Best live TV streaming services in May 2024: find what's right for you

YouTube TV app on Google TV
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Cord-cutting is all the rage these days, with people ditching their cable subscription in favor of streaming services or other alternatives. If you're looking to go cord-free too, but still want to watch all your favorite cable channels, then you're going to want to find the best live TV streaming service for you.

Live TV streaming services are digital platforms that let you watch cable channels over the internet, whether it's on your PC, smartphone, smart TV or streaming device. They tend to be cheaper than cable, with some bringing extra perks too, though they're almost all pricier than video-on-demand streaming services like Netflix, Disney Plus or Apple TV Plus.

So this list is slightly different to our round-up of the best streaming services overall, as it's for live TV streaming rather than digital libraries. There are many options on the market, so it can be hard to find one for you, but that's why What to Watch's experts are here.

We write about streaming services all the time, particularly for live TV watching, and so we know which are the best for different interests and watchers. Below we've ranked all the best services, covering their prices, their channels and what kind of watcher will enjoy them most, so you can pick which to subscribe to.

This list changes constantly, due to changes in each platform. Most recently we've seen Fubo drop a spot since it lost a few important channels.

By the way, if you're looking to save money on a live TV streaming service, our guide to the best streaming deals will help you monitor any ongoing discounts.

The best live TV streaming services

Sling TV free trial

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1. Sling TV

The best streaming service for adaptability

Specifications

Price per month: $40 / $40 / $55*
Number of channels: 31 / 41 / 47
Free trial?: No ($10 off first month)
Add-on channels?: Yes
DVR allotment: 50 hours
Best for: Cost savers

Reasons to buy

+
Cheaper than competitors
+
Frequent sign-up deals

Reasons to avoid

-
Smaller channel selection
-
Higher price in certain regions

We recommend Sling TV as the best live TV streaming service simply because of how adaptable it is — instead of paying a huge lump cost for a huge package of channels, the service costs a little less and lets you customize your subscription.

There are two Sling TV plans: Orange and Blue, with the former focused more on sports channels (though there's lots of overlap, and you can use our guide to the Sling TV packages for more information). Then, there are loads of add-on packages to get you certain channels if there's one or two you particularly like.

All this might admittedly confuse some users, who just want to click "sign up" and get all the channels they want, and if that's you we'd recommend looking at the other options on this list.

And there are some glaring holes in Sling TV's line-up, with FXX, PBS, Golf Channel, ABC News Live and some other important channels absent.

However for people who want to cut costs as well as cables, and don't need every single channel out there, Sling's lower price than its competitors (especially when you factor in the commonplace sign-up deals) makes it the best live TV streaming service.

*in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area, the cost is $5 higher, as you also get local networks ABC, CBS and Fox. In Houston, Raleigh and Fresno, you get these channels but without the higher price.


Hulu Live sports add-on

(Image credit: Hulu)

2. Hulu with Live TV

Disney's TV live streaming service

Specifications

Price per month: $69.99
Number of channels: 101
Free trial?: No
Add-on channels?: Yes
DVR alloment: 50 hours
Best for: Entertainment fans

Reasons to buy

+
Includes the Disney Bundle
+
Growing channel list

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited DVR time
-
Add-ons quickly get pricey

The name Hulu with Live TV is very literal — Disney's live TV streaming service lets you watch over 100 channels (depending on your area), but it has an extra perk that lets it easily justify its place as the second-ranked service on this list.

Hulu with Live TV has a slightly higher price than some rivals, but it includes three top streaming services: Hulu, Disney Plus and ESPN Plus (a trio collectively known as the Disney Bundle), so you're actually getting plenty of content besides the TV streaming itself.

Unlike some other streaming services, Hulu's channel list has been slowly increasing over time, so there's less of a chance of your favorite channel being pulled just before the next episode of your favorite show.

While most of the main important channels are covered in Hulu with Live TV's library, the service is best recommended for entertainment fans, thanks to Hulu being packaged in and lots of other services being offered for extra fees too.

So while Hulu's service isn't as cheap as Sling and doesn't have quite as many channels as YouTube TV, it's still a worthy pick.


YouTube TV has a single set of channels for $65 a month.

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3. YouTube TV

Affordable with a big library

Specifications

Price per month: $72.99
Number of channels: 121
Free trial?: 14 days
Add-on channels?: Yes
DVR allotment: Unlimited (for up to 9 months from recording)
Best for: General viewers

Reasons to buy

+
Big selection of channels
+
Cheaper than close rivals

Reasons to avoid

-
Confusing mix of YouTube platforms
-
Recent price rise

Google-owned YouTube has its own live TV streaming service, and this service, YouTube TV, is the best streaming service for people with a higher budget.

With all the important channels, including a huge selection of sports, entertainment and news networks, YouTube TV can easily become your one-stop shop for streaming entertainment, with plenty of extra channels and services you can add to the bundle.

While YouTube TV isn't the cheapest live TV streaming service out there, it's definitely not the most expensive either, with a lower price than some of the other big names. 

It's easy to confuse YouTube TV with the many other similarly-named YouTube platforms, including the main video site, YouTube Premium, YouTube Shorts, YouTube PrimeTime Channels (the ability to subscribe to other streaming services within YouTube, which can be bundled into YouTube TV if you want); the list goes on. This combined with the many add-on packages (including other streaming services like HBO Max or premium cable channels) might confuse people who want a simple sign-up process.

We also should point out that YouTube is rumored to be testing a FAST service — that stands for Free Ad-Supported TV — so YouTube TV could change a lot very soon. But for now, YouTube TV is a solid and relatively inexpensive service which we'd recommend.


FuboTV

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4. FuboTV

The sports streaming platform

Specifications

Price per month: $74.99 / $84.99 / $94.99
Number of channels: 130 / 190 / 230
Free trial?: 7 days
Add-on channels?: Yes
DVR allotment: 1,000 hours
Best for: Sports fans

Reasons to buy

+
Lots of DVR space
+
Plenty of channels offered

Reasons to avoid

-
Price creeping higher
-
Frequent channel changes

Fubo began life as an affordable streaming service for sport fans, but it quickly grew into something much bigger. Now it's one of the most channel-packed live TV services, though it's also quite a pricey one.

There are two main reasons why you should consider FuboTV: firstly, it has plenty of channels, offering 130 on its lowest tier and 230 more if you don't mind paying extra. Secondly, it has a lot more DVR space than most of the other services on this list.

Admittedly those extra channels come at a cost, with FuboTV being a little pricier than YouTube and Hulu's live TV services — and that's even without the mandatory Regional Sports Network fees, which mean you'll be paying even more..

However for people who want those smaller channels, which might not be offered by the other live TV streaming services (especially sports ones, with plenty of niche ones available on Fubo), this TV platform is worth considering.

One point of confusion could be the many different price points you can sign up at, but we've got a guide to the various Fubo packages to help you get your head around them.


The Philo TV app displaying on a TV screen

(Image credit: Future)

5. Philo TV

A budget live TV streaming service

Specifications

Price per month: $25
Number of channels: 72
Free trial?: 7 days
Add-on channels?: Yes
DVR allotment: Unlimited
Best for: Money savers

Reasons to buy

+
Very low price
+
Unlimited DVR

Reasons to avoid

-
Major channels missing

If you've seen the price of Philo TV above and are already half-way through signing up, we'd recommend you hold your horses: this super-affordable live TV service has a few rough edges that you need to consider before you spend.

Philo TV's selling point is its price, but it's this cheap because many major news, entertainment and sports channels are missing. There's no ESPN, no Fox, no CNN, the list goes on. These are often more expensive for a cable provider to offer, so Philo TV strips them out to give you a more affordable package.

You're left with an odd smattering of some of the affordable channels, but there's a lot still to like with the Cooking Channel, BBC World News, Sundance TV, A&E and so on — we'd recommend checking out the full channel lineup here.

A few cheap extra packages let you expand with more channels, but still, Philo TV isn't really the service for you if you want the entire spectrum of TV channels at your fingertips.

But if you're looking to save money and don't mind the particular channel selection, Philo TV could be a worthwhile pick.


A TV with the DirecTV displaying on it

(Image credit: Future)

6. DirecTV

A high-priced streaming powerhouse

Specifications

Price per month: $74.99 / $99.99 / $109.99 / $154.99
Number of channels: 75 / 105 / 140 / 150
Free trial?: 5 days
Add-on channels?: No
DVR allotment: Unlimited (for up to 9 months from recording)
Best for: People for whom money is no issue

Reasons to buy

+
Top options include many streaming services
+
Stream on unlimited devices

Reasons to avoid

-
Higher price than rivals

The reason DirecTV is so low on our list is because of its price — we wouldn't blame you for seeing that $154.99 price mentioned above and feeling your eyes glaze over. And it's true that DirecTV is more expensive than its rivals, but it may well be worth it.

There are four tiers of DirecTV : Entertainment costs $74.99 monthly and gets you 75 channels, primarily the core entertainment ones. Choice, for $99.99 per month, brings 30 extra sports channels, like NBA and MLB ones. Ultimate, at $109.99, has even more channels at 140, as well as the sports channels, and the $154.99 monthly Premier tier bundles in loads of extra streaming services, including Showtime and HBO Max.

For a more in-depth breakdown of those tiers, we've got an article on the DirecTV packages and plans.

Even at its cheapest DirecTV costs more than some others on this list, but with unlimited DVR (for recordings up to nine months old), a five-day free trial, the ability to stream on as many extra devices as you want, deals on extra streaming services and an absolutely massive channel list for its pricier tiers, it could well be worth considering.

You can buy DirecTV Stream as part of your package. This streaming device costs an extra $10 per month (or $120 upfront). It's a streaming device that'll be handy if you don't have a smart TV, letting you access all your apps and channels at the press of a button (or via voice commands).

Again, it's one extra expense, but if you have money to spare, or enough people to share the cost between, DirecTV is one to consider.

Spanish-language live TV streaming services

As well as the above live TV streaming services, there are a few more Spanish-language ones that focus on channels that provide Spanish coverage.

Image

FuboTV Latino Plan
For $32.99 per month, FuboTV's Latino Plan lets you access 44 different Spanish-language channels, including TUDN, Univision and ESPN Deportes. It comes with 250 hours of DVR and two-screen viewing.
Find out more at FuboTV here

Image

YouTube TV Spanish Plan
YouTube also has a Spanish-language plan, which costs $34.99 each month and gets you 28 channels. You also get unlimited DVR storage and up to six accounts per household.
Find out more at YouTube TV here

Free live TV streaming services

If you don't want to pay for your live TV streaming service, you could use something known as a FAST. We've got a guide to the best free streaming services, but here are the highlights.

FAST stands for Free Ad-Supported Television — these services don't make you pay, but sprinkle ads throughout your content (and often don't have as long channel list as the main platforms).

Here are a few of the biggest FAST services:

  • Tubi has plenty of live TV channels as well as a library of movies and TV shows
  • FreeVee is primarily a video-on-demand service but it has certain live channels too
  • Pluto TV has hundreds of channels over a broad selection of categories
  • The Roku Channel lets Roku customers see loads of free movies and TV, with some live channels too
  • Sling Free is a no-cost alternative to Sling TV with on-demand and live television

Live TV streaming services: frequently asked questions

How do I pick the best live TV streaming service?

Your preference in live TV will dictate which service is best for you.

For example, if you mainly use your TV for news, finding the cheapest service that offers the channels you frequent is all you need. 

However if you prefer sport, which is generally scattered across many different channels, something all-encompassing with plenty of channels is more important. 

Make sure that the streaming service you're looking at has your favorite channels if you subscribe.

Price is also a major factor, as live TV services cost a lot more than typical streaming services, so you'll need to make sure you're not paying loads for channels you're not using.

What devices do live TV streaming services need?

Generally, live TV streaming services need smart devices to connect to, so they can stream the shows from the internet.

Smart TVs are likely what you'll use, like sets running Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV and so on. Most streaming services run on all smart TVs systems, but we'd double check before you subscribe.

Lots of the services work on other internet-connected devices too like streaming sticks, smartphones and tablets, computers and gaming consoles.

What's the difference between a live TV streaming service and a VOD platform?

There are loads of different types of streaming services, and live TV is just one of them, as is VOD. It can get confusing how the phrase "streaming service" can refer to lots of other things.

VOD stands for Video on Demand, and it's the technical name for platforms like Netflix, Disney Plus, Prime Video and so on. These platforms let you browse through a library of videos and watch at will.

Live TV services mainly let you watch cable channels over the internet, instead of browsing through a list of videos. However there's a lot of crossover, with plenty of live TV services also having small libraries.

Are there live TV streaming services in the UK?

The UK has plenty of live TV streaming services, and they have one big difference from the US ones.

While most US streaming services are paid, in the UK they're free to use (as long as you pay your annual license fee).

You can use iPlayer for BBC, ITVX for ITV, All 4 for Channel 4, My5 for channel 5 and so on. These services are both VOD and live TV services, offering libraries and live TV to pick between.

Tom Bedford
Streaming and Ecommerce Writer

Tom is the streaming and ecommerce writer at What to Watch, covering streaming services in the US and UK. His goal is to help you navigate the busy and confusing online video market, to help you find the TV, movies and sports that you're looking for without having to spend too much money.