Hulu Live vs. YouTube TV vs. Sling vs. Vue vs. DirecTV Now: Face-Off!
One limited to a couple of services, your options for streaming live TV have grown significantly over the last year, with the introduction of Hulu with Live TV and YouTube TV. If you're interested in cutting the cord with a cable replacement service, Hulu with Live TV and YouTube TV (both of which include major broadcast networks) look pretty compelling.
But how does these offerings compare to Sling TV, PlayStation Vue and DirecTV Now? We compared all of the services to help you decide how to spend your money, and found which service is best for NFL fans on a budget, and the perfect pick for those who can't do without CBS. Oh, and T-Mobile's jumping into this fray in 2018.
Latest News and Updates (January 2019)
- PlayStation Vue is updating its Multi-View mode, which allows you to split four live shows across four quadrants of your screen, adding it to Apple TV, and providing News and Sports filters for easier adding.
- Just in time for the Rams to challenge the Patriots, PS Vue is adding a total of 39 local broadcast stations, nationwide.
- Hulu's raising the price of its live TV service by $5 per month, starting on Feb. 26.
|Hulu with Live TV||YouTube TV||DirecTV NOW||PlayStation Vue||Sling TV|
|Starting Price (per month) ||$45 (as of Feb. 26)||$40||$40||$45||$25|
|Channels (in entry-level package)||More than 60||More than 60 plus YouTube Red Originals||More than 60||More than 45||29|
|Device Support||Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, Amazon Echo Show, Android, Apple TV, Chromecast, Computers, iOS, LG Smart TVs, Nintendo Switch, Roku, Xbox One, Xbox 360,||Android, Apple TV, Chromecast & Chromecast-enabled TVs, Computers, iOS, Roku and Xbox One and smart TVs from LG and Samsung. Apps for Sony Smart TVs coming soon.||Amazon Fire, Android, Apple TV, Chromecast, Chromecast-enabled TVs, Computers, iOS, Roku||Amazon Fire, Android, Apple TV, Chromecast, Chromecast-enabled TVs, Computers, iOS, PS3, PS4, Roku||Amazon Fire, Android, Apple TV, Chromecast, Chromecast-enabled TVs, Computers, iOS, Oculus Go, Roku, select LG and Samsung Smart TVs|
|Simultaneous Streams||2||3||2||5 (1 PS4, 1 PS3, 3 total iOS, Android and web)||1 (with Orange), 3 (with Blue)|
4 (in the $40 per month Orange/Blue)
Pricing and Availability
Hulu with Live TV costs $45 (formerly $40) for more than 60 channels, which is the largest starting price and one of the stronger selections. The largest starting package is offered by DirecTV Now, which offers more than 60 channels for $40 per month.
At $40 per month for more than 60 channels, YouTube TV is not expensive, but not the most affordable option. That title goes to Sling TV, which starts at $25 per month for 29 channels. Per a price hike announced on July 3, PS Vue's pricing will change starting July 24, rising by $5 per month to $45 per month, for its more-than-45 channels. PS Vue discontinued its more affordable Slim packages in July 2017.
YouTube TV offers six login accounts, but only three concurrent streams so while you can share it with your whole family, you might need to ask who's using it. Hulu with Live TV is slightly below that, starting with six profiles and two concurrent streams.
PS Vue offers five concurrent streams, the most, though it limits them by kind of device. Only one PS4 and one PS3 can stream at the same time, with three additional devices (iOS, Android, and web) at the same time. Not only does it support those devices, but PS Vue also streams on Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and Android TV.
PS Vue also allows you to stream four live programs at the same time, splitting them into the top left, top right, bottom left and bottom right corners of your screen. This feature just landed on the Apple TV in a March update.
Previously, the capability to stream to 5 devices was limited to those who signed up via a gaming console, streaming device or smart TV, but on Feb. 27, PS Vue extended this 5-device cap to those who sign up via a mobile device.
Sling TV's entry level Orange package ($25 per month) offers one stream at a time, while its $25 Sling Blue includes three streams at once and its $40 Orange + Blue service allows four streams at once. DirecTV NOW offers up to 2 simultaneous streams.
Sling TV starts at a more affordable price.
Even months after its launch Hulu with Live TV is still listed as in its beta release, which can be accessed across the country. YouTube TV was only found in select U.S. markets (including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco) to start, but a Jan. 23 announcement revealed that YouTube TV is now available in 98 percent of U.S. households, as it added 95 markets. Conversely, Sling TV, DirecTV Now and PS Vue are available in all 50 of the United States right now.
YouTube TV started off on a scant few devices but that's changing. On Feb. 1, it rolled out apps for the Apple TV, Roku TVs and most of Roku's other devices, such as the Ultra box, Streaking Stick and Express. This fills in another gap left by its initial launch, which was limited to TVs via Google Chromecast (either attached or built-in), Android devices and TVs running Android TV, iOS devices, Xbox One, Apple TVs via AirPlay and smart TVs from LG and Samsung. Support for Sony Smart TVs is expected in the first quarter of 2018, and there is no sign of the app coming to Amazon Fire devices.
DirecTV Now is available on Chromecast, 4th Gen Apple TVs, Amazon Fire TV devices, Roku, Android and iOS. PS Vue and Sling TV run on all of those devices as well as select LG Smart TVs, while PS Vue supports PS4, PS3 consoles and Sling TV is available on the Oculus Go, compatible Samsung Smart TVs (including 2016 and 2017 models) and the Xbox One. DirecTV's parent company AT&T is talking to users about testing a new streaming box, one that will run Android TV apps, but boot directly into DirecTV Now by default.
Hulu with Live TV is available on Amazon Fire TVs and Fire TV sticks, Android devices, Apple TV, Chromecast, iOS devices, LG Smart TVs, Macs, PCs, Rokus, Xbox 360 and the Xbox One. Hulu is also the only of these competitors to be available on the portable Nintendo Switch console. Hulu with Live TV is coming to the Echo Show this fall, making it the first live TV app on the Echo Show.
On December 19, Bloomberg announced reports of T-Mobile's streaming TV service getting delayed until 2019, which makes sense considering how late in the year this report hit. The delays arose from T-Mobile discovering that "the project proved more complex than expected, according to people familiar with the situation."
Almost a year ago, T-Mobile claimed it would offer a TV streaming service in 2018. In a video, T-Mobile CEO John Legere promised that the Un-Carrier's service will be home and mobile devices, not lock users into long term contracts and nor will they feature the "exploding bundles" that cable companies use to push satellite dishes onto customers for better deals.
On a conference call after the service was announced, T-Mobile execs explained that the service will be paid, delivered via the internet and feature ads. Some of the content on the service will be sourced from the "more than 250 channels" from the Layer 3 cable service, which T-Mobile is acquiring and building the service on.
Verdict: Device availability is pretty even, and PS Vue leads the pack on simultaneous streams. YouTube TV offers OK pricing per channel and multiple accounts, and is finally catching up on devices. Hulu with Live TV is on a ton of devices, but is pricier than most competitors.
One of YouTube TV's biggest features is live streams of the major broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and The CW). Hulu with Live TV and PS Vue are the competitor that stack up the best here, offering all of those except for The CW. On Jan. 31, in anticipation of the Super Bowl, PS Vue expanded its nationwide selection of local broadcast channels, adding 39 local stations, including CBS (which airs the big game), ABC, FOX and NBC, in markets including Colorado Springs and Honolulu. PS Vue subscribers traveling to other cities see local broadcast networks based on where they are, not based on their home defaults.
DirecTV is a mess compared to other services.
Sling TV's $25 per month package includes live streams of Fox and NBC, while DirecTV Now only guarantees video on demand content for ABC, FOX and NBC, with access to live streams differing by region. On July 2, Sling announced its Broadcast Extra package, where its subscribers could access ABC, would be discontinued, and it blamed Univision for "an attempt to raise rates despite lower ratings."
YouTube TV includes Telemundo for Spanish-speaking audiences, which you also get with PS Vue. Sling TV no longer offers Univision, though that channel is available on DirecTV Now, which provides Video On-Demand access to Telemundo with live streams again varying by region.
If you just need CBS, its All Access streaming service — available starting at $6 per month — provides live streams of your local CBS station, along with access to a trove of on-demand movies and TV shows. While this service has been available since 2014, it's only recently drawn attention, because it's the exclusive home of the new Star Trek: Discovery program.
It should be noted that you can get local stations by simply buying an HD antenna for your TV, though that won't provide DVR or on-demand options (more on those later) to save shows for later.
Verdict: YouTube TV looks great for cord cutters worried about losing network TV channels, as does Hulu with Live TV (if you don't need The CW).
Hulu with Live TV and YouTube TV offer many of the same live sports channels you can find on its competitors, including ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN 3, ESPN News, ESPN U, SEC ESPN, Fox Sports, FS1, FS2, the Big Ten Network and the NBC Golf. YouTube TV just added March Madness, MLB Postseason games, nationally televised NBA games, the NBA All-Star weekend events, NBA Playoff games, the PGA Championship and UEFA soccer.
You can pay an additional, to be announced, amount of money for FOX Soccer Plus. The one sports channel that Hulu with Live TV and YouTube TV offer that nobody else does is CBS Sports.
YouTube TV offers plenty of live sports but not NFL Network.
As for what you're missing, NFL fans will probably want to check out Sling TV's $25 per month Blue package, which has NFL RedZone from the NFL network (which you need to pay an extra $10 per month for on PS Vue and isn't on other services), as well as many Fox Sports channels.
PS Vue's $45 per month Access pack gives you a solid amount of options, including ESPN and ESPN2, as well as Fox Sports 1 & 2, and its multi-view option allows you to watch up to 3 simultaneous streams on the same PS4. Sling TV also offers NBA League Pass as a $29 per month upgrade, allowing basketball fans to watch out-of-market games they'd normally miss. If you just need to follow one team, Sling TV subscribers can pay an extra $18 per month for Team Pass, which includes live regular season games, full game replays and audio broadcasts for one out-of-market team.
DirecTV's $50 per month deal includes the MLB network; its $60 monthly package adds NBA TV and the NHL Network. Over on PS Vue, the entry-level $40 per month package includes ESPN, ESPN2, FS1 and FS2, and Yankees fans will be happy to hear that the YES networks come with the $45 per month package. Also, the Feb. 27 update to PS Vue allows users to watch their hometown teams no matter where they go, a pleasant upgrade from how things used to work, where you had to watch the games shown to the region your device is in.
If you're a sports fan first, above all other media, you'd be smart to consider FuboTV. While it's as pricy as PlayStation Vue, with its entry-level package costing $45 per month (after a first month at $40), its value proposition is much stronger, with 85 channels included.
That selection leans heavily on sports, though, with Fox Sports Prime Ticket, Fox Sports West, FS1, the NFL Network, NBC SN, NBA TV, 4 channels from the Big Ten Network and 8 channels from beIN Sports. You're also gonna get non-sports content, though, including USA, TNT, FX, AMC, BBC America, CNN, Fox News, Bravo, CBS and FOX.
Verdict: PS Vue offers a good core of sports channels and its nifty multi-view, and while Hulu with Live TV and YouTube TV provide more, football aficionados will want Sling and other sports fans may prefer DirecTV Now.
The $40 per month you'd spend on Hulu with Live TV gets you a decent selection of cable TV channels, such as Bravo, Cartoon Network, Food Network and the History Channel. Unfortunately, it doesn't offer Viacom channels such as Comedy Central, BET, MTV and VH1.
Similarly, YouTube TV (also $40) gives you a particular portion of the cable TV landscape, and leaves out quite a bit, including TBS, Comedy Central and Food Network. But if USA, FX, FXX, FXM, TBS, TNT, E!, Bravo, Syfy, National Geographic, Oxygen and the Disney channels sound like enough for you, then you should be fine.
Sling TV's $25 per month package gives you other channels such as Comedy Central, History, Food Network, IFC, the Travel Channel and A&E, as well as upstarts such as Viceland, El Rey and El Rey. DirecTV Now's entry-level $40 per month deal includes many of those, as well as MTV, MTV2, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr. and VH1.
In terms of cable news, YouTube TV includes CNBC, CNN, Newsy, Fox News and MSNBC. DirecTV Now and PS Vue's entry-level packages offer all of those channels, minus for Newsy (DirecTV packs in Bloomberg), and Sling TV's $25 Orange package gives you CNN, BBC World News, Newsy and Bloomberg, and its $25 Blue package has those, plus MSNBC and CNBC on top.
Verdict: YouTube TV offers a competent array of programming, but it could be missing some essential channels, depending on your tastes.
DVR and On-Demand
YouTube TV includes a cloud-based DVR service with an unlimited amount of storage, a perk none of its competitors can touch. We found that the services "makes it trivially easy to record shows you want," and that the competition "could stand to learn a thing or two from YouTube TV in this regard." YouTube TV also offers On Demand content, though not for all shows.
Hulu with Live TV also offers a Cloud DVR, though it limits you to 50 hours of content, or 200 for an extra $15. Sling TV offers a DVR program, but it costs $5 extra.
Sling TV's DVR feature is in beta.
PS Vue's DVR capabilities are limited to adding programs to your My Shows list, which will save them for varying amounts of time, with a maximum of 28 days after they air. PS Vue itself notes that "Due to streaming rights, however, select channels and programs cannot be recorded to the DVR." PS Vue tells us that its restrictions are the same you'll find on other services. YouTube TV offers On Demand access for previously-aired programming.
DirecTV Now offers On Demand content available "within hours after a program airs" for "up to 20,000 shows and titles based on your subscription package." DirecTV Now recently announced that the Beta version of its cloud DVR service will soon exit beta testing, ending the free 100-hour tier, and switching those users to 20 hours, specifically the most recently recorded 20 hours in an account. A MacRumors story notes that DirecTV Now is looking into "several tiers" of the service, to offer different storage capacities.
Verdict: YouTube TV is the best for those who can plan ahead and record, and even offers content for catching up. Hulu's DVR is close, but capped at 50 hours of content.
Hulu with Live TV and YouTube TV are contenders, but not the champ by any stretch. Incomplete channel selection means they're not for everyone, but YouTube TV's increasing number of supported devices is improving its credibility. But if you need broadcast TV and live sports and want a super-simple Cloud DVR, it will certainly suffice. Otherwise, you're better off with the rich selection of PlayStation Vue or Sling TV.