Live TV streaming services are enticing the public for the USA to turn away from traditional cable TV system and use internet live TV services instead. This process is called cord cutting. If you want to be a cord cutter, read this roundup of the best live TV streaming services of 2021.
On demand video streaming services are very popular. Systems such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are very well known, but these do not provide live TV services. Netflix is more like a video rental club, but live TV streamers can replace the entertainment packages that most people expect to have for home entertainment from cable TV.
Why you need live TV streaming services
An on demand content streaming service is nice to have, but most people still maintain subscriptions to cable TV and satellite TV systems. Live TV services remove the need to pay for cable TV and many of them have an on demand library of videos as well, so you won’t need Netflix either.
One thing that puts a lot of people off switch away from cable TV to live TV streaming is the thought of losing access to the big entertainment networks. However, ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox are all available on many online live TV streaming packages. Some live TV bundles include high-end cable channels such as ESPN, other services give access to premium addon channels, such as HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, and sports channels package extras. Many also include cloud DVR with cloud DVR storage space for free.
When you need streaming services
Moving home is a good time to decide on cord-cutting. One big problem that you will face if you already have a cable TV contract is that you usually can’t get out of it without paying an early termination fee (ETF). In this case, it would probably be better to wait until the contract period ends. The ETF on most TV contracts reduces month by month, so it might be financially viable for you to wait until you are within a few months of the end of your cable TV contract and cancel it then. The reduced ETF by then would be about the same amount of money that you would save by switching to a cheaper live TV streaming service.
If your family is growing up and leaving home, you will have an opportunity to review all of your household expenses. That might be a good time to move to a smaller home and unlock some equity. You certainly won’t need all of the TV channels that you used to subscribe to just to keep the kids quiet. This is a good time to consider switching from cable TV to internet live TV streaming services.
Any life-changing event is a good opportunity to join the cord-cutters and switch from cable TV to live tv streaming services.
How to choose a live TV streaming service and what to look for
There is a great range of live TV streaming services on the market in the USA today. Some live TV services are exactly the same as cable TV packages, only delivered over the internet. Other series are very cheap and even free but they don’t have those regular entertainment channels that you are used to, like ABC, Fox, NBC, and CBS.
Check out the best live TV offers to find the package that suits you. Unfortunately, all of the choice that’s available in live TV streaming services is actually a problem. On the one hand, some of the best streaming services are hard to find, while others spend a lot on advertising and drown out the competition. It isn’t a good idea to just subscribe to the first live TV streaming service that you encounter.
Cord-cutting requires a little research and you can make your decision easier by having a clear idea over exactly which entertainment channels and sports networks you need to have. Do you want addon channel packages, such as HBO, Starz, or Showtime? Is there a specific live sports channel you want, such as Fox Sports, ESPN, NHL, MLB, or NFL Network?
After listing your ideal channel bundle, consider your budget. If you want to get a live TV system for free, that can be done and your budget requirement will help to narrow down your options to arrive at one or two candidate live TV streaming services.
Live TV streaming services roundup
This roundup will help to guide you through all of the available live TV streaming services. We have narrowed down the choice to the seven best live TV streaming services for 2021:
- Sling TV
- AT&T TV Now
- Hulu + Live TV
- CBS All Access
- YouTube TV
- Pluto TV
1. Sling TV
The best live TV streaming service for value for money: Sling TV
Sling TV is the second largest live TV streaming service in the USA. The service is available in two plans, which are called Sling Blue and Sling Orange. Both plans cost the same — $30 per month. Sling Blue includes more TV channels, while the TV channels included in Sling Orange are of higher value.
Sling TV is one of the cheapest live TV streaming services available and it could certainly replace a cable TV package. The Sling Blue service includes AMC, Bravo, TNT, TBS, HGTV, Food Network, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Comedy Central, NFL Network, NBC Sports Network, Cartoon Network, and Nick Jr. and a total of 50 TV channels.
The Sling Orange package only has 32 TV channels but they are higher quality than those in the Sling Blue plan, such as ESPN and the Disney Channel. There are TV channels that are common to both Sling Blue and Sling Orange but it is possible to get both plans for the combined price of $45.
A Sports Extra package for $10 adds on premium sports channels including NBA TV, MLB, and NHL Network. Other themed addon packages cost $5 per month.
Both Sling TV packages include a cloud DVR service with 10 hours of DVR storage. A Cloud DVR Plus addon increases the DVR storage up to 50 hours. Sling offers a Latino package and International plans that give access to foreign-language TV channels from overseas. All plans are allowed three simultaneous streams, except Sling Orange, which can only be streamed to one device at a time.
See the full review of Sling TV here.
2. AT&T TV Now
The best live TV streaming service for full cable TV replacement: AT&T TV Now
AT&T TV Now is the new name for DirecTV Now. This service is a full cable TV replacement. It includes all of the familiar TV channels that people are used to getting in a home cable TV bundle.
There are two plans available with AT&T TV Now. The Plus bundle had 45 TV channels including ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox. The plan also includes TNT, TBS, Bravo, Comedy Central, CNN, MTV, NBC SN, ESPN, and the Disney Channel, Disney Junior, the Cartoon Network, and Nickelodeon. There are 60 TV channels in the Max plan. It has all of the channels in the Plus plan and extra TV channels, which include NBC Golf, HBO, and Cinemax.
HBO is also available as an add-on package for Plus subscribers. Other add-ons include Starz, Showtime, a Spanish-language entertainment package, and a Latino sports channel bundle.
Both plans include a cloud DVR service with 500 hours of DVR storage. All account holders are entitled to three simultaneous streams.
See the full review of AT&T TV here.
3. Hulu + Live TV
The best live TV streaming service with on-demand content: Hulu + Live TV
Hulu offers a video-on-demand service and then a live TV streaming service, which also has access to the on-demand content. That higher plan is called Hulu + Live TV and it is the leading live TV streaming service in the USA. Both the live TV and on-demand content give access to the latest TV shows and top-quality entertainment. Some Hulu original content, such as The Handmaid’s Tale, have won awards.
Hulu + Live TV has one base package that can be enhanced by addons. The main TV channel bundle includes all of the TV channels that anyone would expect from a cable TV plan. It has ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, Discovery Channel, History Channel, Investigation Discovery, TNT, TBS, MSNBC, CNN, Disney Channel, Universal Kids, ESPN, CBS Sports Network, and NBC Sports Network. In total, this package has 65 channels. It’s better than the Plus plan for AT&T TV Now, but it’s also more expensive.
Addon packages available with Hulu + Live TV include HBO, Cinemax, Starz, and Showtime.
The standard package includes a cloud DVR system with 50 hours of TV storage, which can be upgraded to 200 hours. Each account gets two simultaneous streams, but that can be upgraded to unlimited home streams plus three simultaneous streams for mobile devices.
The combination of a very impressive live TV streaming service with one of the largest on-demand content libraries in the country makes Hulu + Live TV a winning deal.
See the full review of Hulu + Live TV here.
4. CBS All Access
The best live TV streaming service for CBS shows: CBS All Access
CBS All Access only has four TV channels: CBS, CBS News, CBS Sports Network, and ET Live. The service is combined with an on-demand library. The video library is actually better than the Live TV service and includes original content, such as The Good Fight. However, market researchers have discovered that most members of the CBS All Access system use the live TV streaming service and recent catchup shows (including new original content) rather than the broader on-demand content.
CBS All Access has a very good price, which is a lot lower than Hulu + Live TV and AT&T TV Now. However, as it only provides four live channels, it is unlikely to provide enough TV channels for cord-cutters. One useful service of CBS All Access is that the CBS TV channel is routed through local stations, so it proves the news and sports of local channels while national fixtures and new services are available on CBS Sports Network and CBS News. So, CBS All Access customers get live TV both at the local and national levels.
All accounts get an allowance of two simultaneous streams. The cost of CBS All Access is cheaper for those who are prepared to accept some adverts. It gets cheaper still for those who pay yearly.
See the full review of CBS All Access here.
5. YouTube TV
The best live TV streaming service with the biggest TV channel list: YouTube TV
YouTube TV is the third largest live TV streaming service in the USA behind Hulu + Live TV and Sling TV. This is a full TV channel package that could replace cable TV. Its base package gets the big four: ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox. This is a big rival to AT&T TV Now and Hulu + Live TV.
Of the three major cord-cutting services, YouTube TV has the biggest channel lineup – 70 live channels in total. Other live channels in the package include AMC, HGTV, Food Network, Discovery Channel, CNN, MSNBC, NBC Sports Network, ESPN, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Cartoon Network, and Universal Kids.
Addon packages that YouTube TV offers include Starz, Showtime, and lots of goodies for sports fans, including NBS League Pass, and Fox Soccer Plus.
Each account has an allowance of three simultaneous streams. The package includes a cloud DVR service with unlimited DVR storage where videos can be stored for up to nine months.
Where YouTube TV falls down is that it doesn’t have the large video-on-demand library that Sling TV and Hulu + Live TV can offer. YouTube TV points out that many of the TV channels that it hosts run their own catchup on-demand content, which is available within the bundle.
See the full review of YouTube TV here.
6. Pluto TV
The best streaming service for free: Pluto TV
Pluto TV is an incredible free live TV streaming service. The one problem with this option is that it doesn’t include the big four TV channels: ABC, NBC, CBS, or Fox. The service does have content from major TV channels, however, for example, it has on-demand content from discovery and Investigation Discovery.
Rather than broadcasting existing live TV channels, Pluto takes TV shows from other providers and composes its own sequenced schedules. This results in about 200 Live TV channels that are exclusive to Pluto TV. Even the on-demand section sequences show a form of TV channel.
Pluto TV doesn’t require viewers to create an account, so the concept of simultaneous streams is irrelevant because anyone can access the system anytime from anywhere. The Live TV section includes a schedule menu just like any cable TV service. The Pluto TV stream can be received directly on smart TVs or channeled onto any TV set through a streaming device. It can also be streamed onto mobile devices.
The Pluto TV service would be suitable for cord-cutters just as long as they can get away from the psychological dependency of the brand names of those big TV networks. The quality of the TV shows and movies on the Pluto TV system is very high and would keep anyone entertained. This live TV streaming service isn’t just cheap, it is ultra-cheap because it is free.
See the full review of Pluto TV here.
The best streaming service for tight budgets: Philo
Philo is a very small live TV streaming service and only has 50,000 subscribers. However, it has some big backers, so it is sure to grow rapidly. Philo is in the same price range as Sling TV and is the cheaper of the two.
There is only one package available from Philo and it costs $20 per month. The TV channel bundle includes 59 live channels among which are AMC, BBC America, Food Network, Discovery, Vice, MTV, HGTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, and Nick Toons. There aren’t any of the big-name channels in the Philo package and there are no sports channels. The only news channel in the bundle is BBC World News.
The choice of Philo depends on whether you can compromise on the absence of the big four TV networks and if you can live without sports channels. If you can, you will save a lot of money because, other than the free service of Pluto TV, Philo is the cheapest live TV streaming service on this list. A Philo subscription gets an allowance of three simultaneous streams and a free cloud DVR system. The DVR storage is unlimited in terms of the number of TV shows that can be stored. The time limit on the DVR storage is 30 days per video.
Philo would be best suited to young people who are not into sports and don’t have much money to spare. The service can be streamed to TV sets, computers, and mobile devices.
See the full review of Philo here.
Streaming devices for live TV
Owners of smart TVs have the best opportunities with live TV streaming services because all of the services on this list can be received directly by them without any intermediate streaming devices. Smart TVs can receive internet signals and so if the home has a wifi router, the TV can get all of its entertainment content without connecting wires.
Another way to get live TV onto a TV is through streaming TV devices. Set-top boxes, including Apple TV, Android TV boxes, Amazon Fire TV, and Roku streaming devices will get live TV streaming services off the internet and onto your TV screen.
All of the services in this list have websites with media players. So, it is possible to watch live TV through a web browser. Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge, Opera, and Safari browsers can all be used to access live TV streaming services. The live TV systems also provide apps for iOS and Android mobile devices. Any streams being played through mobile apps or web browsers can be forwarded to TV screens with Google Chromecast.
Game consoles including the Xbox One and the Nintendo PlayStation can also be used as streaming devices. Nintendo used to have its own video streaming service, called PlayStation Vue. However, that has recently been closed down.
What about fuboTV or HBO Now?
Although fuboTV includes live TV, we have listed it in our guide to video streaming services because the replay and on-demand services of fuboTV make it a great service for those who want to access video libraries. Similarly, HBO Now is in our video streaming guide. That service is currently in flux because HBO has just launched HBO Max, which is a replacement service for HBO Now. However, both HBO Now and HBO Max are on-demand video libraries rather than live TV streaming services.
Cord-cutting in the USA
The high-quality entertainment channels offered by the live TV services in our roundup are good enough to help anyone turn off cable TV and access TV channels over the internet instead.
Cord-cutting is a growing movement in the USA and it can save you a lot of money. Live TV streaming services don’t have the credit checks, the equipment fees, or the installation charges that cable TV requires. So, internet-based live TV is more accessible.
The simultaneous stream allowance and the cloud DVR facilities included in most live TV streaming services make them suitable for everyone. Access through computers and mobile apps means that they can be watched anywhere, not just at home. Live TV streaming services liberate TV viewers while saving money. Become a cord cutter and access live TV online.
Check out the Ultimate Guide to Cord Cutting here.