Best live TV streaming services of 2020

Cutting the cord on cable doesn’t have to mean severing ties with live television completely, as a plethora of live-streaming apps will keep you in the loop on your favorite shows.

Live TV streaming services provide subscribers with access to all the standard television channels you’d expect when plugging in cable. The only differences for the viewer are swapping their cable box for an app on their smart TV, gaming console, media stick or mobile device and a lower monthly subscription fee. The trend is on the rise, with cable subscription cancellations increasing by 32.8% in 2018, and US viewers saving up to $104 a month on average as a result, according to data from MarketScale

That said, there are many live TV streaming services to choose from, so selecting the right one can be a tough task. We’ve selected the top five to help make your shopping decision easier.

Top five live TV streaming services

Our methodology and research

We researched the range of live TV streaming services currently available and compared them on subscriber base, range of content, viewers’ watching options, content themes, price and more. We selected a couple of the big players, pretenders to their throne and an up-and-coming challenger to compare the range of options available to cable cord-cutters.

Streaming services researched: 10

Criteria used: Starting price, free trial length, number of channels, cloud DVR storage, number of simultaneous streams, range of content available, add-ons available.

Live TV streaming services compared

AT&T Watch TVHulu + Live TVPhiloSling TVYouTube TV
Starting monthly price$15/mo.$44.99/mo.$20/mo.$25/mo.$49.99/mo.
Free trial length7 days7 days7 days7 days14 days
Number of channels35+60+58Up to 5370+
Original content availableNoYesNoNoYes
Number of simultaneous streams1231-43
Cloud DVR storage500 hours50 hoursUnlimited for 30 days50 hoursUnlimited

Find the right live TV streaming service

Live TV streaming services vary in the range of content they provide, so finding the right one is dependent on your viewing preferences. Many keep costs low by cutting out local and sports channels, others offer everything you could possibly want from a live TV stream to unlimited cloud DVR storage.

Best affordable alternative live TV streaming service: AT&T Watch TV

Standout features

The fact that AT&T Watch TV is three times cheaper than YouTube TV will be a major attraction to many viewers. It’s an affordable service offering a wealth of popular channels that will be sure to keep you entertained, such as Comedy Central, Food Network, TNT and Lifetime.

Potential drawbacks

The reason the service is so affordable is it lacks local networks and sports channels, so if those are your thing, then it might be time to look elsewhere.

Top channels not available

ABC, ESPN, Fox News and NBC

Best personalized live streaming service: Hulu Live TV

Standout features

Hulu also provides individual accounts for up to six users, meaning everyone gets personalized service tailored to their viewing preferences and interests. So the annoyance of losing your place in a series as a result of someone else on your account watching it is no more.

Potential drawbacks

Again, the price of Hulu will be a hindrance to many, and costs could ramp up with add-on purchases such as access to premium and entertainment networks, enhanced cloud storage and unlimited streams. 

Top channels not available

BBC America, Comedy Central, MTV and subscription sports channels

Best direct cable replacement live TV streaming service: Philo

Standout features

If you’re looking for a straight replacement for cable television then Philo could be the one for you, providing cheap access to the standard lifestyle and entertainment channels you’d normally expect. The service also offers unlimited cloud storage for a month, which makes it the perfect cost-cutting alternative to cable.

Potential drawbacks

In addition to lacking local channels and sports options, Philo also doesn’t provide access to a big-name news provider like CNN. 

Top channels not available

ABC, CNN and sports channels

Best for low-cost, great choice live TV streaming: Sling TV

Standout features

Sling TV has a great range of channels for viewers, from sports and entertainment to local and news. It also features a wide range of on-demand shows and movies. There are no long-term contracts, and it currently offers 40 percent off viewers’ first month.

Potential drawbacks

Sling TV doesn’t provide local TV access. It also restricts viewers to one simultaneous stream per user, which may hinder people who like to share their accounts with friends or family.

Top channels not available

ABC, CBS, ESPN, Fox News and Nickelodeon

Best all-around live TV streaming service: YouTube TV

Standout features

Many people consider YouTube TV the premium live TV streaming service. On top of having a huge range of channels to choose from, viewers can stream from three devices simultaneously and get unlimited cloud storage space. This makes it the natural choice for anyone looking for a live streaming service to directly replace cable.

Potential drawbacks

The price of YouTube TV may be an issue for some compared to other streaming services, but it represents huge savings on any cable subscription available.

Top channels not available

Comedy Central, History Channel, NFL Network and Nickelodeon

The takeaway

Cutting the cord on cable is becoming increasingly easy and affordable, with multiple providers offering a range of content options to meet everyone’s preferences. It’s all about finding the one that matches your specific interests, and that couldn’t be simpler thanks to the free trials offered by all the services listed above.

Rob Latham

Contributing Writer

Rob Latham is a writer focused on technology, music, entertainment and sports. He is particularly passionate about the role that technology plays in improving peoples’ lives and helping businesses to work more effectively. He’s written marketing content for global B2B technology brands and start-ups, founded his own music blog and is a regular contributor to soccer publications. His professional background is in content marketing, public relations and journalism, and he has a Postgraduate Diploma in Journalism.