Video Streaming Services That Let You Cut Cable TV

Services like Sling TV and AT&T TV Now try to replicate cable TV with lower monthly bills—but prices are rising

Cable replacement services being used by a couple watching video on a laptop screen.

Cable TV channels used to keep you tethered to pay TV. But a number of online video streaming services now give any cord cutter with an internet connection unprecedented TV-watching freedom.

Subscription streaming video services such as Amazon Prime and Netflix have been around for years. What’s newer are the growing number of video streaming services, such as AT&T TV Now and Sling TV, that are designed to replace a typical cable TV package.

Because the content you get with these cable-replacement services, especially local channels, can vary by region, you should go to each company’s website, plug in your ZIP code, and see which channels are available in your area. These video streaming services have been adding more local broadcast channels, such as ABC and CBS, but they’re not always available in smaller communities.

MORE ON cutting the cord

If you’re missing some local channels, consider adding an antenna to get free over-the-air broadcasts. When we tested 10 indoor models, our testers found that sometimes the picture looked even better than what they were getting from cable.

All the cable-replacement services offer some type of free trial period, so you can try before you buy. Because most require a credit card number, you’ll have to keep track of when the trial period ends and cancel if you don’t want to continue the service. 

Prices for many packages have been rising, as detailed below. Because the details can change often, it's important to check the latest offers before signing up.

AT&T TV Now (formerly DirecTV Now)

Monthly bill: $50 to $135, going to $65 to $145.

What you get: AT&T TV Now, the new name for the service formerly known as DirecTV Now, should appeal to anyone who wants DirecTV service but not the satellite dish. The company, which recently hiked prices by $10 and made changes that will remove several popular networks from plan lineups, says it will be raising prices again in November.

More bad news: AT&T has let DirecTV Now/AT&T TV Now and U-verse TV customers know that it's dropping the NFL Network. That programming will still be available to regular DirecTV satellite TV subscribers.

There are now two promoted plans. The $50-a-month AT&T TV Now Plus plan has about 40 channels, and the $70-a-month AT&T TV Now Max has about 50 channels, plus Cinemax and a number of sports channels, including regional sports. Both plans include HBO, which had been a $5-a-month add-on. You get a free cloud DVR with 20 hours of free storage, and two users can stream at the same time. You can get a third simultaneous stream for an additional $5 a month.

The company also offers several other step-up plans, ranging in price from $93 (65+ channels) to $135 (125+ channels) a month. An $86-a-month Spanish-language package, with more than 50 Spanish and 40 English channels, is also available.

The next price hike is coming on Nov. 19, 2019, when the Plus plan will jump to $65 a month, while Max will cost $80 a month. Other plans will see a $10-a-month hike, so AT&T TV Now's most expensive package will cost $145 a month.

AT&T has cut back on its promotions, which had previously offered a free Apple TV or other streaming device if you prepaid four months of the services. 

The company, which recently ended a spat with CBS that caused a blackout of the broadcast network in many markets, has also launched a new satellite TV replacement service, called AT&T TV, in 10 markets. It offers lots more channels than the similarly named AT&T Now we've been describing. In fact, the new service is pretty much DirecTV, but streamed rather than beamed from a satellite, so you don't need a dish. More markets will be added in coming months.

What you don’t get: Live TV still isn’t available in some smaller markets, and the new plans eliminate some popular networks that were available under the older plans, including A&E, AMC, and Discovery. Those who subscribed before the change are allowed to keep their current plan and channel lineup but are subject to the $10-a-month price hike.

FuboTV

Monthly bill: $55

What you get: The sports-centric Fubo offers a mix of live and on-demand channels from broadcast networks (CBS, Fox, and NBC in most markets), cable channels (A&E, Bravo, FX, SyFy, USA), and sports networks (BeIn Sports, FS1, Golf Channel, NBA TV). With the addition of TNT and TBS from Turner, you also get NBA and NCAA basketball, Major League Baseball, and PGA golf. There's also a robust roster of regional sports networks—including those from NBC, Fox, and Yes—for local-team action, including MLB and NHL games.

FuboTV, among the first cable-style streaming services to offer 4K content, is now letting you watch Thursday Night NFL Football games broadcast on Fox in 4K via the Fox Sports app. Right now the games are available only through the app on Roku and the Apple TV streaming players, but support for other devices is expected soon.

Earlier, Fubo upped its deal with Discovery to add Discovery Channel, TLC, and more to its base subscriber package. It now also has channels from AMC, Turner (Cartoon Network, CNN, TBS, TNT), and Viacom (BET, CMT, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon). Recently, the company changed prices and plans, so it now offers a base package with about 100 channels and a DVR for $55 a month. You can add more storage for an additional $10 a month, and more channels via packages that cost anywhere from $5 to $28 more a month.

What you don’t get: Most notable for a sports-oriented service, ESPN isn’t available.

Hulu + Live TV

Monthly bill: $45 and up.

What you get: The Hulu + Live TV service offers about 60 channels, including major networks in some areas and sports channels such as CBS Sports, ESPN, and Fox Sports. You can watch on two devices at a time and record 50 hours on a cloud DVR. Hulu has now cut the price of several add-ons. For example, both the enhanced cloud DVR, with more storage and the ability to skip commercials, and unlimited screens at home, which each cost $15 per month, are now priced at $10 each per month. A combination of the two, which was $20 a month, now costs $15 per month. A second option, without ads, is now $51 per month, a $7 increase. Both services combine everything you get in the regular Hulu plan with the additional channels available on Hulu With Live TV. 

What you don’t get: Most streaming devices are now supported, but right now the network doesn’t include AMC or Viacom (Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon).

Sling TV

Monthly bill: $25 and up.

What you get: With recently updated pricing, Sling’s Orange package is now $25 and includes about 30 cable channels but no broadcast TV. It supports one user at a time. Sling Blue, also $25 per month, supports three users and a different mix of about 40 channels, including local broadcasts and regional sports. (Among other differences: Sling Orange includes ESPN.) A combined plan costs $40. Themed add-on packs cost $5 per month, and you can add HBO, $15; Showtime, $10; and Starz, $9. Sling is currently running a promotion that gives you either the Blue or Orange plans for $15 a month or the combined plan for $25 a month.

Sling is also pushing a new promotion, called the Total TV Deal, which combines seven Extra programming packs—with content in genres such as sports, news, Hollywood, and comedy—with a cloud DVR with 50 hours of storage, for an additional $20 a month. Sling has also updated pricing for Sports Extra for Sling Orange customers. It now costs $10 a month, the same as for Blue subscribers.

What you don’t get: Sling lacks CBS, and Fox News is available only in some markets. Also, Sling includes some Viacom channels as part of its plans, but others require that you purchase a $5-per-month add-on pack. However, the service recently added the Discovery Channel. The cloud DVR is now more widely available and includes more channels and some new features, such as the ability to protect recordings from being deleted.

Sony PlayStation Vue

Monthly bill: $50 to $85.

Update: Sony has announced that it will be shutting down PlayStation Vue on January 30, 2020. The company had reportedly tried to find a buyer before making the decision. The company blames the escalating cost of licensing content and the increasingly competitive market for streaming services, and says it will instead focus on its core gaming business.

What you get: PlayStation Vue can be configured to resemble an expansive if somewhat pricey cable-TV-style programming plan. After yet another recent price hike, packages range from a $50-per-month basic option to an $85 Ultra plan with about 90 channels, including premium channels such as HBO and Showtime. You get local channels in many major markets and an unlimited cloud DVR for recording shows. PlayStation Vue recently revamped its DVR interface with a new area that helps you find new and scheduled recordings.

Vue supports up to five simultaneous users. There’s now also a mobile option, so new users can sign up and start watching the service directly from mobile phones, tablets, or PCs, even when they’re outside the home.

What you don’t get: Vue lost access to Viacom stations (Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Spike) last year. 

T-Mobile TVision Home

Monthly bill: $90 (at launch).

What you get: TVision Home launched April 14 in just eight metro areas—Chicago; Dallas-Fort Worth; Longmont, Colo.; Los Angeles; New York City; Philadelphia; San Francisco; and Washington, D.C.—but will roll out to other markets later this year. You get more than 150 channels, plus local broadcasts and regional sports, and you can add premium channels for an additional monthly fee. The service will support 4K video when it's available.

Family members get their own profile and DVR, sharing 1TB of storage. The company says it will use artificial intelligence to make personalized recommendations. TVision supports both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, so you can use voice controls.

What you don't get: A lot of savings. Compared with other streaming services, TVision Home is pricey. For a limited time, it will cost $90 a month for all subscribers, but after a promotional period only T-Mobile mobile customers will pay that price; others will have to pay $100 a month. There's also an extra $10-a-month fee for each additional TV you want to connect. Right now, the service is missing some key apps and services, including Amazon Prime, Netflix, and YouTube, though the company says they're coming.

YouTube TV

Monthly bill: $50 and up.

What you get: YouTube TV offers access to more than 70 networks, including all the major local networks. It also has a cloud DVR with unlimited storage, and it allows up to three simultaneous users and up to six individual accounts. Thanks to a recent expansion, the service is now available in most national markets. With YouTube TV, you also get the original programming on YouTube Red Originals.

The company, which had been offering a discounted price for Showtime, recently raised the cost of adding the network from $7 to $11 a month. You can also add Starz for $9 per month, CuriosityStream for $3 more per month, or AMC Premiere for an additional $5 per month. Google, YouTube TV's parent company, just hiked the price of the service from $40 to $50 a month.

YouTube just signed a deal with Major League Baseball to bring 13 live MLB games exclusively to both YouTube and YouTube TV during the back half of the 2019 season. You won't be able to see those game elsewhere. The company also announced that it has a deal with PBS that will give subscribers live and on-demand access to PBS and PBS Kids. Later this year YouTube TV will livestream all PBS member stations that choose to participate. It's the first deal PBS has reached with a cable-replacement streaming service.

What you don’t get: Right now, YouTube TV lacks programming from Viacom (Comedy Central, MTV), but it just added Discovery Communications (Discovery, Food Network, HGTV). You can add Showtime for $10 more a month, but not HBO. Also, Amazon and Google have apparently ended their longstanding feud, so YouTube TV (as well as YouTube and YouTube Kids) will soon be available on Amazon's Fire TV devices.

Digital and All-Access members can see CR’s top-rated TVs and streaming media devices below.


Top-Rated TVs