The best live TV streaming services for cord-cutters in 2018

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The best live TV streaming services for cord-cutters in 2018
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Are you paying more than $100 a month for cable or satellite TV service? You may be able to cut that bill in half by switching to one of several new live TV streaming options.

DirecTV Now, YouTube TV, PlayStation Vue, Hulu with Live TV and Sling TV are the five leading providers for cord-cutters right now.

RELATED: Which live TV streaming service has the best channel lineup?

Best streaming TV services: DirecTV Now, YouTube TV, PlayStation Vue, Hulu with Live TV, Sling TV 

“As you look at an average pay-TV bill of over $100 a month, you can instead go with streaming services that typically will run you from a base of $20 a month for a bare-bones streaming package to typically more common $40 a month,” says money expert Clark Howard.

The best part? Instead of being married to your own sofa and TV, these streaming services allow you to watch from anywhere — on your phone, computer or TV.

Before you sign up for a streaming service, here’s what you’ll need: 

  • High-speed internet service: Requirements vary by provider, but 10 Mbps or higher is generally recommended for a streaming experience without buffering. Check your current download speed at Speedtest.net.
  • Compatible streaming device: Although no cable box is required, you may need to buy a streaming device (Google Chromecast, Roku, Amazon Fire TV) to play content on your TV.
  • Digital antenna: You can pick up a digital antenna for $10 to $40 if your live TV streaming package doesn’t include your favorite local channels like ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and PBS.

Team Clark has been testing various live TV streaming services over the past year or so. Some of the key differences are price, channel lineup, DVR, supported devices and the ability to watch multiple streams at once.

“My favorite of all the streaming products is YouTube TV. It has a pretty wide array of television programming, but what’s really neat is that multiple people could be watching different things at the same time and everybody has an unlimited DVR,” Clark said.

Ready to lower your pay TV bill once and for all? Read on to learn more about your options in Team Clark’s guide to the best streaming plans and deals in 2018…

YouTube TV

YouTube TV

Key takeaway: Unlimited cloud DVR and the ability to use up to three separate devices at the same time make this Clark’s #1 favorite. 

  • Price: $40 per month
  • Channels: Heavy on sports and light on entertainment channels; Turner networks TNT, Adult Swim, TBS, CNN, HLN, Cartoon Network, truTV and Turner Classic Movies added in 2018 (Full channel lineup)
  • DVR: Record as many programs as you want at the same time and never run out of storage space
  • Supported devices for TV: Stream with Chromecast or download the YouTube TV app on Roku, Apple TV, Android TV, Xbox One and supported Samsung and LG TVs
  • Multiple streams: Up to three separate devices at the same time
  • Internet speed: At least 7 Mbps to stream one High Definition (HD) video; 13 Mbps to reliably stream HD video, even with other devices using the same network

YouTube TV: Pros and cons 

Pros Cons
One simple plan for $40/month Missing channels: A&E, Discovery, Food Network, History, HGTV, TLC, OWN and more
Lots of sports: ESPN, FS1, FS2, MLB Network, NBA TV and more Amazon Fire TV not a supported device
Unlimited DVR

Related YouTube TV content on Clark.com:

Hulu with Live TV

Hulu with Live TV

Key takeaway: If you’re already paying for Hulu, this live TV streaming service is worth a closer look. Its Limited Commercials plan comes with the $39.99 monthly package. 

    • Price: $39.99 per month
    • Channels: Access Hulu’s entire streaming library, plus get channels like A&E, Bravo, Disney, E!, ESPN, FS1, FS2, Food Network, HGTV, History and more (Full channel lineup)
    • DVR: 50 hours of cloud DVR storage included; additional charge to upgrade to 200 hours
    • Supported devices for TV: Chromecast, Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, Nintendo Switch, Roku and Roku Stick (select models), Samsung TV (select models), Xbox 360, Xbox One
    • Multiple streams: Watch videos simultaneously on up to two screens
    • Internet speed: 8 Mbps or higher for a reliable, high-quality viewing experience; multiple concurrent streams may require higher bandwidth

UPDATE: Starting in December 2018, Discovery Channel, TLC, Investigation Discovery, Motor Trend (the rebranded Velocity network) and Animal Planet will be added to Hulu with Live TV.

Hulu with Live TV: Pros and cons

Pros  Cons
One simple plan for $40/month Expensive add-ons
Hulu’s on-demand streaming library included Must upgrade DVR to fast-forward through commercials
50 hours of cloud DVR storage Only two screens at once

RELATED CONTENT: Team Clark’s full review of Hulu with Live TV

DirecTV Now

DirecTV Now

Key takeaway: Clark said DirecTV Now was “abysmally, horrifically terrible” when it first launched. After giving it a second chance, he said it was “flawless.” 

  • Price: “Live a Little” plan starts at $40 per month
  • Channels: More than 60 channels included in the base package, such as A&E, Bravo, CNN, Disney, ESPN, Fox News, History, HGTV, MSNBC, Nickelodeon, TBS, TNT, USA (Full channel lineup)
  • DVR: 20 free hours of cloud DVR storage
  • Supported devices for TV: Amazon Fire TV Edition Smart TV, Amazon Fire TV media player, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Amazon Fire TV Pendant, Apple TV (4th generation), Chromecast (2nd generation and higher on Android & iOS devices, Chrome browser), Chromecast built-in TV, Roku (select models)
  • Multiple streams: Up to two devices at the same time; $5/month for third stream
  • Internet speed: Minimum of 12 Mbps for broadband connections to the home

DirecTV Now: Pros and cons

Pros Cons
Great channel lineup for $40 base package Only 20 hours of free cloud DVR storage
Many supported devices Only two streams at the same time
Frequent promos and device offers (See the latest at ClarkDeals.com)

RELATED CONTENT: DirecTV Now: Why Clark Howard has changed his mind

Sling TV

Sling TV

Key takeaway: Sling TV has a plan starting at $25 per month, but you may need to purchase a few add-ons to get everything you really want. 

  • Price: $25 per month for Sling Orange (up from $20), $25 for Sling Blue, $40 for Sling Orange + Blue
  • Channels: Sling Orange offers 30 channels including ESPN, Disney, AMC, CNN and HGTV; Sling Blue offers 40+ channels like FOX, NBC, regional sports, NFL Network and FX (Full channel lineup)
  • DVR: 50 hours of storage for an extra $5 per month
  • Supported devices for TV: Apple TV (4th generation), Roku LT and higher, Amazon Fire TV players, Chromecast, Android TV, AirTV Player, Mi Box, LG WebOS 3.0 and 3.5, 2016 and 2017 Samsung TVs, Xbox One
  • Multiple streams: One stream at a time with Sling Orange; three streams at a time with Sling Blue; four streams at once with Sling Orange + Blue
  • Internet speed: 5 Mbps for a single stream of video content on a TV, PC or Mac; 25 Mbps for households that maintain internet use on multiple devices

Sling TV: Pros and cons

Pros Cons
Packages start at $25 per month; cheapest way to get ESPN Limited local channels
Lots of compatible devices Cloud DVR costs extra
Affordable add-on channel options starting at $5/month Only one stream at a time with Sling Orange

RELATED CONTENT: 5 things to know before you sign up for Sling TV

PlayStation Vue 

PlayStation Vue

Key takeaway: Don’t let the name fool you! A PlayStation console isn’t necessary to sign up for this live TV streaming service. 

  • Price: $44.99 for “Access” plan
  • Channels: Watch more than 45 networks like ESPN, Disney, Bravo, Cartoon Network, Food Network, Fox Sports, OWN and HGTV (Full channel lineup)
  • DVR: Programming saved to DVR in “My Shows” can be watched in and out of your home network; stored for up to 28 days
  • Supported devices for TV: PlayStation consoles, Roku players (firmware 7.7 and up), Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV (4th generation running tvOS 10.0 and up), Android TV (Android OS 4.4 and up), Chromecast
  • Multiple streams: Up to five devices at the same time
  • Internet speed: Minimum of 10 Mbps or higher is recommended for the best experience, plus 5 Mbps for each additional stream

PlayStation Vue: Pros and cons

Pros Cons
Up to 5 devices at the same time Base plan is more expensive than most competitors
Cloud DVR included Free trial is only 5 days (others are 7)
Many supported devices

RELATED CONTENT: PlayStation Vue: 4 things to know about the live TV streaming service

NEW: AT&T WatchTV

AT&T WatchTV streaming service

Key takeaway: AT&T WatchTV is a skinny TV bundle that doesn’t include local or sports channels, but its $15 price makes it the cheapest of the bunch. 

  • Price: $15 a month as a standalone service; free for AT&T wireless customers with unlimited data plans (Details here)
  • Channels: More than 30 channels like A&E, Animal Planet, CNN, Hallmark Channel, HGTV, History, Lifetime, TBS and more; no sports or local stations (Full channel lineup)
  • DVR: No DVR included
  • Supported devices for TV: Apple TV (4th generation), Apple TV 4K (5th generation), Amazon Fire TV (2nd generation or higher), Amazon Fire TV Stick (2nd generation or higher), Amazon Fire TV Edition Smart TV (2nd generation or higher), Google Chromecast (2nd generation or higher), Chromecast Built-in TV, Samsung Smart TV (2017 and 2018 models)
  • Multiple streams: Each WatchTV account can stream on one device at a time

AT&T WatchTV: Pros and cons

Pros Cons
The cheapest live TV streaming service Roku not supported
Free for AT&T Unlimited &More and AT&T Unlimited &More Premium wireless customers (Details here) No DVR included or even an option to add the feature
Turner networks included: CNN, Cartoon Network, TBS, TNT and more Stream on only one device at a time
15,000 on-demand movies and shows No local or sports channels

RELATED CONTENT: AT&T WatchTV Review: The $15/month live TV streaming service

Philo 

Key takeaway: Philo is priced below the competition, but the absence of ESPN, Bravo, CNN and Disney will be deal-breakers for many households.

  • Price: $16 per month for 40 channels and $20 per month for 49 channels
  • Channels: AMC, Food Network, HGTV, Investigation Discovery, OWN, Nickelodeon and more; no sports or local stations (Full channel lineup)
  • DVR: Unlimited DVR to save any shows you want for up to 30 days
  • Supported devices for TV: Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV
  • Multiple streams: Three different streams can be played at the same time
  • Internet speed: Minimum of 5 Mbps for HD quality and 1.5 Mbps for Standard Definition (SD) quality

Philo: Pros and cons

Pros Cons
Lots of entertainment networks starting at $16/month Google Chromecast not supported
Unlimited DVR included No local or sports channels
Three streams at a time allowed

RELATED CONTENT: Philo review: This cheap live TV streaming service is only $16/month

fuboTV

Key takeaway: Without ESPN, fuboTV is not a home run for all sports fans! 

  • Price: $39.99 for the first month and $44.99 per month thereafter
  • Channels: 75+ channels including FS1, FS2, NBCSN, NFL Network, NBA TV, beIN Sports, Pac-12 Network, CBS Sports Network, Big Ten Network, Golf Channel, Olympic Channel and regional sports networks (Read more here)
  • DVR: Up to 30 hours of recorded programming time is included with a base subscription and 500 hours is available for an additional $9.99 per month
  • Supported devices for TV: Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Chromecast, Android TV
  • Multiple streams: Up to two devices at the same time
  • Internet speed: At least 20 Mbps download speed to ensure a clear and consistent stream

fuboTV: Pros and cons

Pros Cons
Lots and lots of sports channels Base plan is more expensive than most competitors
Turner networks added in August 2018 with no price hike Must upgrade to get more than 30 hours of cloud DVR
Easy navigation with TV guide and grid layout options Only two streams at the same time

RELATED CONTENT: Is fuboTV the best live TV streaming service for sports fans?

Final thought 

Still not sure which live TV streaming service to try? Call a family meeting and have everyone write down the channels that are most important to them, then decide together which service is the best fit. (Our channel comparison chart can help!)

All of these streaming services offer free trials to allow you to test them out before breaking up with your existing provider.

And if you’re happy with your current cable or satellite service but not your monthly bill, it doesn’t hurt to give customer service a call and see if they’d be willing to work with you on the price.

Listen to Clark talk about live TV streaming options on The Clark Howard Show Podcast

More Clark.com stories you may like: 

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Michael Timmermann paid off his mortgage in two years. Now, he shares his money-saving tips on his blog, MichaelSaves.com.
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