Americans are dumping cable in record numbers. More of us have Netflix than we do cable subscriptions, cord-cutting is picking up speed as cable bills rise, and generally, live TV is struggling to stay relevant. The most recent attempt to get you to watch live TV is AT&T’s new service, which gives their unlimited data subscribers what amounts to cable TV without the sports. The plan joins a crowded field, and if you’re sick of your cable plan, but don’t want to forgo some networks, a live TV streaming plan might be a good option. But what’s out there, what do you get, and is it worth it? Here are all the options currently running, from most expensive to least.
Before we begin, there are a few things worth noting that apply to all these services. Despite what you’d think, local affiliates are not guaranteed to be on the dial; rights to stream networks vary from affiliate to affiliate, so check the site of any service you’re considering. Local news junkies especially should keep this in mind. Also, sports tend to be the most isolated and locked off on these services; for example, if you can’t stream your local affiliate for a broadcast network, instead you’ll get an “on demand” version that blacks out sports games. Sports fans may be better off looking into the streaming service run by the league of their choice, or for broadcast games, just buying an antenna. And finally: Sorry, ads are included and you can’t opt-out. With that in mind, onward!
Hulu Live, $40/month
What You Get: Hulu Live has pretty much the full basic cable suite, including a variety of sports channels, although what local channels pop up on your dial will depend on your zip code. There are also a few add-on networks, like HBO, you can get as well, and it comes with a 50-hour cloud DVR. And, of course, you can stream Hulu.
Worth It?: Hulu is a bit of an odd duck here because Hulu Live is sort of a competitor against its own parent. Hulu’s library of cable TV and older and classic shows on tap for $8 a month is pretty much what most of us get out of cable in the first place, and you’ll probably sit through fewer ads. Still, if you want cable, especially sports, but more freedom in how you watch it, Hulu Live is probably as close as you’re going to get. One other helpful factor: Hulu is easily on the most devices.
YouTube TV, $40 a month
What You Get: YouTube’s sales pitch is the most direct. Get 60-plus networks, including one of the more robust sports and news channel packages on these services, for $40.
Worth It?: We’d say yes except its platforms are absurdly limited: If you don’t have the neatest, hottest new phone, or at least got one in the last few years, good luck getting this service to work. Even YouTube essentially recommends trying to download the app to figure out if it does work; if you can’t, it doesn’t. That’s really the big black eye in what’s otherwise a surprisingly good service. Another downside? You have to subscribe to YouTube’s other services separately. And finally, sorry, Game of Thrones fans, but you can’t add on HBO.