The battle of Hulu Live vs YouTube TV and Sling vs AT&T TV is the seemingly never-ending war to become the dominant player in the post-cable box world. And the good news is that all of these services offer monthly plans (though even Sling is raising prices). But which of these cable TV alternatives, deserves to be the way you stream TV?
If you're thinking of cutting the cord, the right live TV streaming service will enable you to watch everything you want and not worry about what you left behind with cable. AT&T TV just added six regional sports networks, while two of its competitors just lost some RSNs (which will vary in importance, based on your needs).
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Of the four, we only recommend the first three: AT&T TV is still not quite there yet. Though we include it for a number of reasons — prominent placement and notoriety included — and it's probably your best bet for watching many MLB live streams, as it's got a lock on many regional sports networks. But to break them down simply: Sling is the cheapest, YouTube has a ton of channels, but Hulu boasts original content.
But overall, this buying decision is complicated as we were once limited to just cable, then a couple of services, and now your options for streaming live TV have grown significantly over the last year, as you can see in our Hulu with Live TV review and our YouTube TV review.
And speaking of YouTube TV, it just got a prominent foothold in Google's latest streaming device, the Chromecast with Google TV. Not only does its remote have a YouTube button that can be programmed to YouTube TV, but the Live TV section makes it easy to jump to YouTube TV quickly. Also, YouTube TV is going to get downloadable content soon, we just don't know when.
And while YouTube TV gets more expensive, our Sling TV review explains how that service's continues to make a compelling case with its low pricing. And then there's AT&T TV, which isn't exactly beloved, and costs more than any of the others to start.
Most of these options are $35 per month or more, though ISPs offer low-cost alternatives, like the $14.99 Spectrum Streaming. Oh and forget about T-Mobile's TVision, it's dead.
But when it comes time to decide between the best streaming services, cord-cutters probably can't forget about the money they're spending on non-live services. Apple TV Plus and Disney Plus are on the cheap end, but they add up over a year.
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Hulu Live vs. YouTube TV vs. Sling vs. AT&T TV
|Hulu with Live TV||YouTube TV||AT&T TV||Sling TV|
|Starting Price (per month) ||$65||$65||$69||$35|
|Channels (in entry-level package)||More than 74||More than 85 plus YouTube Red Originals||More than 65||More than 30|
|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, PS4||Android, Apple TV, Chromecast & Chromecast-enabled TVs, Computers, iOS, Roku, Xbox One, Smart TVs, PS4||Amazon Fire, Android, Apple TV, Chromecast, Chromecast-enabled TVs, Computers, iOS, 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||3||1 (with Orange), 3 (with Blue)|
4 (in the $40 per month Orange/Blue)
Pricing and availability
The majority of these competitors have risen to at least $55 per month (if not more), while one is still affordable, meaning this is going to be one of the key places where you might make your decision in our Hulu Live vs YouTube TV vs Sling vs AT&T TV face-off.
Once $50 per month, YouTube TV jumped to $65 this past summer -- a price hike YouTube revealed in a blog post that reminded us that it's adding 8 ViacomCBS channels (BET, CMT, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Network, TV Land and VH1).
Unfortunately, Hulu with Live TV didn't give such a reason for its $10 price hike, which makes it $65 per month as well. In January 2021, though, the service announced it would gain 14 ViacomCBS channels, including the ones that YouTube TV just got — plus BET Her, MTV2, NickToons, TeenNick and MTV Classic.
Hulu's got more than 60 channels, placing it in the middle of the pack, but matching YouTube TV in price will make people wonder how much they want to pay for Hulu Originals, when they could simply get more channels. Those price hikes are still not so high, though, that you should reconsider cable TV.
The YouTube TV base plan now includes more than 85 channels -- an increase of at least 15 channels from when it cost $50 per month. YouTube TV may be working on a package to rival Sling's customizable options, as the company notes "we are working to build new flexible models for YouTube TV users."
The most affordable option is Sling TV, which starts at $35 per month (formerly $30) for more than 30 channels. Sling TV is holding existing subscriber prices steady at $30 per month — at least until this summer when its 1-year price lock guarantee ends.
Now that AT&T TV Now is gone, the AT&T TV pricing has jumped around again. Now its entry-level package is $69 for more than 65 channels, which is not a good ratio when compared to Hulu and YouTube TV. It allows for three concurrent streams. AT&T TV also has a 2-year plan contract version that looks to save you $10 per month for the first year, and throws in a free streaming device. Unfortunately, the price goes up in your second year to $93 per month. That plan is exactly what cord-cutters are trying to avoid.
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.
Sling TV's entry level Orange package ($35 per month) offers one stream at a time, while its $35 Sling Blue includes three streams at once and its $50 Orange + Blue service allows four streams at once. For more details, check out our What Is Sling TV? page.
Verdict: Sling TV is the cheapest, and YouTube TV's increasing price and channel count keep it as the best dollars-to-channels ratio.
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YouTube TV started off on a scant few devices but that's changed. It's now available for Apple TV, Roku boxes, sticks and TVs, Google Chromecast, Android devices and TVs running Android TV, iOS devices, Xbox One, Apple TVs via AirPlay and smart TVs from LG and Samsung.
It looks like YouTube TV will have prime placement in the upcoming Chromecast Ultra 2, thanks to a redesigned Android TV interface that includes a prominent Live tab. Just don't confuse it with the company's other paid subscription service: our YouTube Premium vs YouTube TV guide can help explain the difference.
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 and the Xbox One. Hulu is also the only of these competitors to be available on the portable Nintendo Switch console. Hulu's now giving 1080p at 60fps streaming for select live channels, which is currently only on Xbox One and Apple TV HD and Apple TV 4K. And it just landed on the PlayStation 4, making it one of the two live TV services on the console.
AT&T TV and Sling TV are available on Chromecast, 4th Gen Apple TVs, Amazon Fire TV devices, Roku, Android and iOS. Sling is also on select LG Smart TVs and the Oculus Go, compatible Samsung Smart TVs (including 2016 and 2017 models) and the Xbox One.
AT&T TV recently had issues with the Roku platform, finally returning for download in mid-May, after having been unavailable since January 1. Roku owners who had downloaded the app could still use it, but anyone who reset their Roku or bought a new one was out of luck.
Verdict: Device availability is pretty even, and Hulu and YouTube have done a lot to catch up.
4K streaming quality
YouTube TV is reportedly adding a 4K streaming package in the future, but details are sparse about when it's coming and how much it costs. We also don't exactly know what 4K content it will stream, though. Fubo only has 4K for select sporting events, such as men's college basketball and NASCSAR.
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 is the competitor that stacks up the best here, offering all of those except for The CW.
Sling TV's $35 per month package includes live streams of Fox and NBC, while AT&T TV has local channels from the likes of ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC, with other channels as available.
YouTube TV includes Telemundo for Spanish-speaking audiences. Sling TV no longer offers Univision, though that channel is available on AT&T TV, which provides Video On-Demand access to Telemundo with live streams again varying by region.
CBS All Access — 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. Its current big show is Star Trek: Picard.
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).
The most recent changes to this aspect seem temporary. Hulu has lost regional sports networks from Sinclair Broadcast Group, which include regional Fox Sports channels, the YES Network and Marquee. Similarly, YouTube TV just lost its deal for NESN, which makes a new headache for fans of the Boston Red Sox and Bruins.
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 NFL Network on top of its coverage of March Madness, MLB Postseason games, nationally televised NBA games, the NBA All-Star weekend events, NBA Playoff games, the PGA Championship and UEFA soccer.
The one sports channel that Hulu with Live TV and YouTube TV offer that nobody else does is CBS Sports.
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 as well as many Fox Sports channels. The new YouTube TV Sports Plus package is a $10.99 per month add-on that packs NFL RedZone, Fox College Sport, GolTV, FOX Soccer Plus, MAVTV, TVG and Stadium.
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.
AT&T TV finally earned itself some applause by adding the following regional sports networks (entries marked with an * have never been on any streaming service):
- AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh
- AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain
- AT&T SportsNet Southwest
- Mid Atlantic Sports Network (MASN)
- New England Sports Network (NESN)
- Root Sports Northwest
AT&T TV places the MLB Network in its $110 per month Choice deal. You'll need its $124 monthly package called Xtra, to add NBA TV and the NHL Network.
If you're a sports fan first, above all other media, you'd be smart to consider FuboTV. Its entry-level package costs $54.99 per month, and while its first month is no longer discounted, the service offers a free 1-week trial period to see if it's right for you. Its value proposition is much stronger, with 85 channels included. TNT isn't one of those channels, which stinks for watching NBA live streams.
Verdict: Football aficionados will want Sling, though YouTube TV is becoming a compelling challenger -- and while Fubo seems more than capable now that it has ESPN, it's still lacking a little
The $55 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. And fortunately it's finally getting the Viacom channels such as Comedy Central, BET, MTV and VH1. Oh, and Hulu just got a ton of the FX library available as video on demand content, including the hidden gem show Terriers.
YouTube TV ($65) costs more, but is a more complete cable replacement. Now that it's adding the Viacom channels to the likes of USA, FX, FXX, FXM, TBS, TNT, E!, Bravo, Syfy, National Geographic, Oxygen and the Disney channels, it could become the defacto option for those who can afford to pay a little more.
Sling TV's $35 per month packages 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. AT&T TV's $69 per month deal includes many of those, as well as MTV, Nickelodeon and VH1.
In terms of cable news, YouTube TV includes CNBC, CNN, Newsy, Fox News and MSNBC. AT&T TV's entry-level packages offers all of those channels, save for Newsy, and Sling TV's $35 Orange package gives you CNN, BBC World News, Newsy and Bloomberg, and its $35 Blue package has those, plus Fox News, MSNBC and HLN.
If you'd rather just buy one channel and not a whole package, consider Amazon Channels, an ala carte alternative to subscription services.
Verdict: YouTube TV is offering the most-complete-looking array of programming (at a higher price, and you can learn more with YouTube TV channels guide packs all the full details about that service.
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. YouTube TV just improved its DVR, allowing you to skip ads in programming recorded on CBS, Smithsonian and Pop TV.
Sling TV finally added its cloud DVR to its standard package, so you no longer need to spend $5 extra for saving shows. This tier is called Cloud DVR Free, and includes 50 hours of storage. Cloud DVR Plus is the next step up, and includes 200 hours of storage for $5 per month.
What's sweeter than unlimited DVR space? Full control of your recorded shows! Starting today, you can ️⏸, ⏪, & ⏩ through your @CBS, Smithsonian Channel, & POP TV favorites to your heart's content.December 2, 2019
Hulu with Live TV matches Sling with 50 hours of Cloud DVR for free, but its Its paid DVR tier costs even more — $15 more per month — to bump you up to 200 hours.
AT&T TV offers On Demand content available "within hours after a program airs" for "up to 20,000 shows and titles based on your subscription package." AT&T TV's Cloud DVR has 20 hours of storage, and there's a 500 hours package for those who spend another $10 per month. Once we see this DVR move out of beta, we'll update this section of our Hulu Live vs YouTube TV vs Sling vs AT&T TV face-off.
Verdict: YouTube TV is the best for those who can plan ahead and record, and even offers content for catching up. Sling's DVR is close behind, based on pricing for 200 hours alone.
The Hulu Live vs YouTube TV debate is real because the two are increasingly similar top contenders, with the same starting price. If you're on a tighter budget, you'll lean Hulu, but YouTube TV's increasing number of channels (ViacomCBS was a glaring hole) is improving its legitimacy -- at a higher price.
Those who prioritize original programming should pick Hulu with Live TV, while those who want a never-ending DVR should go with YouTube TV. Many, though, see Sling's customization and lower entry fee, plus its 1-year price lock guarantee, as the best way to cut the cord. If you always dreamed of an ala carte TV future, you're better off with carving out your own version of Sling TV.