Cutting the cord: Comparing 7 live TV streaming services

4 min read

Jamie is always hungry. He also writes about digital privacy in exchange for sandwiches.

Scissors cutting through a cord.

The trend of ditching cable TV for online streaming services is picking up speed, and for good reason: It’s cheaper, more convenient, and gives you more choice. And if you’re reading this now, chances are you’re also looking for alternatives to that pricey cable package you’ve got right now. But with so many cable-cutting options to choose from, how do you know which one is best for you?

Cord-cutting options for streaming services

We break down what you get with some of the most popular services.

1. YouTube TV

Country: U.S.
Starting price: 50 USD/month
Minimum number of channels: 70
Trial period: 30 days

One of the more premium services is YouTube TV, which gives you access to over 70 channels with live TV coverage, including 24-hour news networks and a smattering of sports channels. It’s currently only available in the U.S., and local TV coverage changes depending on the ZIP code you put in. You can also keep records of shows you want to watch again on cloud DVR for up to nine months.

2. Sling TV

Country: U.S.
Starting price: 25 USD/month
Minimum number of channels: 25
Trial period: 7 days

Sling TV is a U.S.-based streaming service that is a great alternative for those who want to ditch their cable provider and have greater choice at a cheaper price. There are three packages to choose from: Sling Orange, Sling Blue, and Sling Orange and Blue.

Orange and Blue have different selections of TV channels for you to access, so be sure to check which one you’re more likely to use. On Orange, for instance, you can only watch on one device, but with the Blue subscription you can watch on three separate screens. If you pay 40 USD for the Orange and Blue subscription, you can stream on four separate devices simultaneously.

3. AT&T TV Now

Country: U.S.
Starting price: 65 USD/month
Minimum number of channels: 45
Trial period: 7 days

Previously known as DirecTV Now, AT&T TV Now is the most expensive alternative to cable on this list, although its standard package includes channels like HBO and ESPN. Other premium channels like Showtime can be added piecemeal, as can exclusive sports packages like NFL Sunday Ticket. AT&T TV Now doesn’t appear to be intimidated by the competition in the streaming arena, having raised their prices in 2019 from $50 to $65 a month on its (lowest) Plus tier, and $70 to $80 on the Max tier.

4. Hulu with Live TV

Country: U.S.
Starting price: 55 USD/month
Minimum number of channels: 60
Trial period: 7 days

Hulu is both a video on demand and live TV streaming option. Its VOD-only option starts at 6 USD/month, but if you want Live TV on top of that you’ll need to fork over 55 USD/month. As with AT&T TV Now, Hulu has also raised its prices recently, so you’ll want to take advantage of any seasonal deals that might appear. The Live TV package lets you watch on unlimited screens and offers enhanced Cloud DVR to record any shows you might have missed. You’ll have to add 6 USD more to watch shows without ads.

5. fuboTV

Country: U.S.
Starting price: 55 USD/month
Minimum number of channels: 109
Trial period: 7 days

If you’re only interested in catching the latest sports games, fuboTV will be all you need, covering over 30,000 events including NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL games. The Standard package has your favorite cable channels focusing on sports, news, and movies. Possible add-ons include Showtime channels and even more sports.

6. Zattoo

Country: Germany, Switzerland
Starting price: Free
Minimum number of channels: 249 (30 in HD)
Trial period: 30 days (for Premium/Ultimate subscriptions)

If you live across the Atlantic and mostly watch European TV channels, Zattoo will be all you need. Zattoo is an internet TV platform that broadcasts various live TV and on-demand content. The service is available in Switzerland and Germany, but some subscribers can also access Zattoo throughout the EU and UK. With a staggering 249 channels to choose from, you won’t be short of options (unless you wanted to watch U.S. channels).

7. TVPlayer

Country: UK
Starting price: Free
Minimum number of channels: 45
Trial period: 30 days (with Premium)

If you wanted more anglo-centric content, TVPlayer may have the best selection of channels for you. We count about 45 channels, including BBC and ITV channels. There are free ones like BBC, and some that are only available with the Premium package, like ITV2, 3, and 4. If you bump yourself up to a Premium subscription, which gives you HD streaming on dozens of channels, you can pay the monthly 7 GBP/month or 70 GBP for the whole year.

The best live-streaming services in 2020

The best live-streaming service boils down to whichever one you’ll be using the most. Whether you’re watching your favorite team play or catching the local news, there are plenty of good cable-cutting options available that will not break the bank. And there’s always Netflix.

Jamie writes about current issues concerning digital privacy and security and is known to interview leading figures in tech. He also keeps an eye on changes in government censorship and surveillance.