What do you do if you hate your cable bill or your cable company, but you still want cable TV? Or maybe you hang on because it seems like your only option for live sports. Well, it turns out that a number of companies can basically stream cable TV to you over the internet, allowing you to bypass your cable box and all of its hidden fees that surface on your monthly bill. We've identified the four live TV streaming services that you should put on your shopping list.
PlayStation Vue is very similar to YouTube TV (detailed below) and a contender for best overall live TV service. It has four tiers of channels ranging from $40 to $75 a month, after a free 5-day trial. Live sports fans should check out the $45 tier, which includes NBC Sports, CBS Sports, the SEC and the Big Ten; and the official channels for the NFL, NBA, and MLB. You can get Vue for Android, iOS, and on a variety of other platforms.
All four tiers get the national broadcast networks (Fox, NBC, ABC, and CBS). You also get a DVR function that can record an unlimited number of hours of programming, although your recordings expire after 28 days.
When you tag a show to be added to your DVR, PS Vue will automatically record all subsequent episodes. The same works for sports; record a Giants baseball game, and PS Vue will DVR the remaining games until you tell it to stop. There's also some on-demand content available, but it's usually restricted to the most recent airings.
PS Vue has the Discovery Network family of channels that YouTube TV lacks, but not the Viacom channels, the latter of which includes Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, and BET. If you have a PlayStation Plus subscription, you can add Showtime for $9 a month, and you can separately combine HBO and Cinemax for $20 total. (Disclosure: Showtime, CBS, and Download.com are owned by the same parent company.)
Despite its name, you can get PlayStation Vue on a variety of devices such as the Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, and within a web browser. The full device list and some special conditions are detailed here.
Overall, PS Vue is arguably the most well-rounded option for live TV streamers, with a combination of competitive pricing, a good channel selection, ease of use, and an agreeable DVR system. However, sports fans on a budget should also check out Sling TV (detailed below).
Despite its name, YouTube TV (Android, iOS) is basically a live TV service, offering the major networks and a healthy selection of basic cable for $40 a month with a free 7-day trial, plus a few optional add-on channels. You can get YouTube TV in your web browser and on an Apple TV, Roku, game console, certain recent big-screen TVs, and you can stream it from your phone to your TV via a Google Chromecast dongle. The full list of compatible devices is available here.
In a departure from the competition, that $40 tier is the only one offered. But you do get a cloud DVR with unlimited capacity, and you can keep a recording for up to nine months. However, its DVR behaves differently than the others; YouTube TV pulls out the original ad breaks and replaces them with new ones that cannot be skipped.
There's also an on-demand library that exists separately from your DVR, but it varies wildly from one show to another. Sometimes you get whole seasons, while other times only the most recent episodes.
And be aware that YouTube TV currently lacks Viacom and Discovery Networks channels, so that means no Comedy Central, Food Network, HGTV, Animal Planet, or a number of other popular binge-worthy channels. But despite a few holdouts, YouTube TV is a promising live TV system that's easy to use and figure out.
Sling TV (Android, iOS) is the most cost-effective point of entry for people interested in live TV streaming, starting at just $20 a month, with a 7-day free trial. Of course, at that price, there are some compromises. The base "Sling Orange" tier doesn't get you any of the major networks, and your live sports options are limited to ESPN and TBS.
But you also get popular channels like CNN, The Food Network, Comedy Central, BBC America, and AMC. Also, if you pre-pay your first two months, you get a free Roku Express, which is a compact streaming device that you plug into your TV to stream video from your phone or tablet.
For live sports fans, the $25 "Sling Blue" tier of channels will get you all of the relevant channels from Fox Sports and NBC Sports, though it doesn't get the ESPN channels that are in the Sling Orange tier. On the other hand, you can combine Blue and Orange for $40 a month. None of its tiers or addons include CBS's channels, but you can add ABC for an additional $5 a month.
Adding a DVR will also cost another $5 a month, and it grants you up to 50 hours of content; while that's relatively small, your recordings also never expire. Some channels on Sling don't let you record, however. This support page has all the details on this feature.
FuboTV (Android, iOS) is very similar to YouTube TV, in that you get primarily one tier of channels, a few optional add-on channels, and a 7-day free trial. If you sign up on the website, you get your first month for $20 instead of the $45 rate, too.
FuboTV distinguishes itself with a heavy emphasis on sports. Pretty much every televised sport, from soccer to surfing, gets coverage. And it's easy to navigate through the app to find the sport that tickles your fancy.
The built-in DVR will record up to 30 hours of programming, and sometimes you can even go back a couple days and see previously aired games, even if you didn't add them to your DVR library. You can bump that up to 300 hours for an additional $10 a month.
FuboTV doesn't currently carry ABC or the ESPN family of channels, so there are some gaps. But with other sports networks stealing a lot of thunder from ESPN these days, this is not the gaping hole that it used to be. If you don't watch much network TV either, FuboTV is definitely worth checking out.
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