If you want to get rid of your cable or satellite TV package but still want access to live TV channels, streaming TV services like Sling TV and YouTube TV may seem like an appealing alternative. Although they promote themselves as cable replacements, none of them exactly replicate the experience of a cable or satellite subscription. In some ways, that’s a good thing—but streaming TV brings its own set of frustrations, too.
We’ve already done an article about cutting the cord—that is, choosing to cancel your cable or satellite service and to get your shows through streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu. Those video-on-demand (VOD) services let you watch what you want, whenever you want, so they’re great for binge-watching, trying out new shows, or catching a previously aired episode.
But if you still want to enjoy live TV—to see This Is UsUrban Russian Skull Birkenstocks Lookbook Blazer R Shorts Bethany Outfitters - Running Arizona Ghoulish Tank or Doctor Who right when it airs, to watch college football on Saturday afternoon, or to catch the nightly news—the VOD approach doesn’t cut it. An over-the-air antenna can tune in local live channels like ABC, CBS, and NBC, but not cable channels like BBC America, ESPN, Fox Sports, TNT, USA, and the rest.
That’s where a streaming TV package comes into play. It’s a construct similar to a cable or satellite package, only instead of relying on a rented set-top box to deliver your content, all you need is a Web browser or an app on your smartphone, tablet, streaming media player, or smart TV.
The best-known streaming TV services are Sling TV, DirecTV Now, YouTube TV, PlayStation Vue, and Hulu + Live TV. The table below offers a quick overview of the major (and a few lesser-known) streaming TV options, with information on cost, channels, DVR capability, and more.
Streaming TV packages
|Starting price||Number of
channels in the
|Can you add
channels to the
|Local channels?1||Cloud DVR||Number of
|Sling TV OrangeFalcons Atlanta Falcons Jersey Colors 2||$25||30+||Yes||No||$5 per month for 50 hours, with channel restrictions||One|
|Sling TV Blue2||$25||45+||Yes||Limited||$5 per month for 50 hours, with channel restrictions||Three|
|YouTube TV||$50||60+||Yes||Yes||Unlimited storage||Three|
|PlayStation Vue||$45||50+||Yes||Yes||Up to 500 programs at once||Five|
|Hulu + Live TV||$45||65+||Yes||Yes||50 hours of storage (upgrade to 200 hours for $15 per month)||Two (upgrade to unlimited streams for $15 per month)|
|DirecTV Now||$50||35+||Yes||Yes||Falcons Atlanta Falcons Jersey Colors 20 hours of storage (upgrade to 100 hours for $10 per month)Minnesota 2019 Jersey Timberwolves Christmas||Three|
|Philo||$16||40+||Yes||Falcons Atlanta Falcons Jersey Colors No||Unlimited storage||Three|
|com - Interceptado Rosa La Pinta Español De En Noticias Nfl Se||$55||80+||Yes||Limited||30 hours of storage (upgrade to 500 hours for $10 per month)||One (upgrade to three for $6 per month)|
Why there isn’t a best streaming TV service
We have yet to find a streaming TV service that hits all the right notes in terms of channel offerings, user-friendliness, signal quality, and price. Each one seems to fall short in some key way—the lineup is missing highly coveted channels, the interface is hard to use, the quality is unreliable, or the DVR function is poorly executed.
Falcons Atlanta Falcons Jersey Colors Plus, a lot of variables are at play. The “best” service for you will depend almost entirely on what particular TV channels you want and how much you want to spend, compared with what you can get from cable or satellite providers in your area.
The availability of certain channels—namely, local channels like ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox—varies based on where you live. So do the speed and quality of Internet service. That means the streaming TV experience is not consistent for everyone across the country.
So, instead of trying to declare a winner, we decided to explore the pros and cons of streaming TV so that you can make an educated decision about whether this approach is right for you.
The pros of streaming TV
The starting price can be lower
You can get 30-plus live TV channels for $25 per month or less if you go with Sling TV, Philo, or AT&T WatchTV (this service is actually free for some AT&T Wireless customers). These packages do include more higher-tier channels than you normally get with the most basic cable package but are more limited in terms of local channels and major sports or news networks—and you may be able to watch your shows on only one device at a time. If you’re willing to jump to $45 to $50 per month, you can get a more well-rounded package. Considering that the average price of cable or satellite was about $107 in 2018, paying $45 to $50 is still a pretty good deal.
More customization options
Most of these services allow you to build upon the base package in some way. Many of them let you add premium channels such as HBO and Showtime. Some, like PlayStation Vue and DirecTV Now, offer higher-tier packages with a lot more channels. And some, like Sling TV, offer add-on mini-packs of channels geared toward specific interests such as kids programming, sports, or news. It isn’t truly “à la carte” programming, where you get to pick the exact channels you want, but it is a little more flexible than a giant cable or satellite package with lots of channels you’ll never watch.
No long-term contracts
Most streaming TV services offer a five- or seven-day free trial to test out the service, and all of them allow you to cancel at any time. You’re not locked into a long-term contract to get an advertised price, as is usually the case with cable and satellite service. This provides a nice degree of flexibility to audition the different services and add or cancel them as you wish. For instance, I’m a huge football fan, so I’ll usually subscribe to a streaming TV service in August and then cancel it in February.
No equipment rentals
With cable or satellite TV, you need at least one primary set-top box in your home (and usually more, if you want service in multiple rooms), and that requires paying monthly rental fees to your provider. Streaming TV does not require any equipment rentals, but you do need to own a device that either has a Web browser or supports the streaming app for the service you choose. Pretty much all of the major services have an app for iOS and Android, as well as the Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, and Roku platforms. You can buy a streaming stick for $50 or less, so it’s not too expensive to get your hands on a compatible device if you don’t already own one.
Because these services are Internet-based, you can watch your live TV (and recorded shows, if a cloud DVR is included) anywhere in the US where you have a network connection. Depending on the service, there may be some restrictions on what live programming you can watch outside of your home viewing area; this limitation applies mostly to local channels and regional sports networks. Most (but not all) of these services allow you to stream different content to different devices simultaneously, and some even allow you to invite remote family members to share your subscription.
The cons of streaming TV
You may not get all of your local channels
If you want to watch anything live on ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, or The CW, the first thing you need to check is whether a certain service offers those channels in your area. Lower-priced services like Sling TV Orange, AT&T WatchTV, and Philo don’t offer local channels anywhere; services like YouTube TV and DirecTV Now offer them almost everywhere, but there are still a few places where you can’t get certain channels. You can make up for the absence of local channels with an over-the-air antenna and a TV tuner if you live in a place where you can reliably tune in these stations, but that’s more equipment to contend with.
DVR functionality varies widely
When you use a cable or satellite box with a built-in DVR, you know what to expect. Sure, some are better than others, but the core functionality is the same. You choose shows to record, with the option to do first-run only or repeats. You can set the recording to start early or run late. You can delete things you’ve watched or mark how long to keep them. And most important, you can pause, rewind, and fast-forward the recordings, which allows you to skip commercials.
With streaming TV, the DVR functionality is all over the map. Some services don’t offer it, some offer it for an extra fee, and some include it in the base price with unlimited storage. You can’t always specify which episodes you want to record or keep, episodes may suddenly become unavailable, some channels may not support pause, rewind, and commercial skip at all, and some providers will replace a recorded episode with an on-demand version (and force you to watch all of the ads in it). Streaming TV DVR functionality gets the job done, but you may not like it as much as your cable or satellite DVR.
Prices keep going up
Having no long-term contract is great, right? It means you can cancel the service whenever you want. But it also means that the service providers can raise their prices whenever they want—and that’s been happening pretty consistently. As these providers compete to add the most desirable channels, they’re forced to raise their rates. All of the major providers have increased their base price at least once since launch. In the past three months alone, YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV, DirecTV Now, and FuboTV have all announced price hikes. As the prices continue to tick upward, their value over a lower-tier cable or satellite package grows more questionable.
Channel lineups aren’t consistent
Providers often add channels to their lineup, but they also take away channels. Cable and satellite customers are used to contract disputes that result in the occasional blackout of a channel or group of channels, but sooner or later the two sides work it out and you get your shows back. Streaming TV providers have been known to drop channels with little notice, and those channels may never return.
The service performance is tied to your Internet
Streaming TV requires high-speed Internet. This may not be a “con” if you already have fast, reliable, non-capped Internet service. But if you don’t, you may need to upgrade to a better (read: more expensive) Internet and/or cellular plan. Also, if your home Internet service goes down, you could lose your TV signal, too (or at least have to switch to a device with mobile broadband). And even the fastest Internet service sometimes experiences congestion and slowdowns, which may degrade the signal quality.
The AV quality isn’t as good
Many of today’s top TV shows are mixed in Dolby Digital 5.1, but streaming TV channels are often limited to stereo sound (with the exception of some on-demand content). The video resolution can vary based on what device you’re using to watch the content; it generally maxes out at a 720p resolution, but again it can drop much lower depending on your network’s speed and reliability. Some cable and satellite providers now broadcast a limited amount of live programming in 4K, and VOD services like Netflix and Amazon Video offer a lot of TV shows in 4K with Dolby Digital Plus or even Atmos sound (especially their original programming). You don’t get that with a streaming TV service.
Is a streaming TV package right for you?
Have you seen the Sling TV commercials with Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman that play off the idea of being a swinger? That’s an apt metaphor to describe the streaming TV customer—someone who wants the freedom to explore their options, doesn’t want to make any long-term commitments, and doesn’t mind an experience that’s different from the way they’ve always done it. You gotta be flexible, man.
On the other hand, if you’re more of a “set it and forget it” type who just wants to make a decision on a TV provider or package, set up some gear, and then hopefully never have to think about it again, a traditional cable or satellite subscription is probably the better way to go. Hardcore sports fans who want access to the most local, regional, and national sports networks are also better off sticking with cable or satellite, although the sports-centric com - Interceptado Rosa La Pinta Español De En Noticias Nfl Se streaming service is worth a look.
If you’re still wondering whether to give this streaming TV thing a try, the best thing to do is to make a list of the channels that you (and your family) consider to be must-haves. Then see which services deliver those channels. Do the free trial, cancel at the end, and compare notes. While you have each service, test out the DVR function (if one exists). Explore the interface on every type of device you think you’ll use: your phone, your computer, your TV, and so on. No matter how affordable and flexible a service is, if you don’t like the way it presents your content, that’s the ultimate dealbreaker.
1. Ty Pendlebury and David Katzmaier, Finals Raptors Toronto Thesandesh 3ea7ac36 T Red Shirt com - 2019, CNET, April 10, 2019
2. Marshall Honorof, Best (and Worst) Cable-Replacement Services, Tom’s Guide, May 2, 2019