We’re spoiled for choice when it comes to live TV streaming services, especially compared to cable. Depending on where you live, you may have access to two or three cable providers and maybe a satellite provider, but many people are limited to the single option in their area.
When it comes to live TV streaming services, you don’t just have options when it comes to price, but content as well. This is great, but it can also make finding the right live TV service for you somewhat difficult. That’s why we’re here to help.
Best Free Option: PlutoTV
If you’re looking for a cable-style channel surfing experience but don’t want to spend a dime, PlutoTV is your best option. There are others, but thanks to the fact that it’s owned by Viacom, you’ll find plenty of TV shows and movies you recognize, while most others simply repackage content you can find elsewhere on the web.
Best for Your Budget: Philo
While PlutoTV delivers a TV-like experience, it’s not really the same, since many channels are dedicated to a single show. PhiloTV, on the other hand, offers many of the same channels you find on much more expensive live TV streaming services. So what’s the catch?
To keep its cost low, Philo avoids local channels and sports networks like ESPN. The focus is squarely on entertainment, with the bonus being that even if you splurge on everything Philo offers, you’re still spending less than $30 per month.
Best for Families on a Budget: Frndly
If all you need is family-friendly content and you don’t want to spend much, Frndly is the streaming service for you. Unlike its competitors, Frndly has a low channel count, with just around 15 channels including multiple Hallmark channels, CuriousityStream, Pixl, and the Game Show Network.
Still, if all you need is something to put on in the background and you don’t want to worry about kids watching something they shouldn’t Frndly is a good option, and it only costs $5.99 per month.
Best for International Sports: fuboTV
If you just want to watch NFL, NBA, and MLB games, most streaming services cover what you want. That said, if you’re looking for other sports — namely what most of the world calls football and the U.S. calls soccer — fuboTV is your best bet.
Here’s the catch, and it’s a big one: fuboTV doesn’t offer ESPN. That said, it does have beIN, Eleven, and other sports networks you won’t find on many other streaming services.
Best Cable Replacement: AT&T TV Now
Some people move to live TV streaming services to save money, but others just don’t want to deal with the hassle of equipment fees, appointments, and bundling other services with their TV subscription. If that sounds like you, AT&T TV Now may be exactly what you’re looking for.
Formerly known as DirecTV Now, AT&T TV Now doesn’t even pretend to be cheap. That said, if you’re looking for a large channel count and an interface similar to cable TV, this delivers in a way no other service does.
Best for Custom Channels: Sling TV
I’ve tested nearly every available live TV streaming service, many of them multiple times. The one thing I’ve found is that every single one is missing at least one channel that I’d love to have. Sling TV isn’t immune to this, but the way it lets you build your subscription makes it more likely that you’ll be able to get the channels you want without paying a fortune.
Sling TV’s model is somewhat awkward and it still doesn’t support a few key features like per-person profiles, but it’s by far the most customizable option here.
Best All-in-One: Hulu with Live TV
If you’re anything like me, live TV is something you use occasionally to watch live sports, then it’s just largely background noise and a source of DVR-fodder. Most services will work fine for this, but Hulu with Live TV may be the best for a few reasons.
The first is that live TV is just an add-on to your existing Hulu subscription. The second is that you can add Disney+ to your subscription and have the vast majority of your TV-based entertainment all on one bill.
Need Some Viewing Recommendations?
Once you’ve chosen a live TV streaming service, you probably have a good idea what you want to watch, at least at first. Once you’ve caught up on the games or shows you signed up for though, where do you turn?
One option is reality TV. Yes, it’s basically the TV equivalent of junk food, but sometimes that’s exactly what you’re in the mood for. Not to mention, not all reality television is created equal. Take a look at our guide to the various types of reality TV for some recommendations.
We earn commission if you purchase items using an affiliate link. We only recommend products we trust. See our affiliate disclosure.