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The best live TV streaming services of 2023


Headshot of Kathryn Casna
Researched by
Kathryn CasnaSenior Staff Writer
Headshot of Bri Field
Headshot of Michal Ash
Reviewed by
Updated 5/24/23

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Editor's choice
YouTube TV
YouTube TV
Staff rating
4.6
Customer rating
4.4

  • Plans starting at $72.99
  • 85+ channels
  • n/a DVR storage hours

Click below for all current YouTube TV deals

Offer details: Prices and plans are subject to change. Conditions may apply.

Runner-up
fuboTV
fuboTV
Staff rating
3.8
Customer rating
5.0

  • Plans starting at $32.99 - $99.99
  • 210+ channels
  • n/a DVR storage hours

Click below for all current fuboTV deals

Disclaimer: Prices and plans are subject to change. Conditions may apply.

Runner-up
Hulu + Live TV
Hulu
Staff rating
3.6
Customer rating
4.5

  • Plans starting at $68.99 - $82.99
  • 85+ channels
  • Unlimited for 9 mos. DVR storage hours

Click below for all current Hulu + Live TV deals

Disclaimer: Prices and plans are subject to change. Conditions may apply.

Runner-up
DIRECTV STREAM
DirecTV Stream
Staff rating
3.7

  • Plans starting at $74.99 - $109.99
  • 140+ channels
  • Unlimited DVR storage hours

Click below for all current DIRECTV STREAM deals

Disclaimer: Prices and plans are subject to change. Conditions may apply.

Budget pick
Sling
Sling
Staff rating
3.3
Customer rating
4.1

  • Plans starting at $40.00 - $55.00
  • 47 channels
  • 50 DVR storage hours

Click below for all current Sling deals

Disclaimer: Availability and pricing are subject to location. Conditions apply.

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How we chose the best streaming service providers

Live TV streaming services have been growing in popularity among people frustrated with rising rates, hidden costs, not getting the channels they want, and poor customer service from traditional cable TV providers. That’s why our expert reviewers considered these criteria when testing live TV streaming services to find the best of the best:

  • Value
  • Channel lineups
  • Usability
  • Overall experience

It was a close race—so close that we added a bonus budget pick for those who want to save even more money and don’t mind making a few concessions. There were also some great services (like Peacock and ESPN+) that didn’t make the cut because they felt more like supplementary subscriptions, rather than stand-alone TV services.

Ultimately, the best live TV streaming service for you depends on the shows you want to catch, and that’s unique to you. But the services on this list are likely to hit the mark for most watchers—especially if you want to ditch cable TV while trying to please your whole family or multiple roommates.

Learn more about how we rate services.

Best live TV streaming services:

  • YouTube TV
  • fuboTV
  • Hulu + Live TV
  • DIRECTV STREAM
  • Budget pick: Sling TV

#1 YouTubeTV

#1 YouTube TV: A well-rounded channel lineup, intuitive interface, and unlimited DVR make for a great all-around experience.

What we like

  • No hidden fees
  • Simple, familiar interface
  • Six Google accounts per subscription
What we dislike

  • Unskippable commercials
  • Lackluster sports coverage in some regions
  • YouTube Premium and YouTube music not included

If you’re looking to replace your cable TV provider with a streaming service, you should definitely check out YouTube TV. You get over a hundred channels (including regional and local channels) for a solid sports, news, and entertainment lineup—all for around the same price as competitors that have fewer channels. There aren’t any hidden fees, and you don’t have to sign a contract.

Football fans will love that YouTube TV now has NFL Sunday Ticket, which it lured away from satellite TV provider DIRECTV. And fans of all sports can enjoy the reasonably priced sports add-on and might want to spring for the 4K upgrade—which also comes with unlimited simultaneous streams from home, so it’s great for large households too. And when we wanted to record the big game without fighting with our roommates about which recordings to ax from the DVR, we developed a deep appreciation for the unlimited cloud DVR storage.

Using YouTube TV across multiple devices is intuitive and easy, though on some streaming devices (we’re looking at you, Samsung TVs), YouTube TV is hidden inside the regular YouTube app. But once you get used to that, it’s a great experience. Skipping most commercials on recorded content was easy. We got bogged down with ads while watching live or on-demand, but that’s pretty standard for most of the live TV streaming apps we tested.

The best part is that YouTube TV has a free trial so you can see for yourself if it’s right for you before you leave your current provider.

YouTube TV
Staff rating
4.6
Customer rating
4.4
Price: $72.99
Pros

  • No hidden fees
  • Exclusive access to NFL Sunday Ticket
  • Six Google accounts per subscription
Cons

  • Unskippable commercials on some shows
  • Lackluster regional sports network (RSN) coverage
  • YouTube Premium and YouTube music not included

Specifications
Channels: 85+

Offer details: Prices and plans are subject to change. Conditions may apply.

#2: fuboTV

#2 fubo: Great content, especially for international soccer and local channels.

What we like

  • Stellar international soccer coverage
  • Certain events and games in 4K
  • Good customer service and help documentation
What we dislike

  • Missing TNT, TBS, and CNN
  • Hidden regional sports fees
  • No parental control options

fubo is a little pricier than YouTube TV and doesn’t have as many channels, but it has a solid sports lineup, especially when it comes to international soccer. fuboTV also includes NFL Network, two ESPN channels, and Fox Sports, plus regional channels so you can catch the news or your favorite team. fubo’s entertainment lineup is less outstanding but still holds its own—unless you want TNT or CNN.

When you record shows with fubo, it captures the entire show, even if you start recording part way through. There’s a limit to how much you can record (1,000 hours), but that’s pretty generous.

Using fubo was super easy when we streamed live content, but a little less intuitive for finding on-demand content. We didn’t like that we had to share our location every time we used the mobile app, either. But these small annoyances quickly gave way to a great experience.

fuboTV
Staff rating
3.8
Customer rating
5.0
Price: $32.99 - $99.99
Pros

  • Stellar international soccer coverage
  • Certain events and games in 4K
  • Good customer service and help documentation
Cons

  • Missing TNT, TBS, and CNN
  • Hidden regional sports fees
  • No parental control options

Specifications
Channels: 210+

Disclaimer: Prices and plans are subject to change. Conditions may apply.

#3: Hulu + Live TV

#3 Hulu + Live TV: Tons of great live and on-demand content, but you’ll wade through a lot of commercials that are hard to skip

What we like

  • Huge streaming library
  • Access to Disney+ and ESPN+
  • Exceptional original content
What we dislike

  • Confusing interface
  • Frustrating on-the-go viewing
  • Limited Spanish-language options

Hulu + Live TV was one of the most expensive live TV streaming services we tested, but it packs a ton of content by bundling live TV with Hulu’s extensive on-demand library—along with ESPN+ and Disney+ already included. And while ESPN+ doesn’t include actual ESPN channels, Hulu + Live TV provides them—as well asFox Sports, TNT, and more. You get 75+ live channels, which is less than YouTube TV or fubo, but we think Hulu’s on-demand libraries make up for that.

Unfortunately, it’s also jam-packed with repetitive commercials unless you pay an additional $7 to avoid them during on-demand TV shows. And skipping commercials with live content isn’t as easy as it was with other services. You have to DVR the show you want to watch and wait for the episode to finish airing live. With other services, we could start a recording, wait only a few minutes, then fast forward through commercials as we came to them.

The interface made it challenging to find live TV, but if you’re used to the Hulu on-demand experience, it’s a minor adjustment. If this is your first Hulu experience, give it a month to familiarize yourself. Unfortunately, Hulu + Live TV doesn’t have a free trial, so it’ll be a month you pay for.

Hulu
Staff rating
3.6
Customer rating
4.5
Price: $68.99 - $82.99
Pros

  • Huge streaming library
  • Access to Disney+ and ESPN+
  • Exceptional original content
Cons

  • Confusing interface
  • Frustrating on-the-go viewing
  • Annoying, repetitve ads

Specifications
Channels: 85+DVR storage hours: Unlimited for 9 mos.

Disclaimer: Prices and plans are subject to change. Conditions may apply.

#4 DIRECTV STREAM

#4 DIRECTV STREAM: Pricey, but a great experience and more sports content than anyone else

What we like

  • Easy channel surfing
  • Excellent sports coverage
  • Available set-top box
What we dislike

  • High prices
  • Slow load times
  • No casting or screen mirroring from DVR

For the best lineup and an experience that feels a lot like cable TV, DIRECTV STREAM is where it’s at. You’ll get 75+ channels with the base subscription and 150+ for the highest plan. Both will give you plenty of movies, sitcoms, kids shows, news, and more. This service offers the most regional sports channels, too, so you’ll avoid a lot of the blackouts that come with being a fan, but you’ll pay a lot too for a higher-tier plan that includes them. While you can’t get NFL SUNDAY TICKET or Thursday Night Football, you can add MLB Network for an extra fee.

The sports fans among us also loved that any DIRECTV STREAM plan lets you stream 4K (though it took longer than we liked to load high-quality video). The parents loved how comprehensive the parental controls were. And we all loved the ability to sort channels alphabetically or numerically.

DIRECTV STREAM is great for people who still want a ton of content and super-high picture quality—and are willing to pay a bit more than the average cord cutter. It’s also great if you love the DIRECTV satellite experience but want to switch to streaming instead. But if saving dough is your main reason for wanting to switch, check out Sling TV (our budget pick) instead.

DirecTV Stream
Staff rating
3.7
Price: $74.99 - $109.99
Pros

  • Easy channel surfing
  • Excellent lineup of regional sports networks (RSNs)
  • Available set-top box and 10-digit remote
Cons

  • Highest prices of any streaming service
  • Slow load times
  • No casting or screen mirroring from DVR

Specifications
Channels: 140+DVR storage hours: Unlimited

Disclaimer: Prices and plans are subject to change. Conditions may apply.

Budget pick: Sling TV

Sling TV: Fewer channels and a glitchy interface, but great for casual viewers who want live TV at a lower price

What we like

  • Low cost
  • Customizable with add-ons
  • Intuitive interface
What we dislike

  • Confusing plans
  • On-the-go glitches
  • Difficulty sharing

Although Sling TV doesn’t have nearly as much content or as good of an interface as the rest of the services on this list, we had to call it out for its value. It’s the cheapest live TV streaming service we found that could replace a traditional cable TV subscription.

If you just want access to some live news, national sports, and some popular channels, you can get that with Sling TV for as little as $40 per month. If you want local channels, you’ll have to invest in an HD antenna to catch those waves over the air, but if you’re not opposed to a little DIY, you could cut your streaming almost bill in half, compared to the other services on this list.

You won’t get any bells or whistles with Sling TV. You get just 50 hours of DVR storage, 31–50 channels, a buggy interface, and barriers to sharing your subscription with multiple users. If any of those are a no-go and you’re willing to pay more for better features and more content, check out the other providers on this list. But if all that seems doable, Sling TV could be the right fit for you.

What to consider when choosing live TV streaming services

Streaming now accounts for over a third of all TV watched in the US, (1) but there are tons of streaming services out there. If you’re looking for a live TV streaming option to replace your current subscription or a cable TV plan, sorting through the options can feel challenging. And with all the free trials and signup deals companies offer, it’s easy to get distracted from your true goal: to watch your favorite TV shows and events for a reasonable price. Here’s what to keep in mind when shopping for live TV streaming services to find the right one for you and your family.

What you want to watch

What are your must-have shows, live sports, news, and movies? What are your nice-to-haves? What do your family or roommates want to watch? Make a list of all the shows or channels you can’t live without and let this guide you on your quest. An intuitive interface and lots of bells and whistles are great, but if you end up with a subscription that doesn’t let you watch your favorite team or all the Golden Girls reruns you could ever want (we know you’re out there, superfan), you’ll be disappointed.

What kind of content is on your list? If it’s mostly reruns and movies, maybe you don’t even need a live TV subscription. Live TV shines when it comes to watching your teams, staying updated on current events, and chatting up your co-workers about the latest episode of Real Housewives the next day (and avoiding spoilers at the office). But if these aren’t your goals, you might not need live TV at all.

If all you want are a handful of local channels like FOX, ABC, and CBS, you can probably get them for free if you invest in an HD antenna. Or maybe your heart’s desire is simply binge-watching Law and Order reruns after a long day or having a good cry with the help of a romance movie. If that’s you, then maybe an on-demand streaming service like Netflix or regular Hulu will get you what you need. These services are nearly always cheaper than live TV, so save yourself some dough.

But if you discover that live TV really is the right move, great! You can use your list of shows and sports to shop plans and add-ons to see what you’d need to pay to get what you want—and which providers just don’t make the cut.

Your budget

Let’s talk money. If you’re cutting the cord to get away from cable or satellite TV’s high fees and hidden costs, then you likely have a budget in mind. The good news is, most live TV streaming services are cheaper than traditional cable or satellite, but not always. And most live TV streaming services don’t charge hidden fees, though we’ve seen regional sports fees with at least one (tisk, tisk, fubo).

With TV, it’s tempting to shell out just a few more dollars on an upgrade or seven—just in case HBO comes out with the next big show everyone will be talking about. But you don’t have to get stuck in that mindset because streaming services don’t have contracts. Just pay month-to-month instead of annually, then add and subtract upgrades or ditch the plan altogether for a different service whenever you want.

Whatever your monthly TV budget, you can mix and match, binge what you want, and jump ship whenever. So set the budget you want and make the streaming services fall in line. You’re in charge here.

Who will be watching

Some live TV streaming services are better than others at letting you share your subscription. Keep an eye on how many simultaneous streams each service offers (three is pretty common). Consider whether you can create separate profiles for each user—or if you’ll be left wondering which episode of House of the Dragon you’re on if your roommate gets ahead of you. And if you plan to record shows, how fast will your DVR fill up and what happens to TV episodes when you hit the limit?

Finally, if your little ones will be watching, what kind of parental controls does a service have—and will your clever kids be able to get around them?

Your internet setup and devices

Your tech situation is as unique as you are. Will you want to watch shows mainly with your home theater setup in your family room? Or on your phone while waiting at the dentist? Or maybe you like to have a show running in the background on your computer to help get you through the workday (don’t worry, we won’t tell your boss). Some streaming services work better on different devices, and sometimes the browser experience is better or worse than the app.

Unlike cable or satellite TV, streaming services use your internet connection. If you don’t have the right setup, your watching experience could get really frustrating really fast. Most streaming services need only about 5–25 Mbps of bandwidth to function, but that’s usually per stream. More users mean you’ll need more bandwidth. And if you plan to stream 4K content or use your internet for other things like Zoom calls or online gaming, consider those needs too.

It’s probably also time to bust out the fine print of your internet and cell phone plans. Do they have data caps? If so, switching from traditional cable TV to streaming will cause you to eat through your limit more quickly. Consider purchasing more data up front to avoid surprise overages or painful throttling—or switching to mobile and internet providers that offer unlimited data.

Finally, consider your Wi-Fi setup. Most devices don’t even have the option for a wired connection, so Wi-Fi is a must for streaming. And if you have a large house, live with multiple people, or are within range of lots of other networks (like in an apartment complex), your available Wi-Fi bandwidth might be lower than expected. Consider upgrading your router or adding more repeaters to ensure you’ll get plenty of bandwidth in any room where you’ll want to watch. And don’t forget to consider these costs in your TV budget.

Traditional TV providers near you

Plenty of cable and satellite TV providers are expensive, charge hidden fees, have poor customer service, or require a contract. It’s why so many people are switching to live TV streaming services. But don’t jump on the bandwagon just because others are. Some lucky dogs live in an area with a great, low-cost TV provider, so don’t count them out! Look around and see if your local provider can give you everything you want at a competitive price. It never hurts to have options, right?

Want to learn more?

In addition to testing multiple services, our experts have put together some streaming resources to help you get the bigger picture—or dive into the nitty gritty details, depending on what will help you make the best choice. You can also learn more about internet service, since you’ll need a solid plan to stream seamlessly, and traditional TV, in case streaming isn’t your jam after all.

How we rate live TV providers

Our first priority is to make your life easier when switching services so you feel confident you’ve found the right TV experience for you. And although you might get along better with people who watch what you do (I’ll fight anyone who thinks Stranger Things is overrated), what you’re looking for is probably pretty different from your friend, co-worker, or neighbor. So when ranking live TV streaming services, we tried to account for individual preference and input from real viewers like you, as well as data about popular channels and shows.

Our research told us that value, content, features, and usability are top concerns for streaming shoppers, so that’s what we focused on.

Content

Once we had an overview of the channels you’d get, we dove into what you could actually watch, including live sports, news, TV shows, and hit movies. Although all the services we tested had plenty of on-demand content, we focused more on things you can’t get from the Netflixes of the world, like live and local sports, news, and brand new episodes of your favorite network shows.

For those more interested in syndicated shows or classic TV, we figured an on-demand streaming service was probably more your style anyway.

Value

Live TV streaming services are often cheaper than cable or satellite TV providers, and that’s why a lot of people are cutting the cord. But we want to make sure that a lower price tag doesn’t mean missing your favorite shows or going without features that you love.

To gauge value, we pored over channel lineups to see if they included America’s favorite channels—or a lot of filler channels, which feel more like on-demand libraries with inconvenient start times than actual live TV. We also compared plan options to what you might pay with a cable TV company for a similar lineup.

Features and usability

Evaluating features really comes down to who’s in your household, how much you plan to record shows versus watch them live, and your tolerance for commercials. Some streaming services made it super easy to share an account by allowing for multiple profiles and having robust parental controls. Others...not so much (Hulu + Live TV and Sling TV).

Commercials are always a challenge when watching live TV, but some services offer higher-cost plans or DVR recording options that let you skip commercials on replay. Others simply subjected viewers to fewer commercials overall. We considered how each strategy affected our watching experience—and our patience levels.

Finally, we tested how the interface performed across multiple streaming devices. Was it easy to find the right app and get logged in for the first time? And did that get easier on subsequent logins? Could we switch devices, max out the number of simultaneous streams, and find our shows quickly?

In short, we wanted to know if watching content felt like a relaxing night on the couch with our favorite people—or more like troubleshooting a home theater system that’s always on the fritz.

Overall customer experience

While you’re less likely to interact with a customer service representative with streaming apps than traditional cable providers, it’s still possible you’ll run into trouble. That’s why we also looked at how easy the service’s website is to navigate, how thorough its self-help tools are, and how easy it is to talk to an actual human.

And since being able to jump ship at any time is a huge draw for streaming services, we also considered how easy it is to cancel service—and restart later when March Madness starts or the new season of your favorite show starts.

See for yourself

If you’re not quite ready to choose a live TV streaming provider, don’t sweat it. Most services don’t require a contract, and free trials are really common. That makes it easy to try out a few services to see what you like—or jump between services when one of them adds something you just can’t miss. Happy streaming!

Affiliate marketing and how we make money

Our goal is to help you make the best entertainment choice for you, whether that’s one of these live streaming services, traditional cable or satellite TV, or on-demand video apps. (Or skipping TV altogether and building squirrel obstacle courses in your free time instead.) We want to make it easier for you to do your thing.

That said, our experts get very hungry when we don’t feed them (like the squirrels) and sad when we make them sit in the dark. That’s why we have partnerships with some companies that pay us a referral fee when you click or call after reading our reviews.

To keep things on the level, our editorial team doesn’t know which companies pay us and which don’t, so these partnerships can’t influence their ratings or opinions. Instead, they focus on answering all your questions about which services will give you the most bang for your buck, based on your needs, not ours. We hope to remove the obstacles between you and a great entertainment experience so you can just enjoy your squirrel food—er, favorite shows.


The people behind our research
We believe the best information comes from first-hand customer experience and methodical research by subject-matter experts. We never source information from "content farms," and we don’t generate content using artificial intelligence (AI). You can trust that our recommendations are fact-checked meticulously and sourced appropriately by authentic, industry-recognized people.
Contributing researcher
Headshot of Kathryn Casna
Researched by
Kathryn CasnaSenior Staff Writer

Kathryn is a consumer advocate writer who helps people quickly and easily find the best products and services for their needs. Over the last decade, she's helped people navigate everything from Internet companies to Medicare plans to business software. When she's not geeking out about saving her readers time and money, you'll find her climbing the rocks of Utah—or asleep in her favorite hammock.

Contributing reviewers
Headshot of Bri Field
Reviewed by
Bri FieldAssigning Editor

Bri Field has a background in academia, research writing, and brand marketing. She has edited scientific publications, conference papers, digital content, and technical communications. As Assigning Editor, she enjoys ensuring all content is accurate, clear, and helpful. In her free time, you can find her in the kitchen trying a new recipe, out on a hike, or working through her massive TBR list.

Headshot of Michal Ash
Reviewed by
Michal AshManaging Editor

Michal directs the Switchful content strategy and leads the editorial team. With a bachelor’s degree in Communications, she has more than a decade of experience in the world of marketing communications. Her diverse career has included public relations, brand development, digital strategies, and more; her key skillset has always been centered around strategic efforts for consumer-focused initiatives. In her free time, you can find her camping with friends, chasing waterfalls on her kayak, or searching for the best restaurants in Salt Lake City.