Your cable bill doubled again. You got drawn in by that great deal and then after the introductory period was up —you got punched in the gut with a massive price increase. And all you wanted was a way to kick back, watch Real Housewives, and enjoy a glass of wine after work.
You’re not the only one. In fact, 762,000 people cut the cord in the first 3 months of 2017 for this very reason. While you could give up everything and install an antenna or just subscribe to Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime Video — sometimes you still want Live TV from major cable networks.
Good news. There are now 6 different major services that allow you stream Live TV from major networks for less than $40/mo. With the average cable plan approaching $100 per month, that means you could save ~$700 year by switching to a skinny bundle from a Live TV Streaming Service.
What’s a Skinny Bundle?
It’s kind of like if you put your cable subscription on a diet. They cut out some of hundreds of channel you’d never watch and instead you get ~50 channels including locals, regional sports networks, and some of the top cable channels.
There’s no annual commitment and no introductory rate (so you’re price won’t magically double the next year).
How We Picked The Best Live TV Streaming Service
Despite what our parents told us, we finally lived out of dreams of watching TV like it was our job…because it was.
Unfortunately, picking the best wasn’t easy.
The FOMOPOP Team spent over 100 hours subscribing, streaming, recording, on-demanding, and watching Live TV. We used an Apple TV, Roku, Fire TV, Chromecast, VIZIO TV, iPhone, Nexus 6p, and MacBook Pro just to name a few.
After watching more than 47 shows (and more Real Housewives, Fixer Upper, and This is Us than we would be willing to admit), we compared the streaming services on channel selection, stream stability & quality, special features, and user experience.
To see the full list of criteria and each service rating across each — check out our full review.
And the winner is…
After careful consideration — we felt that DIRECTV NOW was the “Best Pick for Most People and Playstation Vue was the Best Pick for Sports Fans. If you want to save a little money, Sling Blue was our Best Pick for Your Budget.
Best for Most People - DIRECTV NOW “Live a Little” Plan ($35/mo.)
Their “Live a Little” package includes 34 of the Top 35 cable channels, local channels in most major markets, includes apps for all major platforms, and Live TV streaming was very stable.
To put in perspective the strength of their channel selection —DIRECTV NOW offered 25% more top cable channels than any other service. On top of that, you can add HBO for just $5/mo. which is $10 less than if you subscribed to HBO Now.
FOMOPOP PRO TIP: If you have AT&T Unlimited Plan, you can get DIRECTV NOW for only $10/month including HBO.
It’s by no means perfect. Their on demand selection is weak and the on demand shows they do have have tons of streaming issues.
For shows that you can’t get on DIRECTV NOW directly, you can use your account to log-in to the channels own apps (like Bravo Now!). They offer this for 45 different channels, the second most of any service.
Unfortunately, they’re the only service that doesn’t offer a Cloud DVR. This totally sucks, but they are planning to roll it out later this year.
…but I really need a DVR like now — Playstation Vue “Access” Plan ($40/mo.)
While it’s more expensive than both DirecTV Now — Playstation Vue is the most complete of any of the services we tested. In fact, when we used Playstation Vue, it was the only service that felt like we still had our cable subscription without the contract and insane costs.
Their “Access” package includes 25 of the Top 35 cable channels, local channels in most major markets, a great user experience in their apps, an unlimited DVR, access to the most TV Everywhere apps, and the most stable Live TV streaming of any service we tested.
While we loved Playstation Vue, for most people, it’s too hard to pass up on better DirecTV’s channel selection and cheaper price.
Best for Sports Fans - Playstation Vue “Core” Plan ( $45/mo.)
One of the main reasons people don’t cut the cord is for live sports. Fortunately, there are already great options for sports fans.
While it’s more expensive in general than DirecTV Now — it is actually cheaper when it comes to sports.
You’ll have to upgrade to their $45/mo. Core Plan — but it’s so worth it. You get Regional Sports Networks (RSNs), NFL Network, NBA TV, MLB Network, Big 10 Network, SEC Network, and ESPNU.
For these same channels on DirecTV Now, you would need to spend at least $60/mo. and they don’t offer NFL Network.
You can also add NFL RedZone for an additional $10/mo.
Besides that, Playstation Vue is the most complete of any of the services we tested. In fact, it was the only service that felt like we still had our cable subscription without the contract and insane costs.
Best for Your Budget - Sling TV “Blue” ($25/mo.)
We get it — this still might be more than you’re willing to pay. We took a look and made some budget picks if you’re willing to sacrifice channel selection to save a little bit more money.
Sling TV is the only provider that really unbundles your cable package. They are the only entry-level package under $30. You do get what you pay for.
You’ll only get 19 of the Top 35 cable channels and locals from NBC & FOX. You won’t get any channels from ABC/Disney/ESPN and stream stability was just average.
With that being said, for the price you do still get a good value and it’s a great option if you are trying to save money. You will get channels across a wide variety of genres: News (CNN), Entertainment (E!, Bravo, HGTV, TNT, TBS, SyFy, etc.), and Sports (local RSNs, NBCSN & FS1).
We chose this over their cheaper Sling Orange plan ($20/mo.) because while it gives you Disney & ESPN, you get absolutely no local channels and 11 fewer channels (including 6 major ones), and you can only stream on one device at a time (vs. 3 on Sling Blue).
For Sports Fans — Sling “Blue” + Sports Extra ($35/mo.)
If you’re a sports fan, an interesting alternative is adding “Sports Extra” ($10/mo. add-on) to your Sling “Blue” plan.
Unfortunately it doesn’t include ESPN, but you’ll get Regional Sports Networks (RSNs), NBCSN, FS1/FS2, TBS, TNT, NFL Network, NFL RedZone, NHL Network, NBA TV, and Pac-12 Network.
What about the other services?
The only services we didn’t recommend were YouTube TV, Hulu Live TV, and fuboTV. They weren’t bad by any means, they actually all had some very nice features — but overall we felt the others were better.
YouTube TV had our favorite interface of all the different services, but they didn’t have native apps for your TV and they had the weakest channel selection of all the services.
They didn’t support Roku or Fire TV and you had to Airplay to Apple TV and Cast to Chromecast. They do include an Unlimited DVR (that saves your shows for 8 months) and free access to YouTube Red Original series.
Hulu Live TV
If you already subscribe to Hulu, this is one of the cheaper options. It’s $40/mo, but only an additional $32 if you already have a Hulu subscription.
Their channel selection is relatively weak (except if you like College Football) and they make you watch commercials on shows you record to your DVR (unless you pay them $14.99/mo. for an upgrade).
While we didn’t like the interface of their apps, they have been very active in updating the service since they launched — so we expect improvements over time.
If you are a big soccer fan, fuboTV might be the right service to you. They include Fox Soccer Plus, which is normally a $15 add-on to other services.
Depending on the device you use, their apps can go from awesome (iOS) to awful (Roku). Their streaming wasn’t as stable as some of the other services and their DVR only keeps about 10 hours of shows for 10 days.
They are the only service without ABC, ESPN, and Disney on any of their plans.
Recap — Take the Leap to save $700/year
If you are looking to save a few hundred dollars year, but aren’t ready to give up Live TV — it’s worth dropping your cable subscription. Fortunately, they each give a free trial (5–14 days) so you can take them for a spin yourself.
Best for Most People — DirecTV Now
For most people though, DirecTV Now is the right pick. They have the best channel selection, stable live streaming, apps on all platforms, cheap HBO add-on, and is only $10/month (including HBO) if you are also an AT&T Plus subscriber.
They are running a promotion right now for a free Roku Premiere ($69 value) when you pre-pay for 2 months of service.
Best for Sports Fans— Playstation Vue
If you’re a sports fan, consider upgrading to Playstation Vue’s “Core” plan. You’ll get national sports channels, regional sports networks (RSNs), channels from your favorite pro leagues (except NHL) and college conferences.
Best for your Budget — Sling TV
If you’re looking to save money on either of our picks — check out Sling TV. Their Sling Blue package gets you a good set of channels, some locals, and regional sports networks. For $10 sports add-on, you get channels from pro leagues (except MLB) and NFL RedZone.
They are running a promotion right now for a free Roku Streaming Stick ($39 value) when you pre-pay for 2 months of service.
For a full comparison of all the services, including which channels are available — check out our full review on FOMOPOP.
Sorry, we now have to get back to watching Fixer Upper.