Editor's Note: Check out our full review of YouTube TV for an in-depth look at what makes the streaming service a contender.
In recent months, our options for streaming live TV grew significantly with the introduction of Hulu with Live TV and YouTube TV. Both include many, if not all, of the major broadcast networks and comes extremely well known brands. If you're interested in cutting the cord with a cable replacement service, Hulu with Live TV and YouTube TV look pretty compelling.
But how does these new 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.
|Hulu with Live TV||YouTube TV||DirecTV NOW||PlayStation Vue||Sling TV|
|Starting Price (per month) ||$40||$35||$35||$40||$20|
|Channels (in entry-level package)||More than 50||51 plus YouTube Red Originals||More than 60||More than 45||29|
|DVR||Yes||Yes||Coming Fall 2017||Limited||$5 extra|
|Device Support||Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, Android, Apple TV, Chromecast, Computers, iOS, Nintendo Switch, Roku, Xbox One, Xbox 360||Android, Chromecast & Chromecast-enabled TVs, Computers, iOS and Xbox One, Apple TV via AirPlay and smart TVs from LG and Samsung. Apps for Apple TV, Roku and Samsung 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, Roku, select Samsung Smart TVs|
|Simultaneous Streams||2||3||2||5 (1 PS4, 1 PS3, 3 total iOS, Android and web)||1 ($20 per month)|
3 ($25 per month)
4 ($40 per month)
Pricing and Availability
Hulu with Live TV costs $40 for more than 50 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 $35 per month.
At $35 per month for 51 channels, YouTube TV is not expensive, but not the most affordable option. That title goes to Sling TV, which starts at $20 per month for 29 channels. PS Vue (starting at $40 per month for more than 45) is twice as much. 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. Sling TV's entry level Orange package ($20 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 is currently expanding its availability, but is still only found in select U.S. markets (including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco) and Google says it will "expand to cover more cities across the country." Conversely, Sling TV, DirecTV Now and PS Vue are each available in all 50 of the United States right now.
YouTube TV started off on a scant few devices, but that's changing. It's currently available on TVs via Google Chromecast (either attached or built-in), Android, Android TV, iOS devices and Xbox One, Apple TVs via AirPlay and smart TVs from LG and Samsung. According to a CNET report, full-fledged apps for Apple TVs, Roku devices and Sony Smart TVs are expected in the first quarter of 2018.
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, while PS Vue supports PS4, PS3 consoles and Sling TV is available on compatible Samsung Smart TVs (including 2016 and 2017 models) and the Xbox One. Hulu with Live TV is available on Amazon Fire TVs and Fire TV sticks, Android devices, Apple TV, Chromecast, iOS devices, 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.
On December 13, T-Mobile announced it will offer a TV streaming service in 2018, and it sounds similar to the above offerings. 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: 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 (although the PS Vue's $30 and $35 Slim packages may include less networks and only as on-demand, not as live).
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.
YouTube TV includes Telemundo for Spanish-speaking audiences, which you also get with PS Vue. Sling TV instead offers Univision, which you can also get 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 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. 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.
Verdict: Hulu with Live TV and YouTube TV offers a fair amount of sports, but football aficionados will want Sling and other sports fans may prefer DirecTV Now.
Hulu with Live TV may cost more than most, but that $40 per month 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.
The $35 per month you spend on YouTube TV gives you a particular portion of the cable TV landscape, and you're missing quite a bit, including TBS, Comedy Central and Food Network. But if USA, FX, FXX and FXM, E!, Bravo, Syfy, National Geographic, Oxygen and the Disney channels sound like enough for you, then you should be fine.
Hulu's channel section is strong, but not complete. Image: Hulu
Sling TV's $20 per month package gives you other channels such as Cartoon Network, Comedy Central, History, Food Network, TBS, IFC, the Travel Channel and A&E, as well as upstarts such as Viceland, El Rey and El Rey. DirecTV Now's entry-level $35 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, Fox News and MSNBC, but not CNN, a glaring omission. DirecTV Now and PS Vue offer all four of those networks while Sling TV gives you CNN, Newsy and Bloomberg.
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."
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. Not all programs on PS Vue can be DVR'd with some limited to On-Demand access where users choose from a list of episodes available after airing. YouTube TV offers no such On Demand access.
DirecTV Now currently offers On Demand content available "within hours after a program airs" for "up to 10,000 shows and titles based on your subscription package." It is also scheduled to begin offering a cloud DVR service this fall, which users will get to beta test later this summer. YouTube TV also offers On Demand content, though not for all shows.
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 and device support mean that it's not for everyone, and that you better have a Chromecast, Apple TV or Xbox One hooked up to your TV. 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.