Cut the cord in 2023 — Which cable TV alternative is right for you?

The YouTube TV, Sling TV, Hulu, Philo, DirecTV Stream and FuboTV logos appear on a screen with a scissors cutting a coaxial cable wire in front.
(Image credit: Future)

I can't imagine going back to cable. After I cut the cord in 2021, I spent 2022 relying on one (well, I also tried another) of the best cable TV alternatives. And for the most part, it served me well. And while I'm not alone (cable isn't growing (opens in new tab) anymore), cable isn't dead yet. 

So, I thought I've give a sort of state of the union about cord-cutting. Because if there's one new year's resolution I think everyone should make, it's getting rid of cable. Take my former situation: We were paying $127 for cable in two rooms, and that was just too much.

So, I tested every single major live TV service, and found myself (somewhat predictably) going with one of Tom's Guide's choices for the best streaming service. In fact, I'd also picked the same cord-cutter service that my colleague Kelly Woo chose

But, that said, 2022 saw me waver on my solution. I even (briefly) canceled for a competitor. Now, though, I've stuck by the streaming service I rode into 2022, and keeping it through the start of 2023. And that's part of the wonderful nature of cable TV alternative streaming services. You can leap from lily pad to lily pad, and come back depending on what you need. For example, my personal needs change depending on whether or not F1 live streams are taking place.

Sports fans may need DirecTV Stream — which just raised prices

First up, DirecTV Stream. While it wins points with some for having more of the most popular channels than competitors, its main selling point, by our eyes, is its control over many regional sports networks. So, if you want to follow your local sports team's every game, you may need DirecTV Stream for its RSNs. You can get more detail about which teams are where in our guide for how to watch sports online. If your teams play on Bally Sports networks, though, a FuboTV upgrade will be music to your ears.

That said, not everyone will need DirecTV Stream, which will have an entry-level price of $75 per month (the highest in the industry) in January 2023. And if you want those regional sports networks, you're paying $99 per month for its Choice plan. At that price, you might be thinking "why not stick with cable?"

DirecTV Stream widget

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Well, DirecTV Stream does offer some perks. Much like YouTube TV's sports integrations (Key Plays is a killer feature), DirecTV Stream will help you find games if they're blacked out on certain channels. We're looking forward to testing this for ourselves — to see how it actually words. DirecTV Stream (just like YouTube TV) offers information such as game scores and stats. 

But since I'm not tracking the sports teams I used to care about (the Yankees and the Knicks) closely anymore, I don't need DirecTV Stream — because all the channels I need are offered on cheaper services.

Check out our DirecTV Stream review for more details.

Philo is the cheapest option — and it's perfect for Yellowstone

While I subscribe to one of the more affordable options, the $25 per month Philo is even cheaper — in fact, it's the cheapest live TV service there is. Philo comes with 60+ live TV channels, with popular (Food Network, Discovery, HGTV) and prestigious (AMC, BBC America) programming.

Philo TV logo on an Apple TV

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

That said, Philo is a prime example of getting what you pay for. Philo's live news networks (BBC World News, Bloomberg Television, Cheddar News, Accuweather) do not include the likes of CNN, FOX News or MSNBC. And it doesn't even have a single sports network. Not even The Ocho. 

That said, Philo has the Paramount Network, which means it's been perfect for those who want to watch Yellowstone online.

Philo offers a 7-day free trial (opens in new tab).

Hulu with Live TV is for the bundlers

If there was one big (and admittedly bad) theme for streaming services in 2022, it was the price hike. About a year after Hulu with Live TV's $5 price increase that added Disney Plus and ESPN Plus, the plans changed again. 

And prices went up for those who had that bundle with ESPN Plus and ad-free Disney Plus (Hulu, and both of those had price hikes of their own), with that service now costing $74.99 per month (up from $69.99). if you've already forgotten, here are the Disney Plus, Hulu and ESPN Plus price hikes:

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 Old monthly priceNew monthly price
Disney Plus$7.99$10.99 (Dec. 8)
Disney Plus with adsn/a$7.99 (Dec. 8)
Hulu with ads$6.99 $7.99 (Oct. 10)
Hulu without ads$12.99$14.99 (Oct. 10)
ESPN Plus (always has ads)$6.99$9.99 (Aug. 2022)

That older price is still available, though, for those OK with a version of that bundle that includes the ad-supported Disney Plus Basic. Hate ads? You can take ads out of not-live Hulu content and Disney Plus with the $82.99 per month.

With that $69.99 plan, you're spending $5 more than YouTube TV charges, while still getting Hulu, Disney Plus with ads and ESPN Plus. Those services cost $12.99 together right now, so you're saving $8 vs going with YouTube TV and buying that bundle separately. But I'm not using ESPN Plus, so I'd be seeing savings of $5 vs buying the ad-supported Disney Plus and Hulu bundle.

The Hulu app on an Apple TV home screen

(Image credit: Future)

This all sounds pretty good. And if it wasn't for my particular set of wanted channels, I'd be considering the $70 per month option once F1 season rolls around. When that happens, I'll be spending the same amount on my current service of choice + a now-legacy version of the Disney Bundle that has ad-free Disney Plus. To trade ads on Disney Plus for an unlimited DVR and many more channels? I'm curious. 

But I didn't pick Hulu with Live TV in 2021 because the service was simply too unstable for me. I experienced regular buffering as often as once-per-hour. So, I look forward to testing Hulu with Live TV out again in 2023, to see if it's better for me. 

Check out Hulu with Live TV (opens in new tab) for yourself.

Fubo is improving, but still lacks certain channels 

FuboTV markets itself as the live TV streaming service for sports fans, but that's always come with an asterisk for us. Sure, it's a great service for international sports fans — all the futbol you could ask for — but without TNT for NBA live streams, TBS for MLB live streams and those aforementioned regional sports networks ... its $70 per month is still steep when YouTube TV is only $65 per month. And YouTube TV has TNT and TBS. That said, Fubo's big deal for Bally's regional sports networks is huge, adding 19 channels that bring games from MLB, MLS, NBA and NHL in the coming weeks.

In 2022, though, FuboTV added Altitude Sports for the Colorado Avalanche (NHL) and Denver Nuggets (NBA). And more recently, it added Court TV, ION, ION Mystery, ION Plus, Bounce, Grit and Newsy. Formerly, those were DirecTV exclusives. Fubo also got a price hike, ditching its $65 per month Starter plan and migrating members to its $70 Pro plan.

cord cutting with fuboTV test

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

FuboTV also beats Sling on DVR with its 1,000 hour cap — while YouTube TV, Philo, Hulu and DirecTV Stream all have unlimited DVR. And since I stream a lot on the Apple TV 4K, I have to give Fubo credit for its Multiview feature that lets you watch four feeds at once. 

That said, Fubo had one hiccup this year. Fubo went down during a World Cup semifinal, and blamed a cyber attack. Those trying to watch France vs Morocco on the premiere live streaming service for non-American football were out of luck.

Sound like your speed? Sign up for FuboTV's 7-day free trial (opens in new tab) today.

YouTube TV is our runner-up, and a rising favorite here

Half of the Tom's Guide staffers who have written about their cord-cutting decisions chose YouTube TV, and it's not difficult to see why. It has the best apps of the group (having the YouTube app was a head-start), and it was the first big service with unlimited DVR. 

I'd even go so far as to say YouTube TV is almost perfect. And it's only getting better Rumor has it YouTube TV will also get the split-screen mode akin to FuboTV's multiview, and YouTube TV will have NFL Sunday Ticket starting with next season. That said, the latter will be an add-on you have to pay more for (and will be sold separately via YouTube Primetime Channels).

Youtube TV app on Apple TV home screen

(Image credit: Future)

Fortunately, 2022 was much better for YouTube TV than 2021. You might remember how April 2021 saw YouTube TV pulled from the Roku Channel Store, or how December 2021 saw a YouTube and Disney spat that took ESPN, ABC and other channels down for a weekend. But don't worry drama-lovers, someone else got to have all that not-fun.

Check out our YouTube TV review for more details.

Why I kept (and briefly left) Sling TV

Sling TV is our pick for the best cable TV alternative (and one of the best streaming services) by being both more affordable than most, with a starting price of $40 per month. 

To get to that low price, you pick either Sling Blue or Sling Orange, and both offer a decent (but admittedly incomplete) channel lineup. Sling Orange + Blue combines them both, so you can get ESPN channels and local FOX and NBC affiliates. Some will note that ABC and CBS are absent. My colleague Kelly Woo needs ABC, so she plugs an AirTV and HDTV antenna into her setup so she can get that too.

Sling TV logo

(Image credit: Future)

But was the year that tested my resolution on Sling TV. First off, Sling raised prices by $5 across the board, without any addition to justify that (Sling's announcement claimed the company had done its best to avoid raising prices). Then, I saw Sling TV buffering issues (and my connection direct via Ethernet, not over Wi-Fi).

And Sling's buffering got so bad one night that I actually switched to YouTube TV. But I actually went right back to Sling an hour later. Why? Well, I realized I'd just paid that month's Sling bill, and couldn't get a refund. And once Sling started working again, I really wanted to watch something that was in that DVR that couldn't be found on YouTube's on-demand.

So, I went back. And after F1 season ended, I went from Sling Orange + Blue to Sling Blue. Now, it's been over a month since I had a single hiccup with Sling. 

Sling offer what you want? Try Sling TV (opens in new tab) out now.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Cable TV alternatives compared
ServiceStarting priceNotable channelsDVR capacityKey features
Sling TV$40 per monthESPN (Orange), Fox and NBC (Blue) TBS, TNT, AMC, CNN50 hoursLow price, customizability
YouTube TV$65 per monthABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, ESPN, AMC, CNNUnlimitedKey Plays, Only $65 option left
Hulu with Live TV$70 per monthABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, ESPN, TNT, TBSUnlimitedIncludes Hulu, Disney Plus and ESPN Plus
DirecTV Stream$75 per monthABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, ESPN, TNT, TBSUnlimitedRegional sports networks at $90 tier
FuboTV$70 per monthABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, ESPN, TUDN, beIN Sports1,000 hoursMultiview on Apple TV
Philo$25 per monthParamount NetworkUnlimitedCheapest option

Outlook: A new cycle of testing while we're waiting on a YouTube TV price hike

As mentioned above, Tom's Guide is about to start a new batch of testing of these live TV streaming services. All will be tested on the same devices that are hard-wired to the internet, for the sake of stability. 

But for now, Sling's affordable entry-level price is why I'm keeping it as the service I pay for with my actual money. Hulu with Live TV's bundled pricing makes it enticing, which is why I want to give it another chance. Fubo's lack of TBS and TNT is a deal-breaker for me, but I know the service is compelling for many. As for YouTube TV? It is the one service here that's been at its current price for the longest, last raising prices in 2020 (Philo's last price hike was in 2021). 

Sling TV new app

(Image credit: Sling TV)

And YouTube TV is the best — if we ignore pricing — service on this list. It has the best apps and user experience, and I am begging Sling to copy their homework. That said, cord-cutting is all about the bottom line, so I'm sticking with Sling for the time being. 

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.