Cord-Cutting: Stream Live TV

These days, cutting the cord doesn't mean giving up live TV. The market remains limited, but there's already a strong foundation of flexible packages offering customizable channel lineups, with more in the works.
Updated May 2017

CBS All Access

You love your procedurals and your Chuck Lorre shows, right? With 7,500+ episodes on demand, next-day availability for new airings, the ability to stream your local affiliate live, plus original content, CBS bets you'll pony up for their All Access subscription.

See more of what CBS has to offer »

Pros

  • Only $6/month for unlimited CBS content (an ad-free version costs $10)
  • A new Star Trek series and a Good Wife spin-off project are among the platform's new original projects
  • Next-day access to the latest primetime, daytime, and late-night episodes in HD
  • Live TV streaming in more than 130 local markets
  • Huge library, including every episode of every season of top shows such as NCIS and Survivor
  • All NFL on CBS games, including Thursday Night Football, preseason, and postseason matches are available

Cons

  • Even the ad-free version contains short promos during "select on-demand shows"

Comcast Stream

The idea of internet/cable companies playing with data capping is controversial, but this is the closest such a company has come to delivering streaming TV legally and affordably.

Pros

  • "Skinny bundle" includes live streams of all the broadcast networks, HBO, several Spanish-language channels, and a few others
  • Includes access to HBO Go
  • Allows cloud DVR storage

Cons

  • Limited to Xfinity customers
  • Only watchable on a laptop or on mobile devices via Xfinity apps
  • None of your favorite lifestyle or sports channels are available

DirecTV Now

AT&T's quest for cord-cutters' dollars comes in the form of DirecTV Now, which offers as many as 120-plus channels at competitive prices. And one of them is from Taylor Swift. If you're into that sort of thing.

Pros

  • Packages start at 60 channels and range from $35 to $70 a month
  • Exclusive programming from Taylor Swift and Reese Witherspoon’s production company
  • Available via nearly all major streaming devices (Roku expected in 2017)
  • Customers can watch up to two streams simultaneously

Cons

  • CBS and Showtime are among the most most noticeable missing channels
  • Live streaming from other broadcast networks is only available in some major cities
  • NFL Sunday Ticket isn't currently included
  • The first iteration will not include cloud DVR functionality

FuboTV

Initially focused on soccer, Fubo is going all in on streaming TV, offering more than 70 channels from the major entertainment providers.

Pros

  • Premier package includes 50+ channels, including FOX, NBC, FX, USA, Syfy Spanish- and Portuguese-language options, plus add-ons focusing on kids, sports, and entertainment shows
  • Discounted price of $34.99 a month makes it competitive with longer-standing services, but it is expected to rise
  • Two simultaneous streams available
  • DVR functionality
  • Available on desktop browsers, Android and iOS devices, Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, Chromecast, Kindle Fire, and Roku

Cons

  • Local blackouts apply
  • There's no access to ESPN, MLB Network, or NFL Network

Hulu

Come for The Handmaid's Tale, stay for… well, everything else. The streaming platform finally has expanded into live TV, with broadcast and cable channels from NBC, Disney, Fox, Time Warner, and CBS.

See more of what Hulu has to offer »

Pros

  • Access to over 50 channels for $40 a month
  • Basic DVR provides 50 hours of storage
  • Stream on two devices at once
  • Kids' profiles are available for younger viewers
  • Includes full access to the Hulu streaming library (a $7.99/month value)
  • NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and NCAA games are available

Cons

  • Games are subject to regional availability and blackouts
  • The enhanced DVR requires an enhanced price
  • Not yet available on Roku or Amazon Fire products

Playstation Vue

Available for those with PS3s and PS4s, plus select set-top boxes and apps, Vue's over-the-top entertainment streaming delivers a similar service to Sling TV. Sure, it's pricier, but you can choose from a broader selection of channels.

Pros

  • 55 channels available in the entry-level "Slim" package
  • Sports- and entertainment-channel upgrades bring channel total to 100+
  • Cloud DVR allows users to store thousands of hours of content
  • Besides PS3 and PS4, the service can be accessed via Roku devices, Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, as well as iOS and Android apps
  • No contract means that when your favorite show is over, you can cancel the service

Cons

  • "Slim" packages are cheaper because ABC, FOX, and NBC will only offer video-on-demand content
  • Regional sports channels may not be available in your area
  • Steeper entry-level price point than main competitor Sling TV

Sling TV

If you ditched cable because you hated paying for channels you didn't watch, Sling TV may be your knight in shining armor. With access to a bunch of high-profile channels, and more available for add-ons, Sling TV is changing the nature of the premium streaming game.

Pros

  • Entry-level channel package is only $20
  • Broadcast networks are available in some markets
  • ESPN, TNT, Fox Sports, and NBC Sports Network access means that you can watch a lot of your favorite sports programming
  • Premium movie and even more sports channels are available as add-ons
  • No contract means that when your favorite show is over, you can cancel the service
  • Cloud DVR being rolled out (50 hours of storage for $5/month), first to Amazon Fire users

Cons

  • Only some channels offer archived programming
  • Not all sports are available (sorry, hockey fans)
  • Though you have more freedom than with a cable package, you may still end up paying for channels you don't want
  • Your favorite channel may not be available at all

YouTube TV

The days of viral cat videos and low-quality teen vlogs are long gone. YouTube wants to become a one-stop destination for all your entertainment needs.

Pros

  • Bundle includes 40 channels, including all four of the major broadcast networks, with 10 others on the way
  • Premium add-ons include Showtime, with Sundance in the works
  • $35-a-month price is competitive
  • Month-long free trial is better than most services
  • Includes YouTube Red's original TV and film content
  • Subscribers can create six accounts with separate cloud-based DVRs (with no storage limits)

Cons

  • Only available in a handful of U.S. markets at launch
  • Currently there are no plans to expand internationally
  • Lineup does not include Time Warner-owned networks such as CNN and TNT
  • You may still need to watch ads during DVR'd programs