Best Live TV Streaming Services: Compare Top Picks for 2021

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Many cable or satellite TV subscribers are looking to live TV streaming as a way to cut their monthly bills.

And it’s a great idea! Services such as YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV and Sling TV offer many of the channels that you watch on cable for a fraction of the price.

But how do you choose which live TV streaming service is best for you?

Team Clark believes there are three key factors to consider: price, channels and features.

In this article, I’ll help you reach a smart decision by analyzing the best live TV streaming services on the market with those three factors in mind. Read our full methodology here.



Comparison Chart: Best Live TV Streaming Services in 2021


3 Things To Consider When Picking the Best Live TV Streaming Service for You

As you’re making your decision on which live TV streaming service to try, you may want to review the information available on our comparison chart with these three factors in mind:

1. Price

For many cord cutters, price is going to be the most important factor.

If you’re on a budget, live TV streaming services can offer you a reprieve from the stacks of fees that come with cable or satellite TV.

Most of the services reviewed here offer flat-rate subscriptions, so you’ll know what your bill is going to be each month. And they don’t require contracts, so you can easily switch or cancel services with no penalty.

2. Channels

Getting a great deal on price is nice, but what is it really worth if you don’t have access to the channels you enjoy most?

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Many people who want to cut the cord don’t take the action because they’re afraid of losing out on their favorite TV channels included in their cable or satellite package.

We’re here to help ease those fears. Use our comprehensive channel guide to make sure the service you’re signing up for has the channels you need.

3. Features

Features may come in third place when it comes to concerns for potential cord cutters, but you’d be wise not to ignore these as part of your decision process.

How much storage your cloud DVR offers and how many concurrent streams you can have are details that some cable and satellite users may take for granted.

But they can potentially make or break the streaming experience for your household. So pay close attention to the details on features provided on the comparison chart.


YouTube TV: Best for DVR and Overall Experience

YouTube TV live streaming service

The Basics

Team Clark’s Full YouTube TV Review

3 Key Things To Know

  • Unlimited DVR storage is included: There’s no extra charge for the hours of movies, television shows or sporting events that you want to save on your cloud DVR. And since it’s in the cloud, you can access your saved content from any device and location. The user experience here is great.
  • *MOST* of the sports channels you want live here: YouTube TV is going to have most of the big games sports fans want. That’s because it carries the ESPN family of networks, FS1, SEC Network, Big Ten Network, Golf Channel, MLB Network, NFL Network and more. (It does not carry regional sports networks, such as Bally Sports South, or the NHL Network.)
  • Multiple streams and user accounts make for a family-friendly experience: With YouTube TV, you get up to three simultaneous streams and as many as six individual user accounts. Three streams mean most of the family members can watch on their own devices with few interruptions. And each of these user accounts offers its own DVR accounts. Also, parents can set restrictions. So it’s a very customized and controllable experience for each member of the household.

Is It Worth It?

The $65 monthly price point seems high, but that’s an all-inclusive rate for all features and non-premium channels. There’s no sorting between packages to find the best mix of what you want. By and large, it’s all here.

Team Clark thinks YouTube TV offers the best overall experience in live TV streaming thanks to its combination of mainstream channel availability, DVR functionality and overall ease of access and use.

Money expert Clark Howard is a YouTube TV subscriber.

“What interests me about YouTube TV is the unlimited DVR and the versatility with how many people can be watching at the same time and how many individual accounts you can have,” Clark says.

Later in the article, we’ll have more from Clark on how he landed on YouTube TV as his household’s live TV streaming choice.

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Hulu + Live TV: Best for Content Blend

Hulu + Live TV streaming service

The Basics

Team Clark’s Full Hulu + Live TV Review

3 Key Things To Know

  • Local channels plus cable favorites are here: In addition to ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox, you can also enjoy popular cable TV channels including ESPN, TBS, USA, Food Network and more.
  • Hulu’s on-demand service is included: In addition to the live TV channels, you’ll get full access to the Hulu on-demand service that carries the full catalog of many popular shows. Note that, if you want this portion of the service to be ad-free, you’ll have to pay more.
  • You can bundle in Disney+ and ESPN+ for just a few more bucks: If you’re interested in getting the on-demand content from Disney+ and the extra games and sports content that come with ESPN+, you can add both to your subscription for an additional $8 per month.

Is It Worth It?

Hulu + Live TV carries the same hefty monthly price tag as YouTube TV, but there are some slight differences between the services.

While YouTube TV has great DVR capacity, Hulu + Live TV offers an extensive on-demand library to provide its value.

“What makes Hulu + Live TV interesting to me is that it’s a combo of Hulu on-demand programming and Hulu Live, which is basically like traditional pay TV,” Clark says.


Sling TV: Best for Value Streamers

Sling TV streaming service

The Basics

Team Clark’s Full Sling TV Review

3 Key Things To Know

  • Sling Orange vs. Sling Blue vs. Sling Orange+Blue: Sling TV offers two distinctly different content packages. Orange gives you ESPN and CNN, while Blue offers FS1, Fox News and MSNBC. Each is $35 per month. To get both, you will need to subscribe to the Orange+Blue package detailed above ($50).
  • You may not get your local TV channels: Sling does not provide access to all local channels with every package, so you may need a digital antenna or other means of watching the local news. ABC and CBS are not offered on Sling at all, but NBC and Fox stations are available in some markets.
  • How many concurrent streams you get depends on your package: If you’re a Sling Orange subscriber, you’ll get only one stream at a time. Sling Blue subscribers get up to three streams at once, and Orange+Blue will unlock four concurrent streams (because you’re subscribed to both).

Is It Worth It?

There are a few different subscription options for Sling, and they’re all cheaper than YouTube TV or Hulu + Live TV.

If you don’t need a ton of channels, you may find Sling to be a top value option for your household — especially if either Orange or Blue alone fits your needs.

“Sling TV offers a comparative advantage in pricing over YouTube TV or Hulu + Live TV,” Clark says, “particularly if you’re good with just the Orange or the Blue package. It would save you quite a bit of money over the course of a year.”


fuboTV: Best for Sports Fans

fuboTV streaming service

The Basics

Team Clark’s Full Review of fuboTV

3 Key Things To Know

  • Starter vs. Elite: fuboTV has two main package offerings, so the first thing you’ll need to decide is whether you’re good with the Starter package detailed above or prefer to spend an extra $15 per month for an upgrade. The Elite package gives you 1,000 hours of DVR space, 10 concurrent streams (instead of three) and 45 extra channels.
  • Sports live here — with one notable exclusion: fuboTV prides itself in offering a large menu of sports channels, so you’ll find all of the professional sports leagues (MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL) and college sports leagues (SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12) represented by their networks as well as the ESPN and FS1 families of networks. The one thing missing that many fans will want is access to regional sports networks such as Bally Sports South (formerly Fox Sports South). Those are available to stream only on AT&T TV as of this writing.
  • Channel count confirms there’s more than just sports: With more than 110 channels in its base package, fuboTV has one of the higher channel counts on this list. So while that list of sports channels is impressive, you’ll also get news stations including Fox News, MSNBC and CNBC. For entertainment, you’ll get HGTV, Food Network, A&E, Bravo, Discovery and more.

Is It Worth It?

If you have a couple of sports nuts in your house, you may be able to satisfy them (and everyone else) with the large channel list offered in fuboTV’s basic package.

But at $65 per month, fuboTV is the same price as YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV. So you’ll want to take a close look at what each offers before making a final choice. You may find that the DVR storage at YouTube TV or the inclusion of on-demand content with Hulu + Live TV are more desirable.


Philo: Best for Streaming on a Budget

Philo streaming service

The Basics

Team Clark’s Full Review of Philo

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3 Key Things To Know

  • Entertainment options galore: For this price, you get a great menu of entertainment channels. ViacomCBS favorites Nickelodeon, MTV and Comedy Central are included as well as Discovery’s Food Network, History and HGTV. The service also carries three Hallmark networks and Lifetime.
  • No sports and few news channels: The price is great for a strong package of entertainment channels, but there’s a reason you’re getting such a good price on them. Sports, news channels and local channel access are not a big priority with Philo, so you won’t find ESPN, CNN or your local NBC affiliate on this service.
  • T-Mobile customers get a steep discount: If you’re a T-Mobile wireless customer, you may be able to get Philo for just $10 per month. Team Clark has the details here.

Is It Worth It?

If your household has no need for sports channels and you’re comfortable getting your local news elsewhere, you could save a good amount of money on your live TV streaming by choosing Philo.

T-Mobile customers, in particular, are in a position to gain access to many of the top cable TV channels for a small monthly investment without long-term obligation.

“For people who don’t care anything about sports, I love Philo as a live TV streaming option,” Clark says.


AT&T TV: Best for High-End Streaming + Regional Sports

AT&T TV streaming service

The Basics

3 Key Things To Know

  • The regional sports networks are here, but you have to upgrade: AT&T TV is the only streaming service that offers most regional sports networks, such as Bally Sports South (formerly Fox Sports South). Unfortunately, AT&T TV knows it has that advantage, so you have to upgrade to its $85 per month package in order to get these channels.
  • You can get HBO Max for free: If you’re upgrading to the $85 per month package for the regional sports networks, you’ll be happy to know that you’ll also get a free year of the HBO Max streaming service. This provides access to HBO’s full library of content and is the streaming home for popular movies and TV series such as Friends and The Big Bang Theory.
  • Old-school channel packages, pricing and offers: This service from AT&T stems from the acquisition of DIRECTV, so the options, menu and presentation may remind you of satellite TV. There are four different pricing levels, starting at $70 per month and going all the way to $140. And be warned: You’ll encounter some serious pressure to upgrade to a higher-priced package.

Is It Worth It?

For most people, the answer is simply, “No.” AT&T offers some premium packages that will give you tons of content, but you’ll pay dearly for it.

You’re likely to find a much cheaper solution that carries most of the channels you like elsewhere on this list.

But if you want access to your regional sports networks AND to cut the cord, this is your only option available at the moment.


Live TV Streaming Services vs. Video-On-Demand Streaming Services

If you’ve reached this part of the article and are wondering why I left out services like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, now is a good time to talk about them.

These types of streaming services are often referred to as video-on-demand (VOD) streaming services.

The major difference between live TV streaming and video-on-demand streaming is the type of content available.

The live TV streaming services in this article carry what many would consider traditional cable or satellite TV networks as their primary sources of content.

A video on-demand streaming service has a library of content that is available at all times to paying subscribers. So you can binge seasons of a show or watch movies whenever you please.

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The VOD services carry much cheaper monthly subscription prices. For example, Disney+ is available for just $7.99 per month.

Team Clark has a separate review for the best video-on-demand streaming services.


Clark Howard’s Advice for Picking Live TV Streaming Services

Clark says access to modern live TV streaming services is both a blessing and a struggle.

After years of television conglomerates telling us exactly what we’d watch and how much we’d pay, streaming puts the power in the consumer’s hands.

“It used to be very simple: ‘This is what you get and this is what you pay,'” Clark says.

“Streaming offers a lot more choice but with a lot more confusion. So as a consumer, you have to weigh the plusses and minuses of each service because they’re NOT one size fits all.”

Clark suggests that you take inventory of your content consumption habits to evaluate what type of content is most important to you.

Once you have a good idea of what you really want from a content perspective, he wants you to make the choice that is most financially responsible.

And with changes in pricing and channel availability occurring often in this industry, you’ll also need to check your subscription(s) periodically to make sure you’re getting what you pay for and paying for what you actually want.

“The beauty of this is that you can build a bundle that fits your life,” Clark says.

“The ugly of it is that the industry keeps changing. And if you’re not careful, you’ll blow a hole in your wallet.”

What Clark Watches and Why

Clark Howard subscribes to YouTube TV, but it’s not necessarily because it’s his favorite streaming service.

Like most of us with multiple TV consumers in the household, Clark is looking for harmony in his streaming TV choice. And his family found it with YouTube TV thanks to the channel selection and DVR functionality.

“We’re using YouTube TV, but it’s under great protest from me because of the $65 per month,” Clark says.

Clark says, if the decision were his alone, he would take advantage of the cost savings that a Sling TV package could offer.

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Methodology

For the purposes of this review, Team Clark determined that the top three things customers care about when it comes to live TV streaming are price, channel selection and features.

Various members of our staff tried out each of these popular live TV streaming services to get a feel for their functionality. We have individual reviews of those services available on the website.

We used analysis of the following characteristics when determining the “best” options for each category:

  • Pricing information
  • Channel guides
  • Local channel availability
  • Free trial availability and length
  • DVR capabilities
  • On-demand functionality
  • Concurrent streams
  • Available streaming devices

Final Thoughts

Each cord-cutting household is a little bit different when it comes to standards for satisfaction from a live TV streaming service.

But ultimately, the conclusions are usually drawn from some formula weighing price, channel availability and features.

So in order to pick the right live TV streaming service, you’ll probably want to set personal parameters for each factor and then use the information we’ve provided here to make your choice.

Since most of these services offer some form of free trial and don’t require long-term commitments, you may be best served by “auditioning” a couple of them before committing to one for the long haul.

Team Clark likes YouTube TV as a general choice for most streamers, but a budget-conscious streamer may get better mileage out of either Sling TV or Philo.


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