which show a lot of sports. It also doesn't include the Fox regional sports networks. And if you want to watch league-specific channels, like MLB TV or NHL Network, you'll have to either upgrade your plan or add them on. 

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • 70+ live TV channels
  • Unlimited DVR storage
  • Affordable price
Cons
  • Limited sports programming
  • No local channels
More Details

Philo features: Channels: 115+ | Plan options: 1 | Video storage: Unlimited | Price: Starts at $25 per month

If you're looking for a cheaper live TV streaming option and aren't interested in sports or local programming, Philo is a great option: At just $25 a month, you can stream more than 70 channels live, and access an on-demand library of over 70,000 titles.

Philo's live TV channels include Comedy Central, HGTV, AMC, Discovery, TLC, Discovery, BET, Nickelodeon, Lifetime, and Food Network. Add on MGM+ for $6 a month or Starz for $10 a month to access their content as well. 

A major plus: Philo offers unlimited DVR, so you can rewind and fast forward through commercials as you like. Even without the DVR, most of the platform's shows and movies remain available on demand for a few days after their first live airing, too.

Stream on up to three devices at once, and create up to 10 user profiles. If you do want to try to access some local channels and sports, you can supplement Philo with a TV antenna

Which streaming service is the best for live TV?

The best live TV streaming service is Sling TV, thanks to its great affordability and multiple plan options. To see how it compares, here is an overview of the best live TV streaming services.

Streaming ServiceStarting PriceChannelsPlan Options
Sling TV$40/month31+ channels3
Hulu Plus Live TV$77/month90+ channels2
YouTube TV$73/month100+ channels1
DirecTV$80/month75+ channels4
FuboTV$75/month175+ channels3
Philo$25/month115+ channels1

Which live TV streaming service is right for you?

If you want...Then choose
The best live TV streaming service overallSling TV, for its affordable price and customizable channel options.
The best all-in-one live TV and VoD streaming serviceHulu Plus Live TV, for its bundle of live channels, Hulu, Disney+, and ESPN+.
The best channel selectionYouTube TV, with over 100 channels and unlimited DVR.
The best live TV streaming service that mirrors cableDirecTV, to get lots of channels and the channel surfing experience.
The best live TV streaming service for sportsFuboTV, to watch almost any sport you can imagine.
The best budget live TV streaming servicePhilo, for popular channels and unlimited DVR.

It's important to note that each of these services could change their pricing, channel lineup, DVR capabilities, and number of available streams at any time, so make sure you check their websites before you subscribe.

How did we choose these live TV streaming services?

I chose these live TV streaming services after testing and researching them, as well as other VoD streaming services over the years. The factors I considered in choosing the best live TV streaming services include: 

  • Price: Since many people looking to cut the cord are aiming to save money, you'll want to consider how much you'll be spending each month on a live TV streaming service -- especially if you're already subscribed to other VoD streaming services like Netflix. 
  • Channel options: While most of the live TV streaming services on this list include similar cable channels, some don't include local channels, others don't include sports channels, and all require additional fees to access premium cable channels like Max, Starz, and Showtime. You'll want to consider what shows you want access to when choosing a service.
  • DVR storage: All of the live TV streaming services on this list include some form of digital video recording (DVR) storage, so you can record live shows to watch at your convenience (and fast forward through commercials). However, they range widely, from just 50 hours of storage to unlimited storage. 
  • User experience: If you're making the switch from cable, you'll want to have a user-friendly live TV streaming service that's easy to navigate. Many of these services offer free trials, so if you're interested in testing them out, you can.

What is the best live TV streaming service for sports?

The best live TV streaming service is FuboTV, which features both mainstream sports like football and hockey and non-mainstream sports like F1 racing and cricket. There are also several sports channel add-ons to choose from, including an NBA League Pass channel and International Sports Plus, so you'll find something for every sports fan.

Which is the best streaming service for NFL?

There are a number of different streaming services that you can use to watch NFL games, but they can vary considerably in their coverage types. For example, YouTube TV is where you'll find NFL Sunday Ticket, which lets you watch all out-of-market games. The NFL Plus streaming service also includes RedZone and the NFL network, though you'll only be able to watch local and primetime games on your phone, not your TV or computer.

What live TV streaming service has the best picture quality?

YouTube TV and Hulu Plus Live TV support 1080p/60fps live streams on select platforms, so if picture quality is something that's important to you, these are both good options. 

Is streaming cheaper than cable?

Short answer: It depends. When people first started cutting the cord over a decade ago, it was possible to save over $100 per month and still get to watch the shows you wanted. But today, internet streaming service bills have crept up closer to cable TV levels. However, if you're savvy about which services you subscribe to (and if you can share subscriptions at times), it's still possible to save.

What live stream service is the best substitute for cable?

The live TV streaming services on this list all have something to offer. While Sling TV is my top pick generally, if you're looking for the closest thing to cable in terms of number of channels and user experience, I'd say go for DirecTV Stream.

What is the cheapest live TV streaming service?

The cheapest live TV streaming service is Philo TV which carries 115+ channels, and includes A&E, Discovery Channel, Comedy Central, and more, for just $25 per month.

Which streaming services offer live TV?

Of the bigger streaming services such as Netlifx, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video are the only two that offer any kind of live TV streaming at the moment. Hulu has a partnership with ESPN+, meaning that certain live sports events can be streamed through the basic Hulu plan without any additional cost. Amazon Prime Video has rights to Thursday Night NFL games, which allows Prime members to stream live football games from the Prime Video app.

Do you need fast internet to stream live TV?

To make use of any of these services, you'll need broadband internet. If you're living on your own, you may be able to get by with as little as 10Mbp. If you're sharing your home with others and/or you want to watch 4K videos, we recommend you have at least a 25Mbps internet connection. Not sure how fast your connection is? Run the Ookla Speedtest.

And, by the way, you won't lose anything by switching from a cable box to a Roku or Amazon Fire TV 4K stick. The only real difference between conventional cable and internet TV is that live streaming sports lag 15 seconds to a minute behind live broadcasts.

Which streaming device should you use?

For the most part, all of these support the most popular streaming devices. For example, no matter which service you subscribe to, an Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV Cube, Roku Express, or Google Chromecast will almost certainly support it. But if you're using a more obscure streaming gadget, such as an Nvidia Shield TV Pro, it might not work with your preferred service. Smart TVs also frequently don't support newer streaming offerings. In short, make sure the service will work with your hardware before subscribing. 

Also: The best streaming devices

Are there alternative live TV streaming services worth considering?

If there's a production company, chances are they have their own streaming service. There are services like PBS Livestream that are dedicated to offering quality news and educational content as well as services like PlutoTV that are geared towards general entertainment. Here are a few other options to look into:

View at PeacockView at Pluto TVView at PBS

ZDNET contributor Steven Vaughan-Nichols contributed to this article.

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