Product Reviews

Welcome to Consumer Reports.

We’re so glad to have you as a member. You now have access to benefits that can help you choose right, be safe and stay informed.

Video Streaming Services That Will Let You Cut Cable TV

These online TV services are designed to replicate a traditional cable package at a lower cost

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 is the growing number of video streaming services, such as DirecTV Now and Sling TV, that are designed to replace a typical cable TV package.

Because the content you get with any of 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. 

And remember that package details can change often, so check the latest offers before signing up.

Here are details on the top cable-replacement services.

DirecTV Now

Monthly bill: $50 or $70.

What you get: DirecTV Now should appeal to anyone who wants DirecTV service but not the satellite dish. The company recently hiked prices by $10, and implemented plan changes that will see several popular networks disappear from the lineups.

There are now only two choices—down from five—for new subscribers: The $50-a-month DirecTV Now Plus plan has about 40 channels, and the $70-a-month DirecTV Now Max has about 50 channels, plus Cinemax and a number of sports channels, including regional sports. Both plans now 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 extra $5 more a month.

The company is also expected to launch a next-generation version of its satellite TV service, but over the internet, later this spring.

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, Discovery, and Viacom. 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: $45 or $50.

What you get: The sports-centric Fubo now offers about 75 channels for the base $45-per-month package, or more than 90 channels with the new $50-per-month Fubo Extra plan. With Fubo you get 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). The company recently reached a deal to add Viacom channels (including BET, CMT, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Network, TV Land, and VH1) to the base plan, and some additional ones as part of Fubo Extra. You now get Turner channels, too, plus sports programming such as the MLB on TBS and the NBA on TNT. Also in the mix: a robust roster of regional sports networks—including those from NBC, Fox, and Yes—for local-team action, including MLB and NHL games. The service comes with a free cloud DVR that lets you store 30 hours of shows, movies, and games.

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

Hulu With Live TV

Monthly bill: $45 and up.

What you get: The Hulu With 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. You can pay extra for more users and extra DVR storage, and the option to skip commercials. Hulu is joining most of the other cable-style services with a $5-per-month price hike. When it kicks in at the end of February, the service will cost $45 per month. A second option, without ads, goes up to $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, but not all, streaming devices are supported, and 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, for the first three months.

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 you to purchase a $5-per-month add-on pack. But the service recently added 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: $45 to $80.

What you get: PlayStation Vue can be configured to resemble an expansive, if somewhat pricey, cable-TV-style programming plan. After recent price hikes, packages range from a $45-per-month basic option to an $80 Ultra plan with about 90 channels, including premium channels such as HBO and Showtime. You get local channels in many major markets and a cloud DVR for recording shows. 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.

YouTube TV

Monthly bill: $40 and up.

What you get: YouTube TV offers access to live TV from up to 50 providers, including all the major networks. It also has a cloud DVR with unlimited storage, and you can have 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. You can add Showtime for $7 per month, Starz for $9 per month, CuriosityStream for $3 more per month, or AMC Premiere for an additional $5 per month.

What you don’t get: Right now YouTube TV lacks programming from Viacom (Comedy Central, MTV), Discovery Communications, (Discovery, Food Network, HGTV). You can add Showtime for $10 more a month, but not HBO.


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

 


Top-Rated TVs

Recently Tested Streaming Media

See our full list of Streaming Media Ratings