First take: What’s the best streaming service?
Hulu + Live TV has the best mix of on-demand shows and live TV, so it’s the best choice for most folks. But if you love sports, Sling TV may be a better option. And if you’re on a budget, Philo comes with a tiny price tag but a bunch of lifestyle channels.
Best Streaming Services 2019
- Hulu + Live TV—Best overall
- Sling TV—Best for sports
- YouTube TV—Excellent Cloud DVR
- HBO NOW—Good premium shows and movies
- Netflix—Best original on-demand shows
- fuboTV—Good for international sports
- AT&T TV NOW—Included HBO®
- Amazon Prime Video—Best for renting
While our top five will be best for most people, your personal preferences might lead you to another on the list. For instance, if you don’t care about football, but you do care about fútbol, fuboTV is the better sports streaming choice for you.
To help you decide, we’ll give you a heads-up when a service has a steep competitor in the sections below. We also have complete reviews for many of the services above if you want all the fine print before you sign up.
But luckily, most streaming services have a free trial period and a month-to-month contract. This isn’t a sign-your-life-away situation—so no pressure.
Hulu + Live TV
|Hulu (No Ads)||$11.99/mo.||N/A||N/A||View Package|
|Hulu + Live TV||$44.99/mo.||60+||50 hours||View Package|
|Hulu (No Ads) + Live TV||$50.99/mo||60+||50 hours||View Package|
If you’re making the switch from cable TV to streaming, Hulu + Live TV is a great place to start—and stay.
You might already be familiar with its massive on-demand library. For just $44.99 per month, you’ll get all those shows and movies, plus over 60 live channels and 50 hours for recordings you want to watch later.
You don’t have to worry about lots of channel pack add-ons since Hulu Live gives you almost everything upfront. But there are some DVR and stream count upgrades you can get if you’re in the mood to go big.
And with all the money you’ll save once your cable TV provider isn’t gouging you, you might as well dream big, right?
Pros and cons
- Keeps packages simple
- Provides local channels in many areas
- Charges a lot for upgrades
- Lacks major league and Viacom channels
Both Hulu and Netflix offer fantastic on-demand shows and movies. But Netflix has tons of incredible original shows—like Stranger Things—you can’t get anywhere else.
Hulu also has original shows, like The Handmaid’s Tale, but not as many hits as Netflix. Still, you’ll probably enjoy a bunch of the TV series it hosts. So even if you don’t care about live TV, check out the $5.99-per-month on-demand plan.
Prime Video comes included with an Amazon Prime membership, but if you don’t already have that, steer clear of the stand-alone $8.99 monthly plan.
Unless you’re itching to marathon Prime Video’s exclusive The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Good Omens, and Carnival Row. That’s a good reason, and we won’t stop you.
Despite the mediocre Prime shows, you’ll want to keep the Prime Video app handy for movie rentals. Anything you can’t find on Hulu or Netflix will be on Prime Video—for a price.
|Orange + Blue||$40/mo.||50+||4||View Package|
You might be getting the best sports channels with satellite TV, but think how great the Big Game will be when you don’t have to knock snow off the satellite dish.
For major league sports, Sling TV has everything from ESPN, NFL Network, NFL RedZone, NBA TV, MLB Network, and FOX Sports 1 and 2. You can even pick up college league games with the Pac-12 Network.
Alternatively, international sports lovers will find their soccer fix on fuboTV. And if you want to watch multiple games all on one screen, PlayStation Vue is the place to do that—but be warned its higher prices are not for the faint of heart.
Sling TV add-ons can add up fast, but all its sports fixings come at a better price than PlayStation Vue.
Pros and cons
- Has almost every sports channel
- Offers tons of customizability
- Has confusing packages and add-ons
- Offers tiny cloud DVR
- Base package: Sling Orange & Sling Blue ($40/mo.)
- Add-on: Sports Extras ($10/mo.)
- Recording add-on: Cloud DVR ($5/mo.)
- Total cost: $55/mo.
If you want a more well-rounded package, switch out the Sports Extras and Cloud DVR for the Total TV Deal add-on. That’ll total $60 per month for over 130 top channels.
Ready to throw out the satellite dish yet?
If you’re tired of paying high prices for cable TV or another video streaming service, Philo’s got your back. You’ll get an excellent deal on a bunch of lifestyle and entertainment channels—but no sports or local channels. Sorry!
Or if you like having a full-blown service like Hulu + Live TV or YouTube TV that doesn’t happen to have Viacom channels (BET, MTV, and Nickelodeon), Philo works well as a cheap second service.
Philo has a large on-demand library, and you can keep an unlimited number of shows on your cloud DVR for up to 30 days. All in all, Philo is a steal at just $20 per month.
Pros and cons
- Hard-to-find streaming channels
- Unlimited cloud DVR
- Limited compatible devices
- No sports channels
How much do you save by switching to streaming?
YouTube TV isn’t a budget choice, and it doesn’t have the on-demand content of Hulu + Live TV (Cobra Kai isn’t quite The Handmaid’s Tale), but it does have the best cloud DVR out there.
You’ll get unlimited hours of recordings that stick around for a full nine months. Because other services have strict restrictions on their cloud DVRs, YouTube TV is perfect for those of us who plan to watch all our favorite shows . . . eventually.
Pros and cons of YouTube TV
- Offers local channels in most areas
- Comes with 6 accounts
- Doesn’t have NFL Network and Viacom channels
You can watch HBO® through a bunch of streaming services. But if you want only the best, why pay for the rest?
HBO NOW offers the full catalog of HBO shows, along with tons of movies, for the same price or better than you’d get it anywhere else.
We could go on about how great Game of Thrones, The Wire, and Veep are, but we figure you’re cool enough to know what’s what.
Pros and cons of HBO NOW
- Makes awesome original shows
- Hosts excellent new movies
- Premiers live shows about 24 hours after they air
Another noteworthy service
Streaming live TV is still a volatile service, with changes happening all the time. Unfortunately, some poorly thought out changes from DIRECTV NOW led hundreds of thousands of people to change their streaming service.
Doing a bit of damage control, its parent company, AT&T, recently rebranded the service as AT&T TV NOW without changing the actual service.
But despite its downward spiral, DIRECTV NOW—or AT&T TV NOW, we guess—is still a big name, so we should probably talk about them in our best streaming services article.
AT&T TV NOW (formerly DIRECTV NOW)
|PLUS||$65/mo.||45+||20 hours||View Package|
|MAX||$80/mo.||60+||20 hours||View Package|
|OPTIMO MÁS||$86/mo.||90+||20 hours||View Package|
|ENTERTAINMENT||$93/mo.||65+||20 hours||View Package|
|CHOICE||$110/mo.||85+||20 hours||View Package|
|XTRA||$124/mo.||105+||20 hours||View Package|
|ULTIMATE||$135/mo.||125+||20 hours||View Package|
A couple of years ago, DIRECTV NOW (now AT&T TV NOW) had great deals and packages. But recently it raised its prices so high you may be better off going with traditional TV service.
The exceptions are AT&T TV NOW’s featured packages, PLUS and MAX. They have some noteworthy channels like Disney Channel and ESPN, but a lot of filler. But the big thing is that both come with HBO, and MAX even has CINEMAX® too.
If you’re looking for premium channels with a side of live TV, this may be the best way for you to go.
Pros and cons of AT&T TV NOW
- Features packages with HBO included
- Offers 20*& sports channels
- Provides low cloud DVR storage
- Charges more than its satellite TV counterpart
The winds of change are blowing
What to look for in streaming services
Now that you’re familiar with the major players in the streaming world, you’re free to dive in deeper to find the perfect service for you. Let’s review the features that should be key to your decision-making process.
Channel counts are all well and good. But streaming services tend to have less filler, which is why their channel counts are so much lower than their traditional TV counterparts.
Go for a service that has all the channels you love, or find a couple that pair up well. YouTube TV and Philo make an excellent match, with more than 90 unique channels for a total of $64.99 per month.
This 80-mile range antenna from 1byone has helped loads of folks get their local channels for a one-time charge under $30.
Just like an old-school set-top box DVR, your cloud DVR will help you keep your favorite shows to watch later. This is especially helpful with services like YouTube TV that don’t have much in the way of on-demand shows.
Or if you’re fine letting go of shows after a month, but you have a ton of shows that need recording right now, PlayStation Vue and Philo are good options.
Of course, YouTube TV is the best, since you can record every show you love and hold onto it for a full nine months.
You don’t want to fight with family or roommates over who gets to watch what when. If you aren’t the only person using your streaming service, note how many streams you can get at once.
Hulu + Live TV comes with only two streams, but for $9.99 per month you can get unlimited streams at home and three for on the go. That’s a huge win for a streaming family.
Or you can get PlayStation Vue for its two at-home streams and three at-home or on-the-go streams. That comes included in the price, so you won’t have to worry about add-ons.
Streaming service FAQ
What is the best movie streaming service?
Hulu has a lot of great movies for the price. While HBO NOW’s collection is smaller, most of its films are of a higher caliber. Netflix has a lot of original movies you can’t get anywhere else, but there’s a lot of garbage to sift through. Amazon Prime Video usually has B-movies at best, but there you can also rent or buy most new movies.