Cutting the cord: Comparing 7 live TV streaming services

4 min read
Jamie

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 in full force, 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. only
Starting price: 64.99 USD/month
Minimum number of channels: 32
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 like CBS, Fox, and ABC, and several major sports channels, including ESPN and MLB Network.

You can have up to six user accounts on a single subscription and stream simultaneously on three separate devices. YouTube TV is currently only available in the U.S., and local TV coverage will change depending on your ZIP code.

2. Sling TV

Country: U.S. only
Starting price: 30 USD/month
Minimum number of channels: 32
Trial period: None

If you’re looking for a slightly cheaper alternative, Sling TV is also a good choice for those who want to ditch their cable provider and want more options at a cheaper price. There are three packages to choose from: Sling Orange, Sling Blue, and Sling Orange and Blue, and a variety of add-ons you can purchase for more channels.

Orange and Blue each have different selections of TV channels for you to watch, so be sure to check which one you’re more likely to use. With Orange, you can only watch on one device, but with the Blue subscription you can watch on three separate screens. If you pay 45 USD for the Orange and Blue subscription, you can stream on four separate devices simultaneously.

3. AT&T TV Now

Country: U.S. only
Starting price: 49.99 USD/month in the first year, 93 USD/month in second year (minimum 2 year contract)
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. Its standard package includes channels like HBO and ESPN, with the cheapest “Entertainment” package costing 49.99/month for 34 channels in the first year. Other premium channels like Showtime can be added piecemeal, as can exclusive sports packages like NFL Sunday Ticket.

AT&T TV Now isn’t for bargain hunters. Not only are the fees relatively high, but there is a two-year minimum subscription, a price hike in the second year of subscription, and extra costs when registering and activating an AT&T TV subscription.

4. Hulu

Country: U.S. only
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 service. Its VOD-only option starts at 6 USD/month, but if you want Live TV on top of that you’ll need to pay 44.99 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. only
Starting price: 54.99 USD/month
Minimum number of channels: 65
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.

FuboTV also has a couple of add-ons: Cloud DVR for an additional 9.99 USD/month and the ability to stream on three separate devices at once for 5.99 USD/month.

6. Zattoo

Country: Germany, Switzerland
Starting price: Free
Minimum number of channels: 253 (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 253 channels to choose from with a free subscription, you won’t be short of European TV options.

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 counted about 45 channels, including free ones like BBC, and some that are only available with the Premium package, like ITV2, 3, and 4.

If you bump up your subscription to Premium, which gives you HD streaming on dozens of channels, you can pay 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.