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Hulu Live vs YouTube TV vs Sling vs DirecTV Stream: Face-off!

Hulu Live vs YouTube TV vs Sling vs DirecTV Stream face-off graphic
(Image credit: Hulu; DirecTV; Sling; YouTube)

This Hulu Live vs YouTube TV and Sling vs DirecTV Stream face-off compares four of the top live TV streaming services, which differ in key ways. While most have raised their rates to $65 per month or more, one is still much cheaper. And, thankfully, they're all available on most of the best streaming devices. 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. Our personal choice has been Sling TV, but even we note that our decisions could have been different had our needs changed ever so slightly. Most recently, Hulu with Live TV's price went up, though it added two big services in with that raise. 

If your DVR matters? Well, the latest news in this face-off is that three of the competitors just got more similar, though only two have the best offer. Check out our DirecTV Stream review for more about how it's trying (and failing) to catch up. 

In simpler terms? Sling TV is the cheapest. YouTube TV has the best price in the pricier tier of services (i.e. more expensive than Sling) and a great interface. Hulu boasts original content and bundles in Disney Plus and ESPN Plus. And DirecTV Stream... is best for certain sports fans. 

Of the four, we only recommend the first three: DirecTV Stream is still not quite there yet on pricing for its entry-level tier. And that's surprising considering that it has more popular channels than the competition. 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 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

Hulu's count of originals may not be as high as the best Netflix shows, but its programming (such as The Dropout) is constantly buzzy. YouTube TV may not have those shows, but it's constantly advertised (and even has a prominent place in the Chromecast with Google TV remote), but it's just added some new features. 4K streams, downloadable shows and movies and unlimited simultaneous streams are now available, for $20 more per month.

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 DirecTV Stream, which isn't exactly beloved, and costs more than any of the others to start.

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. 

Hulu Live vs. YouTube TV vs. Sling vs. DirecTV Stream


Hulu with Live TVYouTube TV
DirecTV Stream Sling TV
Starting Price (per month)
$70$65$69$35
Channels (in entry-level package)More than 76, including Disney Plus and ESPN PlusMore than 85 plus YouTube Red OriginalsMore than 65More than 30
DVR
Yes (Unlimited)Yes (Unlimited)Yes (Unlimited for new subscribers only)Yes (50 hours by default)
On-Demand
Yes
YesYes
Yes
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, PS4Android, Apple TV, Chromecast & Chromecast-enabled TVs, Computers, iOS, Roku, Xbox One, Smart TVs, PS4, TiVo Stream 4KAmazon Fire, Android, Apple TV, Chromecast, Chromecast-enabled TVs, Computers, iOS, RokuAmazon Fire, Android, Apple TV, Chromecast, Chromecast-enabled TVs, Computers, iOS, Oculus Go, Roku, select LG and Samsung Smart TVs
Simultaneous Streams
2
3 (Unlimited option available in $84.99 per month package)31 (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 DirecTV Stream 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). During the chaos of YouTube TV vs Disney fight, YouTube TV gave out a $15 discount to make up for the loss of channels, which lasted less than two days. But let's be honest, YouTube TV is still $5 cheaper than Hulu's offering (though Disney Plus bundled in might be enough to convince you to go Hulu).

And while YouTube TV had a very rocky 2021, its platform issues (on Roku) have been solved and seem like a thing of the past. In fact, we've just learned that the Chromecast isn't the only device with stellar YouTube TV integration: the TiVo Stream 4K now has full integration with the YouTube TV guide, making it easy to jump straight to your shows and channels.

Hulu with Live TV recently got even pricier with a $5 price bump, to $70 per month. This price hike is coming with one perk: Disney Plus (normally $8 per month) and ESPN Plus (normally $7 per month) are now included. But what if you don't want either? This kind of frustrating situation could make one wonder how to cancel Hulu.

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.

Hulu with Live TV shown on a TV, a tablet and a phone

(Image credit: Hulu)

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."

YouTube TV shown on the Apple TV

(Image credit: Google)

The most affordable option is Sling TV, which starts at $35 per month (formerly $30) for more than 30 channels. Two of Tom's Guide's streaming coverage team just chose Sling TV as their way to cut the cord: Henry T. Casey and Kelly Woo. Kelly chose Sling because it's the best value, and Henry picked it for channels and functionality.

DirecTV Stream's pricing keeps jumping around — and it's getting worse. While its entry-level package is still $69 for more than 65 channels (still, not a good ratio when compared to YouTube TV), the rest of its options have gone up. Choice (90+ channels) is now $89.99 per month ($5 more), while the Ultimate ($105 per month) and Premier ($149 per month) plans are $10 more than before.

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. Its $19.99 per month 4K Plus add-on pack will bump you to unlimited concurrent streams, provided they're all on your home Wi-Fi network. Hulu with Live TV is slightly below that, starting with six profiles and two concurrent streams.

Hulu is the only one of these options with strong original programming (sorry YouTube TV).

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. Right now, you can get the first three days of Sling TV for free, as its free trial is back. For more details, check out our What Is Sling TV? page.

Sling TV's older home screen

Sling TV starts at a more affordable price.

Verdict: Sling TV is the cheapest, and YouTube TV's increasing price and channel count keep it as the best dollars-to-channels ratio.

Supported devices

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's also got tight integration with the TiVo Stream 4K.

Just one thing about Roku. It's had recent issues with YouTube, which almost saw both YouTube TV and YouTube leave alltogether. Fortunately, Roku and YouTube solved their differences. Just don't confuse YouTube TV with the company's other paid subscription service: our YouTube Premium vs YouTube TV guide can help explain the difference.

YouTube TV shown on a TV, tablet and phone

(Image credit: YouTube TV)

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. 

DirecTV Stream 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

DirecTV Stream 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 just launched its 4K Plus pack, which costs $19.99 per month on top of the $64.99 YouTube TV package. Those who sign up early will get half-off for their first year, bringing it to $9.99 per month. That said, there's not much 4K content at the moment, so the other 4K Plus pack feature, offline downloads, will be the main feature of note here. And if you're interested in saving for offline, check out our guide for how to download YouTube videos on iPhone, Android, Mac and PC.

Fubo only has 4K for select sporting events, such as men's college basketball and NASCAR.

Verdict: Still too early for this to make a huge difference, due to a lack of content.

Broadcast TV

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 used to have a way for some to get all of their locals for free, but Locast just shut down its services, grounding that for now. Just know that Sling's local channels availability can be a little sparse once you leave big metropolitan areas.

YouTube TV Channels

(Image credit: YouTube TV)

Sling TV's $35 per month package includes live streams of Fox and NBC, while DirecTV Stream has local channels from the likes of ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC, with other channels as available. Later in 2021, DirecTV Stream will be offering PBS stations. We do not know what package they will be in.

YouTube TV includes Telemundo for Spanish-speaking audiences. Sling TV no longer offers Univision, though that channel is available on DirecTV Stream, 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).

Live sports

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 added 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. And while you're watching the game, YouTube TV apps on select devices will show you stats about the game you're watching, so you can see the score and more during commercials.

The one sports channel that Hulu with Live TV and YouTube TV offer that nobody else does is CBS Sports.

YouTube TV finally gained the 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 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.

DirecTV Stream 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

DirecTV Stream 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

Cable channels

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. Looking for more horror to watch? Check out our best scary movies on Hulu roundup to sate that need.

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. Of those channels, USA, E! and many others almost dropped off of YouTube TV when they had a spat with NBCUniversal, which has since been resolved. YouTube TV lost the Disney-owned ESPN and FX networks temporarily on Dec. 18 when a contract failed to be negotiated. The channels came back on Dec. 19.

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. DirecTV Stream's $69 per month deal includes many of those, as well as MTV, Nickelodeon and VH1. 

YouTube TV channel icon grid

YouTube TV is finally getting ViacomCBS channels, such as MTV. (Image credit: YouTube TV)

In terms of cable news, YouTube TV includes CNBC, CNN, Newsy, Fox News and MSNBC. DirecTV Stream'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 was offering the most-complete-looking array of programming, but the loss of Disney-owned channels screws that up. You can learn more with our YouTube TV channels guide, which packs all the full details about that service.

DVR and on-demand

Hulu and DirecTV are finally joining YouTube in the Unlimited Capacity section of cloud DVRs. All three now let you record as much content as you want, for free. DirecTV Stream has one big caveat (that we don't think will last), though: this offer is only available to new customers. Hulu and YouTube TV, don't have such a limitation.

YouTube TV and Hulu also do cloud DVR better, as their recordings take 9 months to expire. DirecTV Streams disappear after 90 days.

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. And we've got all the info on how to record shows on Sling TV.

The Sling TV DVR section

Sling TV's DVR section has gone from beta to standard (Image credit: Sling TV)

Verdict: YouTube TV and Hulu are the best for those who can plan ahead and record. Sling's DVR is close behind, based on pricing for 200 hours alone.

Bottom line

The Hulu Live vs YouTube TV debate is real because the two are increasingly similar top contenders, but they no longer share the same starting price. YouTube TV's $5 cheaper monthly price might be the difference maker for you — unless you're also a Disney Plus subscriber. But what if you want a cheaper way to figure out how to watch live TV online? We guess you're leaning to Sling — and not to DirecTV Stream.

Those who prioritize original programming should pick Hulu with Live TV, which now includes both Disney Plus and ESPN Plus. Many, though, see Sling's customization and lower entry fee, 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. Check out our guide to cable TV cord-cutting for more help.

Henry T. Casey
Henry T. Casey

Henry is a senior editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.

  • Dark Lord of Tech
    Playstation VUE has the best packages.
    Reply
  • Brandon_176
    Some of this isn't right. I pay $35/ month for Vue and can simultaneously stream on multiple devices, including Roku.
    Reply
  • NavySubmariner
    Your article is innacurate, lol. Vue allows for 5 streams. I stopped there as your article is a paid advertisement for YouTube.
    Reply
  • henrytcasey
    19365073 said:
    Your article is innacurate, lol. Vue allows for 5 streams. I stopped there as your article is a paid advertisement for YouTube.

    I'm correcting that in the article now. The original statement was made from incorrect information. Thanks for your help.
    Reply
  • henrytcasey
    19365022 said:
    Some of this isn't right. I pay $35/ month for Vue and can simultaneously stream on multiple devices, including Roku.

    And while you yourself pay that much for Vue right now, that rate is no longer offered.
    Reply
  • Brandon_176
    19365146 said:
    19365022 said:
    Some of this isn't right. I pay $35/ month for Vue and can simultaneously stream on multiple devices, including Roku.

    And while you yourself pay that much for Vue right now, that rate is no longer offered.

    That's not true. You can get the Access Slim package for $29.99, and also still sign up for the Core Slim for $34.99. I have the Core Slim. https://www.playstation.com/en-us/network/vue/channels/

    There are some markets that have live local broadcast networks, and Vue charges more in those markets, but those are not the 'core' packages.
    Reply
  • henrytcasey
    19365416 said:
    19365146 said:
    19365022 said:
    Some of this isn't right. I pay $35/ month for Vue and can simultaneously stream on multiple devices, including Roku.

    And while you yourself pay that much for Vue right now, that rate is no longer offered.

    That's not true. You can get the Access Slim package for $29.99, and also still sign up for the Core Slim for $34.99. I have the Core Slim. https://www.playstation.com/en-us/network/vue/channels/

    There are some markets that have live local broadcast networks, and Vue charges more in those markets, but those are not the 'core' packages.

    Thank you for pointing this out, I've updated the story accordingly. PS Vue makes it terribly hard to know about these tiers, placing the mention of them in faint text and forcing you to sign up for a free trial before showing pricing and listing.
    Reply
  • Brandon_176
    19365627 said:
    19365416 said:
    19365146 said:
    19365022 said:
    Some of this isn't right. I pay $35/ month for Vue and can simultaneously stream on multiple devices, including Roku.

    And while you yourself pay that much for Vue right now, that rate is no longer offered.

    That's not true. You can get the Access Slim package for $29.99, and also still sign up for the Core Slim for $34.99. I have the Core Slim. https://www.playstation.com/en-us/network/vue/channels/

    There are some markets that have live local broadcast networks, and Vue charges more in those markets, but those are not the 'core' packages.

    Thank you for pointing this out, I've updated the story accordingly. PS Vue makes it terribly hard to know about these tiers, placing the mention of them in faint text and forcing you to sign up for a free trial before showing pricing and listing.


    They do, and thank you for writing this article. Certainly, it's main purpose is to get info out on Youtube TV and to contrast it with other services. As far as I can tell, this is the best written article out there so early after the announcement of Youtube's new service. Thanks again.
    Reply
  • henrytcasey
    19365680 said:
    19365627 said:
    19365416 said:
    19365146 said:
    19365022 said:
    Some of this isn't right. I pay $35/ month for Vue and can simultaneously stream on multiple devices, including Roku.

    And while you yourself pay that much for Vue right now, that rate is no longer offered.

    That's not true. You can get the Access Slim package for $29.99, and also still sign up for the Core Slim for $34.99. I have the Core Slim. https://www.playstation.com/en-us/network/vue/channels/

    There are some markets that have live local broadcast networks, and Vue charges more in those markets, but those are not the 'core' packages.

    Thank you for pointing this out, I've updated the story accordingly. PS Vue makes it terribly hard to know about these tiers, placing the mention of them in faint text and forcing you to sign up for a free trial before showing pricing and listing.


    They do, and thank you for writing this article. Certainly, it's main purpose is to get info out on Youtube TV and to contrast it with other services. As far as I can tell, this is the best written article out there so early after the announcement of Youtube's new service. Thanks again.

    Thank you for your help, goes to show the value of polite comments and an informed public.
    Reply
  • N7AS
    With YouTube TV, don't forget that your internet bandwidth will drastically go up. That means you will pay for large overages. Don
    t forget that MOST Cable TV/Internet providers have a cap on bandwith.
    Reply