Video Streaming Services That Let You Cut Cable TV

Services like FuboTV, Hulu + Live TV, Philo, Sling TV, and YouTube TV try to replicate cable TV with lower monthly bills—but prices are rising

By James K. Willcox

Here’s a sobering statistic for cable TV executives: Major cable and satellite TV providers have lost about 25 million subscribers over the past decade, according to research firm eMarketer. But that stat is good news for the rest of us. It points to all the options consumers now have for streaming traditional cable channels, without paying cable TV prices.

These cable replacement services are very different from streaming services such as Apple TV+, HBO Max, and Netflix, which let you watch individual TV series and movies.

The services that stream regular cable channels include AT&T’s DirecTV Stream, the sports-focused FuboTV service, Hulu + Live TV, Philo, Sling TV, and Google’s YouTube TV. All except Philo combine at least a few live local channels with a smattering of cable networks, at prices that typically range from about $35 to $70 per month.

Most of these cable replacement services let you add genre- or theme-based channel packs, plus premium networks such as HBO Max or Showtime, for an additional monthly fee.

The content can vary by region, especially when it comes to local channels. To find out what you can receive, go to each company’s website, plug in your ZIP code, and see what’s available in your area. In general, video streaming services have been adding more local broadcast channels, such as ABC and CBS, but these are not always available in smaller communities.

If you’re missing some local channels, consider adding an antenna to get free over-the-air broadcasts. When we tested indoor models, some testers received dozens of channels and subchannels at their homes, and the picture looked even better than what they were getting from cable.

Many—but not all—of the cable replacement services offer a free trial period. Because most require a credit card number, you’ll have to keep track of when the trial period ends and cancel if you don’t want to continue the service.

Prices for many packages have been rising, as detailed below. Because the details can change often, it’s important to check the latest offers before signing up.

DirecTV Stream

Monthly bill: $70 to $150

What you get: Depending on the service, plans start around $70 per month for a mix of live TV stations and cable channels. The top-tier package includes premium channels, including HBO Max, Showtime, and Starz.

AT&T has been doing a lot of rejiggering lately, including spinning off its DirecTV satellite TV business into a new entity, also called DirecTV. And DirecTV Stream is the new name for the company’s AT&T TV and AT&T TV Now streaming services.

The new DirecTV company doesn’t include HBO Max, which remains under the WarnerMedia umbrella. This spring, WarnerMedia merged with Discovery to create a new entity called Warner Bros. Discovery. (The company says that next summer it will combine the Discover+ service with HBO Max.) You can add HBO Max to any plan, and it’s included, along with other premium channels, in the priciest DirecTV Stream plan.

The cheapest DirecTV Stream plan, with about 65 channels, costs $70 per month. The Choice plan (90 channels) is $90, while the Ultimate (130 channels, plus Starz) costs $105 and Premier (140 channels, plus HBO Max, Cinemax, and Showtime) costs $150.

All the services come with on-demand shows and movies, and unlimited cloud DVR storage.

One good thing about the newer DirecTV Stream service is that you don’t have to rent a box. You can use an app on streaming players such as Apple TV, Chromecast, and Roku, on Android and iOS phones and tablets, and on some Samsung smart TVs. AT&T also sells its own Android-based player, which costs $120 up front or $5 per month for 24 months. That’s much pricier than most standalone streaming media players, though it does support 4K videos and has a voice remote and Google Assistant built in.

What you don’t get: Some local channels and regional sports networks aren’t available in all markets or in the most basic plan. And some channels, such as DIY Network, FXM (the FX movie channel), Nick Jr., Oxygen, and the Smithsonian Channel, are available only in the pricier plans.

Sign up for DirecTV Stream.


Monthly bill: $70 to $100

What you get: This sports-centric service, among the first to support 4K videos with HDR, offers a mix of live and on-demand channels from CBS, Fox, and NBC in most markets. Fubo added Disney-owned channels like ABC, ESPN, Disney Channel last year. You also get cable channels (AMC, Bravo, Discovery, FX, HGTV, Syfy, and TLC) and sports networks (BeIn Sports, FS1, Golf Channel, MSG, SNY, and NBA TV). The service also now provides ESPN (ESPN, ESPN 2, and ESPN 3), plus the SEC and ACC networks in certain markets.

The $70-a-month Pro plan has about 135 channels with local stations in most markets, plus lots of sports networks and many cable channels, though not Turner channels (CNN, TCS, TNT).

Stepping up to the Elite plan, $80, gets you Fubo Extras with 40 more sports and lifestyle channels, plus some events in 4K. The $100-a-month Ultimate plan has even more channels, plus Showtime and Sports Plus, which includes NFL RedZone. All the plans come with a cloud DVR with 1,000 hours of storage, and up to 10 simultaneous users at home, plus two on the go. There’s also a Latino plan, which costs $33 a month for 45 channels and more than 100 sporting events. It allows two users at a time, and comes with a cloud DVR with 250 hours of storage. (Both can be upgraded for an additional charge.)

You can add several premium channels, though not HBO Max. One plan combines Epix, Showtime, and Starz for $20 per month. Sports fans can get Sports Plus with NFL Red Zone, with NCAA games and RedZone from the NFL network, for an extra $11 per month. An $8-per-month Fubo Extra plan adds more TV shows, movies, news, sports, music, and kids’ entertainment. There are also several Spanish-language plans and add-ons.

The company has also made a foray into the sports betting world with Fubo Sportsbook, though the company said on a recent earnings call that its business is under “strategic review.”

What you don’t get: Fubo is missing Turner channels (Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, CNN, TBS, TNT) from its lineup, as well as A&E networks, including A&E, History Channel, Lifetime, Vice TV. You also don’t get Fox regional sports networks, or the Yes Network, home to Yankees games.

Sign up for FuboTV.

Hulu + Live TV

Monthly bill: $70 with ads, $76 without

What you get: Hulu + Live TV offers about 75 channels, including the major broadcast channels—ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC—in a growing number of markets. You also get cable channels such as A&E, BET, CN, CNN, Disney, Fox News, FX, HGTV, TBS, and TNT, among others. The lineup includes CBS Sports, ESPN, and Fox Sports, plus some regional sports networks. And, of course, you get Hulu’s streaming library, plus Hulu originals such as “Only Murders in the Building” and “The Bear.”

Hulu + Live TV now includes both Disney+ and ESPN+, though the price is now $5 higher: $70 per month for about 75 channels. The service has ads in the Hulu video-on-demand part of the bundle. To go ad-free, you now have to pay $76 per month. There’s also a live TV-only plan for $69—it doesn’t include the Hulu streaming library or access to Disney+ or ESPN+, so we don’t think its pricing makes much sense for consumers.

Disney recently announced that the price of both Hulu and ESPN+ are going up in October but hasn’t said whether this will affect the price of Hulu + Live TV.

Though Hulu reached a deal with Discovery to keep several channels, including Food Network, HGTV, and TLC on the service, some popular shows, such as “90 Day Fiancé” and “Fixer Upper” will only be on the company’s newer Discovery+ service.

The basic service lets you create six separate profiles—though only two people can use the service at a time—and now includes an unlimited cloud DVR. You can add premium networks, and pay more to get additional sports and entertainment content, and to upgrade to unlimited screens.

What you don’t get: Now that it has a deal to get missing Paramount (formerly ViacomCBS) channels, the service is mainly missing AMC, BBC America, Hallmark, MLB Network, NBA TV, NFL Network, and PBS.

Sign up for Hulu + Live TV.


Monthly bill: $25

What you get: If you can get your local channels via an antenna (or other means), Philo could be a great option. It’s a sports-free streaming service backed by several cable networks, including A&E, AMC, Discovery, Scripps, and Viacom. As a result, for just $25 a month, you get access to more than 60 channels from partners including Discovery, Paramount (ViacomCBS), and AMC Networks.

In addition to the cable channels, Philo now has a few original series, including “Boss Moves,” with “Love and Hip-Hop” star Rasheeda Frost. It also recently signed a deal with Kin Community for access to that company’s female-focused lifestyle content.

You can also add premium channels, such as Epix ($6 a month) and Starz ($9 a month).

Last year Philo’s price for new subscribers went from $20 to $25 per month, but those who signed up before the price hike have been able to keep the lower price. As part of the new $25 package, Philo is extending the time it keeps recordings in its unlimited DVR from 30 days to a year. Existing subscribers can upgrade to this plan if they want access to the extended DVR. Philo supports up to three users at a time.

Philo supports three simultaneous users and includes a cloud DVR that lets you record and save an unlimited number of shows for up to 30 days. You can watch a show from the beginning if you join late, and a 72-hour “look back” feature lets you view any show that appeared within the previous three days. You can even share your favorite shows with friends right from within the platform.

What you don’t get: Philo has no local channels, and it doesn’t it offer live news (CNN, Fox News) or sports networks such as ESPN or NFL Network.

Sign up for Philo.

Sling TV

Monthly bill: $35 to $50

What you get: Last year, Sling raised prices by $5 per month. The Orange package now costs $35 and includes about 30 cable channels but no broadcast TV. It supports one user at a time. Sling Blue, also $35, supports three users and has a different mix of about 40 channels, including some local broadcasts—but not ABC and CBS—and regional sports. (Among other differences, Sling Orange includes ESPN.) A combined plan costs $50, up from $45.

Sling TV also increased prices for its themed add-on packages, though only marginally. You can pay for additional theme-based (sports, kids, entertainment, etc.) channel packs, and everyone now gets 50 hours of free DVR storage, up from 10 hours. You can also get 200 hours of storage, up from 50 hours, for $5 per month with the DVR Plus add-on. You can also add premium channels, such as Curiosity Stream and Showtime, but not HBO Max.

Sling now has a deal with Barstool Sports for a channel dedicated to sports and pop culture. The Barstool Sports Channel features live content including video podcasts, blogs, and video series. Sling TV also includes a new sports betting information channel from DraftKings.

The company has also updated its app with a new home screen, an updated guide, and a dedicated DVR tab for recorded shows. There’s also a new “watch from the beginning” button for videos.

Sling TV also includes a new sports betting information channel from DraftKings. Rolling out first on Dish’s Hopper DVR, Sling customers will eventually be able to access the DraftKings app to view betting odds, watch fantasy contests, and even make bets with DraftKings right from their TV.

What you don’t get: You can get Fox and NBC in some markets, but ABC and CBS are still missing from both plans. And Sling doesn’t offer HBO Max. Also, Sling subscribers outside of several major markets can no longer get NBC on-demand channels. Sling had provided on-demand NBC channels in markets where the live NBC channel wasn’t available.

Sling now has a free, ad-supported service called Sling Free, with about 150 channels and a library of on-demand content.

Sign up for Sling TV.

YouTube TV

Monthly bill: $65

What you get: YouTube TV offers access to more than 85 channels, including the major broadcast networks and cable channels, plus major sports networks such as CBS Sports, ESPN, and Fox Sports. It also has a few regional sports networks. A cloud DVR with unlimited storage for up to nine months is included.

Like other cable-style streaming services, YouTube TV has imposed a few price hikes, the most recent last summer, when it jumped a whopping 30 percent from $50 to $65 per month.

YouTube TV has a nice selection of channels, including AMC, Bravo, Disney, ESPN, FX, Fox News, Fox Sports, MSNBC, National Geographic, Turner, USA, and some regional sports networks. HBO Max, Showtime, Starz, and a few other channels can be added for a fee. When its price went up it added a bunch of Paramount channels, including BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, and Paramount Network. The service has also expanded its Spanish-language content with three Univision channels, as well as two new add-on packages.

YouTube is also reportedly interested in acquiring the rights to NFL Sunday Ticket when its contract with DirecTV expires after the 2022 season.

Last year Google unveiled a new 4K Plus bundle—a $20-per-month add-on to the regular service. Benefits include 4K video support, with the ability to search for 4K titles; the ability to watch content saved to your DVR offline on the Android and iOS apps; and unlimited streams from home. YouTube TV supports 5.1 Dolby audio when played on select devices. The feature is available both live and on demand.

What you don’t get: Now that YouTube TV has reached deals with Paramount (ViacomCBS) and WarnerMedia (for HBO Max), its biggest content holes are some cable channels, including A&E, DIY Network, History Channel, and Lifetime.

Sign up for YouTube TV.

Streaming Devices to Consider

Amazon Fire TV Cube (2nd Gen)

Roku Ultra - 2020

NVIDIA Shield TV Pro

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