Product Use case Rating
Best Overall PlayStation Vue 4
Best Value Sling TV 4
Best Selection of Content Hulu with Live TV 3.5
Best DVR YouTube TV 3
Not Recommended DirecTV Now 2

Ready to Say Goodbye to Cable?



If you don't feel like paying exorbitant cable or satellite fees, but still crave the sweet pablum of basic cable programming, you can always try a cable-replacement service. These online streaming subscriptions deliver live (and on-demand) channels over the internet, and while they're not cheap, they're not as hellaciously expensive as traditional cable or satellite fees. If streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Video aren't enough for you, read on to find out how you can reintroduce live TV into your home without signing your life away to an onerous cable contract.

History appears to be on your side if you're ready to cancel your traditional paid TV subscription. The Video Advertising Bureau released a report suggesting that the number of households without a cable or satellite service in the United States has just about tripled since 2013. As the report doesn't take cable replacement services into account, the actual number might be even higher.


How We Tested and Ranked the Services

Every cable-replacement service has strengths and weaknesses. This list is presented in order from the strongest overall (PlayStation Vue) to the weakest (DirecTV Now). While your preference among services may depend on what you want to watch, which programs you want to record and how much you're willing to pay, this guide should help you decide what's worth your money.

The best cable replacements offer a wide variety of channels, an intuitive interface and a reasonable price. At the other end of the spectrum, some services may be difficult to navigate, unreasonably expensive or missing your favorite channels.

MORE: The Best Streaming Video Services for Cord Cutters

Even so, no service we've reviewed is incomplete enough to discourage you from using it outright. If a service sounds like it might be a good fit for you, your best bet is to investigate which channels that service offers and see if it falls within your price range. Most of these services give you anywhere from a week to a month to evaluate them before charging you, and none of them require a contract. At worst, you'll be stuck with a service you don't like for a month.

Latest News and Updates (Oct. 2018)

  • The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K is an affordable and straightforward to watch most of these services — except for YouTube TV, thanks to Amazon and Google's ongoing feud.

Best Overall: PlayStation Vue

Sony's cable-replacement service began life as a PlayStation exclusive, but now you can find PlayStation Vue just about anywhere. Viewers can choose from among four packages, ranging in price from $45 per month to $80 per month (although these prices can vary by location). Each plan will land you staples such as Cartoon Network, CNN, Discovery, Disney Channel, FX, Syfy, TBS and a variety of broadcast networks, depending on where you live. You can also record hundreds of programs and hang onto them for 28 days at a time. What really puts PS Vue at the top of the list is the service's interface, which is sleek, fast and instantly comprehensible. The service's DVR feature is also simple and robust.

Best Value: Sling TV

The service that started the cable-replacement trend is still one of the best on the market. Sling TV starts off cheap ($20 per month), and while the cost can balloon quickly, depending on your add-ons, this probably won't happen. That's because Sling TV offers two basic packages of channels (Orange and Blue), then lets viewers pick and choose smaller add-ons, which usually cost $5 per month. From sports to comedy to kids' programming to foreign language channels, Sling TV has a little something for everyone. The service's DVR features are not bad, either.

Best Content Selection: Hulu with Live TV

Hulu started life as an on-demand streaming service, but has more recently expanded into offering live TV as well. For $40 per month, you get Hulu's traditional catalog of streaming shows and movies, plus access to more than 50 live channels, from A&E to ESPN to TNT. Hulu with Live TV is particularly good at recommending new content, and its interface is one of the most colorful and navigable in the cable-replacement sphere. You'll have to deal with a ton of advertisements, though, and if you want more DVR space or simultaneous streams, you'll have to pay up to $30 extra per month.

Best DVR: YouTube TV

YouTube is the most popular streaming-video platform online; it was only a matter of time until YouTube tried its hand at providing live TV, too. For $35 per month with this service, you'll get almost 40 channels — which is, admittedly, not that many. Still, there are some good networks, especially for sports fans: multiple stations from ESPN, CBS Sports and Fox Sports. YouTube TV's biggest draw is the service's unlimited DVR feature, which lets you record as much as you want and keep it for up to nine months. The integration with the rest of YouTube feels half-baked, though.

Not Recommended: DirecTV Now

DirecTV Now offers a generous number of channels across four different packages, and it doesn't cost all that much, considering how much you get: $35 per month for more than 60 channels, up to $70 per month for more than 120 channels. While it's a good deal on paper, DirecTV Now itself has inconsistent video quality, a suboptimal interface and a haphazard selection of on-demand content. DVR options are still in their infancy, and platform availability is all over the place. If you want the largest amount of stuff to watch for the least amount of money, DirecTV Now works; otherwise, it's not the best choice.








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  • GoldMan27
    Great suggestions, if you're an American. PS Vue, Sling, Hulu, etc. all are American-only, nothing for us Canucks.

    Another viable alternative that my parents and I have found is to simply get an Android Box and use the Exodus add-on on Kodi. The box, with setup and such, cost us $120, but after that, it's all free (just gotta pay the Internet bill after that). :)
  • Jorani
    I don't think that full blown home theaters and just general HiFi people, can say goodbye to cables just yet and tbh, I'd still much rather use XLR cables that rely on wireless hardware and expect it to deliver an equally clear sound and image.
  • Jorani
    Than*
  • Jorani
    I don't think that full blown home theaters and HiFi people can say goodbye to cables just yet and tbh, I'd personally still use XLR cables, than rely on wireless hard- and software to deliver equally clear image and sound.
  • electricianjoel
    As a first day adopter of DTVN it has in fact had it's issues. But, I did lock in the $35/month plus free AppleTV gen 4. DTVN has all of the channels I need. As far as DVR goes, I could care less. Remember not having it? I'm good without it. Especially now that alot of the network apps have access to past episodes. Video quality has had some issues. Personally, I think it's very good. I catch myself thinking, this isn't Dish Network or cable tv but streaming. I had Dish for 12 years, great service, but I am saving $70/month.
  • Margie_37
    Do any of these services have the local news live?
    Thanks.
    Chris
  • mcbutters
    @Margie I have PS Vue and I get all major live local news. I believe almost all markets have this. Look at PlayStation website to confirm it's available in your zip code.
  • Kristine_6
    I've found Sling TV to not offer competitive package. I was an early user and subscriber for a couple of years. However, I felt that I was able to get a basic cable package with what Sling offered. I also had major buffering issues with Sling, especially when a season premiere or big episode of a popular show was being shown. This year, I searched my options for alternative streaming options. I tried Playstation Vue, but, I found them price-y and did not offer Viacom channels. With a majority of channel apps offering episodes of new tv shows within 24 hours, I do not feel it is really necessarily to have a DVR option. Currently, I am with Directv Now and I've been extremely happy with them. I have not had the buffering issues other people have had. I only had buffering when watching NBC. Other than that, I save money on the cheapest package and a movie channel (Live a Little package and HBO) with more channels than what's out there for $40. I was fortunate to sign up when they were offering free, latest Apple TV. Looking forward to when there is an app on Roku so I can watch tv in bed! Btw, in case anyone is wondering, I do use Comcast for internet services on the cheapest option available with no buffering issues.
  • GTrahald
    Having bundles, also helps. While with DTV and AT&T, you still get access to DTVN streaming content, but also 15 channels of HBO and HBO GO. After the bundle rebates, the cost is $50/mo, for the lowest tier. Certainly not cable, and your money is going to the same company, but you do get the best of both, full 5 tuner DVR whole home DVR service, plus on the go streaming. What I am trying to say, Satellite service isn't Cable or Streaming. They traditionally were the rebels against Cable TV prices. However after some time they turned into nothing under $110/mo, a lot like cable. But while there's a lot of customer churn, the prices and business modeling has changed. I am liking it, while it lasts.
  • Dennis21646
    I saw somewhere online that there is a free streaming service that offered nearly 200 channels for free. Why do You not include that service in Your overview? You are right about Direct T.V. That's what I have now and it is EXPENSIVE and a terrible service. I am hell bent on getting rid of it. I just can't decide whether to go with streaming or a cable service. How dependable are the steaming services?
  • carlsteve
    Dependability and other quality issues related to the streaming Internet TV services are all over the board. Internet speed, type of Internet connection (wired vs. wireless), and platform (game console vs. computer vs. other devices) are among the things to consider. I chose PlayStation Vue because it has the widest choice of channels at a price I couldn't pass up. Its feature set is considered by many to be superior to the alternatives. Buffering of streaming content is more noticeable on certain platforms, with Roku often cited as one of the worst. When considering how much you'll save over traditional cable/satellite, you need to factor in the cost of Internet service. That wasn't an issue for me. As a heavy computer user, I would have Internet access to pay for anyway, regardless of my TV usage. If you have a family with several members using your Internet connection all at the same time, streaming TV service performance will take a hit, as it requires a fair amount of horsepower. If more than one person in the home is watching PS Vue at the same time, they each need to be on a different platform, with some exceptions. Sony's PS Vue website explains those limitations in more detail.
  • deebrown921
    I've tried all the formentioned services except Hulu Live so far. Found the $35 DTVN package to be the perfect channel line up (especially that $5 HBO!) and user interface for me. However the technical issues cause me to long for something better. I had such high hopes for YouTube TV but the limited channel and device selection is a deal breaker. I'll be trying Hulu Live very soon (when my YouTube TV trial is over). This process of finding the best deal on high speed internet and the best streaming service is hard work. I also have a couple of Mohu antennas as my security net. Having choices is great!
  • bpballr04
    I thought the whole point in cutting the cord was to save money? I'm not sure how PS Vue is attacking this issue with their prices...I'm also not sure why you would pay extra for local channels, when you can get them for free with an antenna? We tried almost all of the free trials to see which one we liked best and I ended up choosing DirectTVNow. It just had the most channels we wanted to watch. I thought the SlingTV Blue and Orange things were inconvenient and confusing. I do hope they get the DVR and On Demand updated though. DirectTVNow was like the only one that had a normal "Guide" that you are used to with a cable package. This was another reason we chose them.
  • carlsteve
    Whether the price is worth it is in the eyes of the beholder. Vue may not be the cheapest, but many users feel it is the best value according to anecdotal reports in various forums. That assessment is based on features, channel selection, user interface, DVR, etc. Regardless of which streaming service is chosen, the vast majority of cord cutters claim they are saving a bundle compared to traditional cable/satellite. As for Vue's competitors, by the time you include add-ons (e.g., sports and/or movie packages) and premium channels, are you really saving much? Some of the competition also charges extra for DVR usage, but not with Vue.

    As for over-the-air TV, reception in many areas ranges from limited to terrible. If you live in rental property, you normally don't have the option of installing a powerful outdoor antenna. If you live near mountains, even the best outdoor antenna won't do much. A streaming service can solve that problem. Another advantage to getting local channels via streaming is that you can record those programs with the DVR feature. The FCC requires cable and satellite companies to include locals. Even if that rule doesn't apply to streaming services, they are in the midst of adding locals in order to provide the most complete service. Since the streaming services' prices are generally lower, the full channel line-up also gives them a competitive edge over cable and satellite operators.

    Anonymous said:
    I thought the whole point in cutting the cord was to save money? I'm not sure how PS Vue is attacking this issue with their prices...I'm also not sure why you would pay extra for local channels, when you can get them for free with an antenna? We tried almost all of the free trials to see which one we liked best and I ended up choosing DirectTVNow. It just had the most channels we wanted to watch. I thought the SlingTV Blue and Orange things were inconvenient and confusing. I do hope they get the DVR and On Demand updated though. DirectTVNow was like the only one that had a normal "Guide" that you are used to with a cable package. This was another reason we chose them.
  • kevinaraki
    Dear Marshall,
    While I would agree that PlayStation Vue is a very good streaming option for many people, the current lowest price is $39.99 ($40) for the "Access" plan. The SLIM package is no longer available anywhere in the US. It was discontinued July 2017. I spoke with a PS Vue rep, and she said the Slim package was always intended to be a temporary (tempting) package to just get people to try.

    Also, a little note, because my family uses ATT Unlimited for their cell phone service. I only pay $10/month for DirecTV Now. And every other package that I may want to try is $25 less than the general public (e.g. the "Just Right" package for me would cost $25, vs. $50 for the general public; the "Go Big" package is $35 for me, $60 for most others). Also, the premium channel HBO only costs me and anyone else just $5 more per month. I haven't experienced the "inconsistent video quality [and] a suboptimal interface" that you describe, but then again, I have 1 Gbit speed for my Internet connection. Even if I didn't have that speed, I think for the price of $15/month with live TV, and HBO to boot, it's a great deal, and DTV Now is getting better month-by-month. Yes, DVR is in beta, but it is going to happen.

    PS: Fubo TV and Philo TV are now players in the live streaming market. You may want to update this article to give both services tacit mention.

    A nice article, nonetheless. Thank you.
  • urbanlegendsbrewing
    Beware of the trial period for Sling, they charge you on the very minute your trial expires and will not refund your money. I just called because there was a 12 hour delay from the time my trial expired and I was charged and when I cancelled (my fault, I know). Thought I'd call and explain the mixup thinking the trial was for the full day and I cancelled at 8am the next day, they will not refund my money. I mentioned that seemed like big cable company treatment and the rep didn't seem to care, company policy is not to refund any partial months. Seems to me like a great way to sucker a bunch of potential new customers into paying for a month, not a fan of that type of business practice.
  • carlsteve
    Free trial periods have been turned into a racket. You're required to provide credit card info at sign up, even if you already know that you won't continue on with a paid subscription. I'm very uneasy about giving out payment info under these circumstances, as I fear there will be some glitch causing me to get stuck with a bill.

    Anonymous said:
    Beware of the trial period for Sling, they charge you on the very minute your trial expires and will not refund your money. I just called because there was a 12 hour delay from the time my trial expired and I was charged and when I cancelled (my fault, I know). Thought I'd call and explain the mixup thinking the trial was for the full day and I cancelled at 8am the next day, they will not refund my money. I mentioned that seemed like big cable company treatment and the rep didn't seem to care, company policy is not to refund any partial months. Seems to me like a great way to sucker a bunch of potential new customers into paying for a month, not a fan of that type of business practice.
  • summitin
    Why these reviews never take into account several other streaming services that as per what can be watched in youtube, include a lot more options of US and international TV channels, like Nitro, XStreaming TV, etc, at a very good price. If somebody wants to watch movies all the time, Netflix is the best. But for people who wants to see TV channels from many different countries, in english, spanish, french, portuguese, etc, most of the services in this review have very little to offer.
  • arpanet1981
    Already mentioned in another thread, but, SlingTV has good sports coverage -- otherwise, we use OTA for, e.g. PBS -- but, beware that the SlingTV WebOS client (runs on LG 4K TVs) is unreliable with some sports channels. (With others, it works fine ?!) The SlingTV WebOS client needs to be robustified. SlingTV works fine via web/chrome/Windows10 and on IOS.
  • gareth.wainwright
    What about pluto.tv not the greatest but totally free........