The Best Online Live TV Services Ranked

An Example of a Live TV Service’s Guide, Sling TV

If you’re like most people, you’re probably looking for cut the cable TV cord. Some people can get rid of cable TV and live off of an antenna, plus there are other free and paid on-demand streaming services like Pluto TV and Netflix. However, if you still want cable channels but don’t want to pay the cable price, there are several options out there, and here’s a list of them with some pros and cons:

Best Overall: YouTube TV

Hands down, there’s no better live TV service than YouTube TV. There are cheaper services, but no other service can match the experience of traditional TV while offering a better product

  • Unlimited DVR storage, with recordings that last for 9 months. Not to mention the ability to pause and fast forward commercials on any channel while watching live, something no other service can offer. Only Sling offers the ability to keep recordings forever, but the limit on storage is 50 hours.
  • Up to 6 users can have their own personalized accounts with their own DVR storage, and 3 simultaneous streams.
  • 85+ channels, and is service to offer PBS.
  • Available on almost any device
  • Easy user interface with smart recommendations and excellent audio/video quality.
  • The price: $65. On the surface this is high, and even comes close to the introductory rates from cable, but factor in all the hidden rental and service fees and taxes, and YouTube TV is the better deal. Plus, when compared to other online live TV services when other services have add-ons to match features and channels, the price is the same. Still, if you’re looking to save a lot of money, this isn’t the service.
  • No packages. Very few live TV services offer packages to offer a lower base price, but it would be nice if YouTube TV could offer that.
  • Not as many sports channels, so be sure to check that out if that interests you.

Bottom line: I loved YouTube TV, I just didn’t love the price, so I switched to the next service.

Best Value: Sling TV

Sling TV was the first online live TV service, and is still the only to offer a la carte packages on top of its base $30 price. Sling can be a little confusing offering three base packages to choose from, one with ESPN and a few other channels, one without ESPN with more channels, and one with both for $45. From there, packages start at $5 to add more sports, kids, news, comedy, and more channels. Or don’t add any, and you still get a good bunch of channels for the best value in online live TV.

  • Most customizable. Only pay for the channels you want. Since I don’t want ESPN or any extra sports channels, I don’t pay for them and I save a lot of money doing so.
  • Some channels allow you to start over any program without needing to record them. Unfortunately you can’t fast forward live TV, but these channels will let you pause live TV.
  • Available on almost any device.
  • Free DVR allows for 10 hours of recordings that don’t expire, and the user can add 50 hours of DVR for $5.
  • Sling Blue allows for 3 simultaneous streams, but Sling Orange only allows 1 stream.
  • Pretty good interface with ability to get recommendations and set favorite channels and programs.
  • Not all channels allow you to start over or pause a live program, and you can’t fast forward commercials on the ones that do. The only way to pause live TV on a channel without the ability to pause live TV is to record it and then immediately play the recording. It works, but it’s not ideal.
  • No customized user accounts. All devices share the same account with the same favorites and recordings.
  • 50 hours of recordings can be light, but you can set certain programs to be protected, while unprotected recordings will delete if space is needed.
  • No locals, unless you have an AirTV device, which I really don’t recommend. The device adds local channels from your antenna and places them in the Sling guide. Doing this saves money monthly, as local channels add a lot to a service’s price, but the AirTV has a clunky DVR setup with an external hard drive being plugged into the AirTV (which doesn’t allow for pausing live TV), and I had numerous lag issues across my devices. Positive side is you can watch your local channels outside your house though.

Bottom line: if you want popular channels, but don’t mind the lack of local channels, a somewhat dated interface, and an okay DVR, Sling is a good value option. If you want to save more money, you should try…

Best Low Cost Option: Philo

At $20, Philo is the cheapest live TV service. Well, Frndly is the cheapest at $6, but you only get 15 channels, and none of them are the top channels most people want, unless you only watch Hallmark Channel. Philo’s price is so low because you don’t get sports or news channels, so if TBS, TNT, USA, FX, and a few others are on your list of must haves, this service won’t be for you. You do get AMC, A&E, Comedy Central, Discovery, Food Network, HGTV, History, MTV, Nickelodeon, and several others, so it can be an enticing offer if you don’t need a lot of channels.

  • Lowest Price. If you are looking for the lowest cost service with the most top channels, this is it.
  • Unlimited DVR storage with recordings that last 30 days.
  • Start over any program on any channel, and you can even set programs to default to start over.
  • Great easy to use interface.
  • No locals, no sports, no news. If you watch sports, you will be disappointed.
  • Because there’s no sports, you don’t get top channels. Cable providers, like Philo, pay cable channel companies to carry their channels. You can’t carry USA Network or E! without carrying NBC Sports Channel, as they are owned by the same company, so it’s unlikely they’ll arrive on the service any time soon.
  • Can’t fast forward through commercials while watching live.
  • Guide interface cannot be accessed while watching a show, so you have to stop watching to see what else is on.

Bottom line: if you can live without some of the top channels, as well as sports and news, Philo is an excellent service whose channel lineup makes it difficult to recommend to most.

And now, the rest of the services:

Best for Hulu subscribers: Hulu with Live

Hulu with Live has a lot of channels, as well as local channels in addition to more regional sports channels than some of the other services. Plus, it has A&E, History and a few others YouTube TV doesn’t have, and you do get full Hulu with the subscription at $54, but other than that, it isn’t anything special. Especially when you option up to the $10 enhanced DVR, which brings the price up to $64, which is a dollar less than YouTube TV. I still find YouTube TV to be the better option, but consider Hulu with Live if you want more sports channels, or if you already are subscribed to Hulu anyway.

Best for… someone I’m sure: AT&T TV Now

I’m having issues figuring out who AT&T TV Now is for. It’s the worst value at $55 for 45 channels, and the DVR is only so-so compared to the competition. It gives you the ability to get the most amount of channels, just not at a great price. Some packages come with HBO Max, so that’s something. If you really need the most sports and variety of channels, and don’t mind the pricey packages, I guess you’d be interested in AT&T TV Now. However, unless this comes with your AT&T phone or internet service, I’d pass on it.

Best for sports fans: FuboTV

You’ll get your local channels, a great variety of cable channels, and a LOT of sports channels. It just isn’t the best if you’re looking for the cheapest price at the base package’s $60, but if you really want sports, FuboTV is your best option.

There’s a lot of choices for live TV online, and hopefully this helps ease some of the confusion, at least a little.

I’m a communications major passionate about technology, video production, and how the world works.