by Tom McNamara / May 02, 2018
If you're ready to take the plunge into streaming live TV over the internet instead of via cable or satellite, you can add FuboTV to the steadily growing pile of options. It's not the cheapest one, but for fans of live sports, it's definitely worth checking out.
Sports coverage is legitimately good: Despite the absence of ESPN and its family of channels, FuboTV does a very good job of presenting a variety of sports, with featured games in a carousel at the top of the Sports section in the app, a schedule of upcoming games right below that, and a list of different sports that let you drill down into baseball, soccer, American football, hockey, basketball, racing, golf, and even cycling. If that's not enough, there's a More Sports button at the bottom that expands to show boxing, tennis, MMA, horse racing, rugby, and "Other." At the time of review, this last category covered bull riding, women's lacrosse, college softball, and surfing.
Tapping on Baseball, for example, will show you today's schedule for your local teams and give you the option to record the game ahead of time. And not only can you scroll down to see the entire week's worth of games, you can also go back a couple days and watch a previous game, even if you didn't tag it previously for DVR storage. That's a pretty handy feature.
It's pretty easy to get around the app: A ribbon of icons at the bottom of the screen provides shortcuts to the popular sections: Sports, Series, Movies, Channels, and My Fubo. Tapping on Channels shows you a live TV channel guide (which sounds obvious, but Hulu with Live TV actually doesn't provide this).
You can swipe left and right on an individual channel to see that day's programming schedule, and tap on any currently streaming content to get a synopsis and options to play or record. You can tap on the video to set up picture-in-picture, enable captions, or stream to an Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, or Google Chromecast device that's on the same Wi-Fi network (so you're not limited to watching on a potentially small mobile device screen).
These different sections and components all load quickly and smoothly, and the app makes subtle use of color gradients and font sizes in a way that makes the experience feel kind of fancy. However, we'd like to be able to navigate the channel guide in landscape mode, because portrait mode only exposes the next 90 minutes or so of a channel's schedule unless you start swiping.
Heavily discounted first month: If you sign up via the FuboTV website, you get your first month for $20, after your 7-day free trial is over. The regular price is $45 a month, so that's a pretty deep discount (and the content selection is roughly on par with the competition in the $40-$50 range). The other services in this category don't offer discounted subscriptions, which gives FuboTV an edge.
Sign-up process could be more informative: FuboTV offers a number of add-on services and channel packages, such as DVR and additional simultaneous streams. However, the service doesn't tell you what DVR and multi-stream features are already built in. So when it offers 500 hours of DVR recording for another $10 a month, or up to three streams at once, it doesn't provide any basis for comparison. You have to search through the website's support pages to discover that you already get 30 hours of DVR and two streams at once.
ABC and ESPN are missing: With a regular price of $45 a month, FuboTV is competing with services like YouTube TV and PlayStation Vue, which offer all of the major networks, so the lack of ABC in Fubo's lineup makes it a harder sell. And while ESPN doesn't have the mojo that it used to, its absence is pretty noticeable in a service whose entire user experience orbits around sporting events.
Lacks an app-wide search function: If you want to look up a specific TV show, for example, you have to tap on the Series button at the bottom of the screen, then scroll down, and then tap on one of the genres. Only at this point will a magnifying glass show up. And this search function when used here will only look for TV shows. If you want to see search results for movies, you have to go through this process in the movies section. While it's nice to be able to drill down into specific genres and content types, we'd also like a search function that's simply more accessible, even if it comes at the cost of some search accuracy.
While the absence of ABC and ESPN is unfortunate at its price point, FuboTV still offers one of the best streaming experiences for fans of live sports, with an aggressively low introductory price to sweeten the pot.