The best live tv streaming service in 2024: Cable TV alternatives that save you money

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)

Give me the best live TV streaming services over cable any day. I cut the cord years ago and I'm certainly never going back, and I'm not the only one here at Tom's Guide to make the switch.

Part of what makes these cable alternatives so great is ... well, they're a lot like cable. Most folks can cut the cord while holding onto important channels such as ESPN, TNT and USA. You can even watch NFL live streams or Premier League live streams provided you have the right service.

And that price doesn't require a 12-month or 24-month contract that then skyrockets once it expires. Instead, you decide each month whether you want to stick with your preferred live TV streaming service or go with a better option. So what are you waiting for? Ditch cable and cut the cord today with one of these live TV services that save you money.

The best cable TV alternatives you can buy today

Sling TV, navigated to Rogue One A Star Wars Story, on a TV in a living room

(Image credit: Sling TV)

1. Sling TV

Best cable replacement service overall

Starting Price (per month): $40 | Channels (in entry-level package): 32-40 | DVR: 50 hours (200 hours for $5 per month) | On-Demand: Yes | Device Support: Amazon Fire, Android, Apple TV, Chromecast, Chromecast-enabled TVs, Computers, iOS, Roku | Simultaneous Streams: 1 ($40 per month [Orange]); 3 ($40 per month [Blue]); 4 ($60 per month)

Wide variety of channel packages
Available on large number of devices
Comparably inexpensive
Missing multiple user profiles

Sling TV is the best cable TV alternative for a simple reason: its lower price and customizable nature feel truly in line with the idea of cutting the cord. So much so that our streaming editor Kelly Woo chose it to replace cable.

This cable TV alternative also makes our best streaming services list, in part because it's by far the cheapest service ($40 per month) with either ESPN or local FOX, ABC and NBC affiliates  — and it's often available at a promotional rate. The service offers two basic packages of channels (Orange and Blue), then lets viewers pick and choose smaller extras, which usually cost $5 per month. 

Orange has ESPN (though it lost it once for two days) and Blue has local FOX, ABC and NBC affiliates (depending on your local market).A weird new twist, though, has been added for Sling Blue and Sling Orange & Blue. Those in Fresno, Houston and Raleigh will get ABC on Sling TV for free, while those in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia and the San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose region will be spending $5 more. That means Sling Orange & Blue will cost up to $60. You can see even more differences in our Sling Orange vs Blue guide

From sports to comedy to kids' programming to foreign language channels, Sling TV has a little something for everyone. We just wish its cloud DVR would go unlimited like YouTube and Hulu. For more details, including lineups and pricing and more, check out our What Is Sling TV? and Sling TV promo codes pages. Even Sling's Orange+Blue package is still more affordable than most of its competitors' base packages.

Read our full Sling TV review

YouTube TV, one of the best cable tv alternatives, on a TV

(Image credit: Future)

2. YouTube TV

The best cable TV alternative with all the broadcast channels

Starting Price (per month): $73 | Channels (in entry-level package): More than 100 | DVR: Yes (unlimited) | On-Demand: Yes | Device Support: Android, Chromecast & Chromecast-enabled TVs, Computers, iOS | Simultaneous Streams: 3

Unlimited DVR
Local channels
Easy to use
Newly higher price
No big bonuses like Disney Plus or international sports channels

Simple, easy to use and rocking a very strong selection of channels, YouTube TV remains a top cable TV alternative. YouTube TV's biggest stand-out feature was unlimited storage DVR, but Hulu's caught up to that. And just like Hulu, it has all of the major broadcast networks, so you can get your local news and sports, as well as network sitcoms and dramas.

One of our favorite aspects of YouTube TV is that it's got the shortest lag behind cable TV. Sling and other services are a little further behind the live feeds (less than a minute, but it still counts for sports and live events). YouTube TV also has key plays which is a great feature for watching key highlights in minutes, in sports matches once they are recorded on the DVR. Power users should be excited to hear that YouTube TV's multiview isn't just for March Madness, as YouTube's expanded the feature to the news and weather, as it continues to prepare for usage during the upcoming NFL season. It's these killer sports features that make it the cable TV alternative of choice for our senior writer Malcolm McMillan.

As of April 2023, YouTube TV raised its monthly price to $72.99 per month, which puts it closer to all of the other major services not named Sling). But YouTube TV added new channels to make up for that, including the Magnolia Network. The lack of forced bundling may be a pro or con based on your vantage point, but anyone who doesn't need Disney Plus and ESPN Plus probably appreciates it. Plus, subscribers get a discount on NFL Sunday Ticket.

Read our full YouTube TV review

Cable TV alternative: Hulu with Live TV

(Image credit: Hulu)

3. Hulu + Live TV

The best original programming and bundle deal

Starting Price (per month): $77 | Channels (in entry-level package): More than 85 | DVR: Yes (unlimited) | On-Demand: Yes | Device Support: Android, Apple TV, Chromecast, iOS, Xbox One

Good channel selection
Unlimited cloud DVR
Disney Plus and ESPN Plus come standard
Episode recording gets confusing
Too many menus

Hulu began as an on-demand streaming service, then expanded into offering live TV as well — for those who pay a large extra fee. For $76.99 per month, you get Hulu's traditional catalog of shows and movies, plus access to more than 85 live channels, from A&E to ESPN to TNT. It also includes Disney Plus and ESPN Plus (though both have ads). And Hulu's entry-level package is getting better, as PBS, PBS Kids and the Magnolia Network are coming.

Unfortunately, its most recent price hike is potentially enough of a reason to consider other options. Now, Hulu's value proposition is solely based on its bundled extras. At least Hulu's got an unlimited cloud DVR to match YouTube TV's. For more details, check out our Hulu + Live vs. YouTube TV face-off.

Hulu gets major brownie points for throwing in its library of originals and on-demand programming. Plus, the FX on Hulu partnership has added a ton of classic and modern shows, like The Shield and Atlanta. Not all of these other services boast exclusives on par with the award-winning Handmaid's Tale, Normal People and Little Fires Everywhere. It's important to note though that in our experience, the recording menus are convoluted and we've found it's too easy to miss recording something because you didn't click in enough menus.

Read our full Hulu with Live TV review

Fubo on a TV

(Image credit: FuboTV)

4. Fubo

The best streaming service for international sports

Starting Price (per month): $80 (before regional sports fee) | Channels (in entry-level package): 184 | DVR: Yes (1,000 hours) | On-Demand: Yes | Device Support: Amazon Fire TV, Android, Chromecast, Computers, iOS, Apple TV, Roku, Samsung Smart TVs, Vizio Smartcast TVs | Simultaneous Streams: 10

Huge number of channels
Niche sports networks
Some 4K content
More expensive than competitors
Missing TNT and TBS

All of these live TV streaming services offer some sports content, but Fubo is one of the best cable TV alternatives because it has practically every single sport you could ask for. NFL fans can see every game on Fubo, with its strong list of local broadcast channels (including ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC), as well as the recently-added ESPN (as well as ESPN2 and 3), and the NFL Network. 

On top of that, you get international sports with 8 beIN Sports channels, the Big Ten Network, the Golf Channel and the TUDN (formerly known as UniVision Deportes Network) channels. It's a sports lover's buffet. Fubo is getting regional sports networks, freeing them from being DirecTV Stream exclusives. However, American sports fans may not like Fubo because of its lack of TBS for MLB live streams and TNT for NBA Playoffs live streams.

The big downside here is that Fubo is charging between $11 to $13 for RSN's, and won't let you opt-out if you don't want them. And Fubo's $79 starting price for its entry-level Pro plan starts to put it in competition with cable rather than cable TV alternatives. 

But while it is $35 more than Sling Orange, it gives you 184 channels — many more than on any other option here. So it at least offers you something for the extra money.

Read our full Fubo review  

DirecTV Stream button

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

5. DirecTV Stream

A live TV service for niche sports channels

Starting Price (per month): $80 | Channels (in entry-level package): 75+ | DVR: Yes (unlimited) | On-Demand: Yes | Device Support: Amazon Fire TV, Android, Chromecast & Chromecast-enabled TVs, Computers, iOS, Apple TV, | Simultaneous Streams: Unlimited at home, 3 on the go

Local channels
Region sports networks, at a price
Unlimited cloud DVR
Expensive in comparison
Broadcast delays

DirecTV Stream (previously AT&T TV, AT&T TV Now and DirecTV Now) is a service that keeps changing its name, but it never actually fixes its big problems. Not only is it pricier than most at $80 per month for its base Entertainment package, but that deal only includes "more than 75 channels." Compared to the above options, it's a big heaping bowl of "meh." And its other plans try and lure you into an annual contract — the last thing you want to get. 

That said, we feel for the folks who want to follow their favorite local sports teams, as DirecTV Stream has become the only place that many cord-cutters can find their games on select regional sports networks. The only problem? Those channels are locked in the $90 per month tier. That said, if you want regional sports networks and the likes of TBS, TNT and truTV for national US playoff games, DirecTV Stream is probably best for you. And to match services like Fubo, DirecTV Stream is adding live scores to help you follow other games. Check out our guide on where to live stream NFL, NBA, MLB and more for more details.

We hope to see better quality when we pick it back up soon for a re-test, but we're not optimistic. This all stacks up to a service that is not close to being one of the best choices. 

Read our full DirecTV Stream review

How to choose the best cable TV alternative for you

You can filter through the best cable TV alternatives in a couple of ways. The easiest, of course, is by price. If you want to spend less than $40 per month, you've got an easy buying decision. Sling TV — either its Orange or Blue packages — is the only option, and it costs a relatively low $40 per month. It may not offer as many channels, but everything else starts at least at $70, which can be frustrating when you also want streaming services like Netflix and Disney Plus that cost $8 to $20+ per month.

But if you need all of your available local broadcast channels — ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC — your choices move away from Sling TV to all of its competitors. YouTube TV was formerly the most affordable to give you all four locals, but now it costs about as much as Hulu + Live TV. But Hulu gives you those buzzworthy originals like Normal People, Shrill, Ramy and Little Fires Everywhere.

How we test cable TV alternatives

To determine the best streaming services for you to cut the cord with, we evaluate them by using the services across a wide range of devices, from streaming boxes and smart TVs to mobile apps. This is a great way to see which services stream smoothly and which should be ignored. We're testing services with true live TV, not just the linear "live" TV on apps such as Pluto TV.

As we use these streaming services, we also rate what their interfaces look like. The best streaming services offer clean menus and make it easy to discover new things to watch. Next, we compare the channel lineups, which can vary widely as you go from one service to the other. Some streaming services also offer multiple packages, so we take that into account before arriving at our rating.

Last but not least, we consider price and value. The best streaming services can either augment cable or help you cut the cord completely. So we weigh the features that you’re getting for the money versus the competition.

Kelly Woo
Streaming Editor

Kelly is the streaming channel editor for Tom’s Guide, so basically, she watches TV for a living. Previously, she was a freelance entertainment writer for Yahoo, Vulture, TV Guide and other outlets. When she’s not watching TV and movies for work, she’s watching them for fun, seeing live music, writing songs, knitting and gardening.