Cord-cutting used to be pretty simple. You only had a handful of streaming alternatives to the big cable companies. Today, the number of options are multiplying so fast that it’s hard to keep up. Flixed’s How to Cut the Cord guide will help you navigate these choices.

In this first article, we’ll look at the live TV streaming services that directly replace your cable subscription. When it comes to streaming live TV, you have nearly a dozen options with their own strengths and tradeoffs.

In later articles, we’ll look at sources for on-demand streaming, more narrowly-focused streaming services as well as the hardware cord-cutters need to get rid of cable forever.

Subscription-based Services

The subscription-based services we cover in this section are the biggest competitors to cable TV. Unlike cable, they cost as little as $16 per month and they make it easy to cancel.

What to consider

None of these streaming services are identical so here are some things to keep in mind as you evaluate your options.

Local channels

You need to check each service to see what local channels you actually get. The availability of ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC streams varies from service to service and from market to market. Other local stations like PBS or The CW aren’t available through these services.

Basic cable channels

You also need to decide which channels are the most important to you and your family. Channels like SyFy or HGTV aren’t available on every service. In addition, some streaming services offer tiered plans which may force you to pay a little more to get the channels you want.

Add-on channels

Many of the services let you subscribe to premium movie channels like HBO and Showtime. When you do, you instantly get access to those movie channels’ own on-demand streaming services.

Cloud DVR

If you usually don’t watch TV shows when they air live, then you’ll want a service with a high-capacity cloud DVR. Some services charge extra for this upgrade, while others let you record as much as you want.

Device support and simultaneous streaming

This may be the biggest deciding factor for you: what devices will you be using to stream your live TV content? Answering that question gets trickier when you stream through a smart TV, set-top box or gaming console.

TV Everywhere

Do you plan on using your favorite channel’s app to watch content on-demand? If so, you’ll need to confirm the streaming services you’re considering work with that app. Not all of them do.

Philo

Philo channels
Source: Philo

Philo became the low-cost leader among the streaming services by focusing only on lifestyle and entertainment. You won’t get local stations, sports channels or the major cable news networks. For many people that’s OK. Philo is a nice supplementary service, especially for people who use antennas to stream their local TV.

Channels and packages

Philo offers the cheapest subscription plans in the industry. The lineup includes popular channels like AMC, Food Network and HGTV. With the higher-priced plan, you add channels like Nicktoons, BET-Her and MTV Live.

58 Channels
7-day free trial
$20.00/ month

58 channels

3 simultaneous streams

30-Day DVR

SIGN UP

In keeping with its slimmed-down strategy, you cannot add premium movie channels.

Features and extras

Philo’s cloud DVR lets you record as many programs as you want, but the recordings expire after thirty days.

A three-device simultaneous streaming limit is standard with both subscriptions. Unfortunately, Philo is a relatively new service and does not support a wide range of streaming devices.

Free 7-day Trial

Subscribe Now

fuboTV

watch fubotv
Source: fuboTV

International soccer was the original focus of fuboTV and it still is the best service for streaming footie matches. But fuboTV now offers a balanced lineup of entertainment, lifestyle and news channels.

Channels and packages

The basic fubo plan gives you more than eighty channels. The fubo Extra plan adds a few dozen more.

If you want to expand your channel lineup even more, fubo TV offers eleven expansion packs. Most of them are sports related, but you can also get Showtime, AMC Premiere and FX+.

Features and extras

With thirty hours of recording capacity, fuboTV’s cloud DVR isn’t the best on the market. However, you a $10 per month upgrade lifts the limit to five hundred hours.

The standard simultaneous streaming limit of two devices is also on the low side. You’ll have to pay another $6 per month to add a third device. fuboTV offers a solid range of apps, but does not support gaming consoles.

Free 7-day Trial

Subscribe Now
 

Hulu with Live TV

watch hulu with live tv
Source: Hulu With Live TV

Hulu’s on-demand streaming service makes Hulu with Live TV a top choice among cord-cutters. You get a solid channel lineup and decent features at a reasonable price.

Channels and packages

Hulu only offers a single $45 monthly subscription plan with about fifty channels. Other live TV services are better, but the subscription includes access to Hulu’s on-demand library.

Hulu + Live TV
7-Day Free Trial
$44.99/ month

67 Channels

2 simultaneous streams

ESPN and Disney

SIGN UP

You can subscribe to entertainment or Spanish-language expansion packs as well as premium channels like HBO, Showtime and Starz.

Unique to Hulu, you can pay $4 per month to remove all of the ads from on-demand content.

Features and extras

Hulu with Live TV offers two $15-per-month upgrades to its standard features and discounts the combined price to $20 per month.

The first upgrade expands the cloud DVR’s standard fifty-hour capacity to two hundred hours and lets you fast forward through commercial breaks in the recordings.

The second upgrade removes the three-device limit on simultaneous streaming at home. Away from home, the upgrade lets you stream to another three devices.

Hulu with Live TV is available on almost every streaming platform.

Free 7-day Trial

Subscribe Now

Sling TV

watch sling tv
Source: Sling TV

Sling TV combines deceptively low starting prices with a large range of customization options. You can tailor your Sling TV experience much more than with any other streaming service. However, you can also end up paying a lot more.

Channels and packages

You may find that subscribing to both Sling Orange and Sling Blue is the only way to get the channels you want. Sling Orange and Sling Blue share thirty-six channels. The eight channels unique to Sling Orange include ESPN, FreeForm, MotorTrend and Disney. Sling Blue gives you the NBC and Fox broadcast networks as well as other sports and movie channels.

Sling Orange
Free Roku Deal
$25.00/ month

34 channels

ESPN

Free Roku Express

1 simultaneous stream.

SIGN UP
Sling Blue
Free Roku Deal$25.00/ month

49 channels

ESPN

Free Roku Express

3 simultaneous streams

SIGN UP
Sling Orange + Blue
Free Roku Deal
$40.00/ month

56 channels

ESPN

Free Roku Express

4* simultaneous streams

SIGN UP
* You get 1 stream for Sling Orange channels and up to 3 simultaneous streams for Sling Blue channels.

Sling TV offers dozens of expansion packs, called Extras. You can add more kid-friendly content, more sports content and even channels from other parts of the world. Premium channel subscriptions are available from Showtime, Starz and others.

Features and extras

Unlike all of the other services, Sling TV does not include a cloud DVR. You have to pay an extra $5 each month to get fifty hours of recording capacity. And it comes with a catch. You can’t record any of the channels that are unique to Sling Orange.

Only one device in your household can stream from Sling Orange. As many as three devices can use Sling Blue at the same time. Despite those limitations, Sling TV has a good assortment of streaming apps.

AT&T TV Now

AT&T TV Now
Source: AT&T TV Now

Over the course of 2019, AT&T made some dramatic changes to its streaming TV strategy. The media giant raised prices without improving features and then renamed the service AT&T TV Now. Although no longer the best deal in the market, AT&T TV Now offers more channels than most streaming services which makes it worth considering.

Channels and packages

AT&T TV Now uses a system of tiered subscription plans to offer fewer channels at higher prices than other streaming services.

Plus
7-day free trial
$50.00/ month

45+ channels

2 simultaneous streams

20 hours of DVR space

HBO
SIGN UP
Max
7-day free trial
$70.00/ month

60+ channels

2 simultaneous streams

20 hours of DVR space

HBO + Cinemax
SIGN UP
*Note that AT&T TV Now offers several other plans that are hidden until you click to sign up.

The Plus and Max subscription plan include HBO, which gives you access to the HBO Go on-demand app. You can also add subscriptions to premium channels like Showtime and Starz.

Features and extras

AT&T TV Now’s cloud DVR only lets you record twenty hours of content. There is no upgrade.

For $5 per month, you can replace the two-device simultaneous streaming limit with a three-device limit. With the exception of game consoles, AT&T TV Now supports most major streaming platforms.

Free 7-day Trial

Subscribe Now

PlayStation Vue

watch playstation vue
Source: PlayStation Vue

PlayStation Vue is the best all-around replacement for a cable subscription with a good selection of channels, premium-level features and reasonably-priced subscription plans. Just ignore the PlayStation branding — Sony’s streaming service works with almost every streaming device.

Channels and packages

PlayStation Vue uses a tiered pricing structure that adds more channels as you pay more. By the time you get to the Elite level, you’ve unlocked the entire lineup. The Ultra level simply adds some premium movie channels.

Access
5-Day Free Trial
$44.99/ month

50 channels

5 simultaneous streams*

ESPN and Disney

Premium sports

EPIX and FXM

HBO and SHOWTIME

SIGN UP
Core
5-Day Free Trial
$49.99/ month

75 channels

5 simultaneous streams*

ESPN and Disney

Premium sports

EPIX and FXM

HBO and SHOWTIME

SIGN UP
Elite
5-Day Free Trial
$59.99/ month

96 channels

5 simultaneous streams*

ESPN and Disney

Premium sports

EPIX and FXM

HBO and SHOWTIME

SIGN UP
Ultra
5-Day Free Trial
$79.99/ month

98 channels

5 simultaneous streams*

ESPN and Disney

Premium sports

EPIX and FXM

HBO and SHOWTIME

SIGN UP
* You get 3 streams to use in-home or out-of-home streams and 2 extra streams to use in-home.

PlayStation Vue offers expansion packages for sports and Spanish-language channels and lets you subscribe to the FX+ and Epix movie channels.

Features and extras

When comparing it to other services, keep in mind that all PlayStation Vue plans come standard with premium features. The cloud DVR, for example, lets you record as many shows as you want — although the recordings expire after four weeks.

Unlike most services, PlayStation Vue lets your family stream to as many as five devices at a time. PlayStation Vue also has apps on almost every streaming platform with the exception of the Xbox gaming console.

Free 5-day Trial

Subscribe Now

YouTube TV

watch youtube tv
Source: YouTube TV

YouTube TV’s biggest strength is support for live streams from all of the local ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC stations. It also has family-friendly features that are worth considering.

Channels and packages

You’ll get more than seventy channels with YouTube TV’s $40-per-month subscription plan. An à-la-carte menu lets you add premium channels like AMC Premiere, Showtime and Starz.

Features and extras

Families will appreciate YouTube TV’s support for up to six unique profiles. Each profile you create gets its own watch history, recommendations and cloud DVR library. The cloud DVR has an unlimited capacity and will keep your family’s recordings for up to nine months.

YouTube TV is merely middle-of-the-road when it comes to simultaneous streaming. No matter how many profiles you create, only three devices can use the service at the same time.

The biggest gaps in YouTube TV’s app lineup are on Amazon’s streaming devices.

Free Live TV Streaming Services

These free streaming services are a great option to round out your TV-watching, but you do have to make compromises. First, of course, are the ads. These companies have bills to pay, and selling ads is the way they do it. The second compromise is a return to old-fashioned linear TV-watching. These services don’t offer cloud DVRs so there’s no way to watch programs later. You watch what’s on or you don’t watch.

Xumo

Live TV on Xumo
Source: Xumo

Most live streaming services started out with browser and mobile apps and expanded from there. Xumo focused on landing deals with the manufacturers of smart TVs and only recently began streaming to other devices.

You get a choice of more than 150 channels on Xumo. Some of the channels, like Cheddar and Al Jazeera, are truly live. Others stream a mix of live and pre-recorded content. Xumo works out deals with media brands like Vogue, People and Popular Science to stream unique content.

Xumo has apps on a wide range of smart TVs as well as Roku devices. You can also go mobile with Xumo’s iOS and Android apps.

Pluto TV

Live TV on Pluto TV
Source: Pluto TV

Pluto TV is a free, ad-supported streaming service that had early backing from Scripps Network, Sky and other industry powerhouses. Viacom bought the streaming service in 2019, which could mean content from Paramount, Nickelodeon and other Viacom assets will soon stream for free on Pluto TV.

The Pluto TV interface groups more than one hundred channels based on content: movies, news, sports, comedy, gaming and more. A handful of the channels, like Bloomberg TV and CBSN, are the same ones you would get through a subscription service. Most of these channels, however, stream curated content from partner companies or Pluto TV itself.

CombatGo, for example, provides a steady stream of MMA, Brazilian jujitsu and other martial arts events. FunnyAF’s comedy videos get their own dedicated stream. And the gamers at Geek & Sundry provide reviews and gamecasts.

The entertainment channels stream movies by theme: comedy, thrillers, horror, etc. Pluto TV also has thirty-two music channels.

Pluto TV has apps for streaming boxes, smart TVs and mobile. Licensing issues, however, means the exact selection of channels may vary from platform to platform.

 

Chris Casper is a former tech industry product manager who escaped from California for New Mexico. Now he writes about science and tech while searching for the perfect green chile sauce.