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

Cable TV channels used to keep you tethered to traditional pay TV. But a number of online video streaming services can 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. Newer video streaming services, such as Hulu + Live TV and Sling TV, 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.

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If you’re missing some local channels, consider adding an antenna to get free over-the-air broadcasts. When we tested 14 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/AT&T TV

Monthly bill: $60 to $145

What you get: AT&T has stopped offering its AT&T TV Now service—formerly DirecTV Now—to new subscribers. Instead, that service is being merged into the AT&T TV service. (Current AT&T TV Now subscribers can keep their plans.) But the situation is confusing because AT&T is offering two different subscription streaming services, both called AT&T TV.

Subscribers to the new service can choose from four new, streamlined AT&T TV plans, which start at $70 per month. Or they can instead subscribe to the older AT&T TV service, which starts at $60. That plan requires a two-year contract, with prices jumping in the second year of the deal.

The main differences between the two AT&T TV services are the contract, how many plans are offered, and the fact that you need to get an AT&T streaming box if you choose the older version of the service. 

The contract plan has a few advantages. One is that the Android box comes with a voice-enabled remote control—it has AT&T Voice with Google Assistant built in—so you can search for shows and movies, check the weather, and control some smart home devices using your voice. It also has a dedicated program guide button like you get with a traditional TV/cable box remote, since the hardware is integrated with the AT&T TV service. In addition, the box offers access to other streaming services, such as Netflix, that are available via Google Play, and you can record up to 500 hours of programming instead of 20 hours.

Among the plans in the new AT&T TV service are an Entertainment package with more than 65 channels and 20 hours of cloud DVR storage for $70 per month. An $85 Choice package has more than 90 channels, plus regional sports networks, the 2020 to 2021 season of NBA League Pass, a year of free HBO Max, and 20 hours of cloud DVR storage. The $95 Ultimate package has over 130 channels, plus everything in the Choice plan.

You can add 500 hours of cloud DVR storage for an extra $10 per month. You can add Cinemax, Showtime, or Starz for an extra $11 per month each.

If you opt for signing a two-year contract, the price drops for the first year but jumps higher in the second year. For example, the first year of the Choice plan falls to $60 to per month, but it gets bumped to $93 in the second year. The top-tier Ultimate plan jumps from $130 to $183 in the second year. You’ll also have to pay an $8.50-per-month regional sports fee—which is included in the price of the no-contract plan—for two years.

Also, while “qualified customers” get one AT&T streaming box free as part of the plan, each additional box you want to rent costs $120; you can pay it up front or spread payments across 24 months. However, you can use an AT&T TV app on compatible third-party devices, including Amazon Fire TV streaming players and smart TVs, Android TVs, Apple TV and Google Chromecast players, and Roku streaming players and TVs.

What you don’t get: Some local channels and regional sports networks aren’t available in all markets. And some channels, such as DIY Network, FXM (FX movie channel), Nick Jr., Oxygen, and the Smithsonian Channel, are available only in the pricier plans.


FuboTV

Monthly bill: $65 to $80

What you get: This sports-centric service offers a mix of live and on-demand channels from broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC in most markets); cable channels (A&E, AMC, Bravo, Cartoon Network, CNN, Discovery, FX, MTV, Syfy, TBS, and USA); and sports networks (BeIn Sports, FS1, Golf Channel, and NBA TV). The service also now has ESPN (ESPN, ESPN 2, and ESPN 3, plus the SEC and ACC networks in certain markets), which had been surprisingly lacking for a sports-focused service.

With the addition of TNT and TBS from Turner, you also get NBA and NCAA basketball, Major League Baseball, and PGA golf, plus a robust roster of regional sports networks for local-team action, including MLB and NHL games. However, these stations are currently missing because of a spat with WarnerMedia. (See “What You Don’t Get,” below.) The service comes with a free cloud DVR plus a 72-hour “look back” feature that lets you replay most programs that appeared in the previous three days.

Perhaps more than any other service, Fubo has been continually rejiggering its plans and channel lineups. The most recent move is to kill the $85-per-month Ultra plan and replace it with the $80 Elite plan. Essentially, you get the basic Fubo Family plan (see below), plus the 45 extra entertainment channels in the Fubo Extra add-on, a cloud DVR, and the Family Share Max add-on, which lets up to five users stream at the same time.

Fubo is now migrating subscribers of its Standard plan—which has 100-plus channels and 30 hours of DVR cloud storage, for $60 per month—to its $65 Family plan, which is basically the Standard plan with the Extra package and three simultaneous users. However, that plan’s cloud DVR now has 250 hours of storage instead of 500 hours. There’s also a $30 Español package with 32 Spanish-language programs and the same amount of storage. As the name suggests, the $65 Family Plan with Showtime package adds that premium network.

Fubo offers several add-on plans. These include a three-user Family Share option, for $6 per month, and Family Share Max, which allows users to stream up to five screens at one time at home and two on the go. (You can purchase both plans.) There are two DVR packages: DVR 250 offers 250 hours of cloud DVR storage for $10 per month, and DVR 1000, a $17-per-month add-on, offers 1,000 hours of storage.

FuboTV was among the first streaming sites to offer sports in 4K; it has been showing Thursday night NFL games on Fox in 4K with HDR via the Fox Sports app. For 4K HDR content, the company recently expanded the list of supported 4K streaming players to include Amazon Fire TV 4K and Amazon Fire TV Cube, Apple TV, Chromecast Ultra, and Roku’s Premier, Premier+, and Ultra models.

This spring, FuboTV completed a merger with the FaceBank Group, a celebrity- and sports-focused virtual entertainment company, which saw FuboTV become a wholly owned subsidiary of FaceBank. In turn, FaceBank has been renamed FuboTV. 

What you don’t get: Now that it’s getting ABC/Disney and ESPN, FuboTV’s biggest missing elements are Fox regional sports networks and the Yes Network, home to Yankees games. 

More recently, FuboTV has been unable to reach a deal with WarnerMedia, so channels such as Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, CNN and CNN en Español, HLN, TBS, TCM, and TNT have left the service—for the moment, anyway. The loss of TBS and TNT, which show MLB and NBA games, could be tough for a sports-centric service.

Additionally, it looks like new subscribers to Fubo’s Standard plan won’t get the NBA TV channel as part of the package. Instead, it will be available either as part of the FuboTV Extra ($6 per month) or Sports Plus with NFL RedZone ($11) add-on packages. The latter now costs $2 more per month than previously.


Hulu + Live TV

Monthly bill: $65

What you get: Hulu + Live TV offers about 70 channels, including the major broadcast channels—ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC—in a growing number of markets. You also get cable channels such as A&E, the Cartoon Network, CNN, Disney, Fox News, FX, TBS, and TNT, among others. The lineup includes CBS Sports, ESPN, and Fox Sports, plus some regional sports networks.

As part of a renewal deal with ViacomCBS, Hulu will also add 14 new channels to its Hulu + Live TV service that it was previously missing. These include BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Network, VH1, CMT, Nick Jr., TV Land, BET Her, MTV2, NickToons, TeenNick, and MTV Classic.

But Hulu + Live TV Now costs more—$65 per month—because of a price hike in December. That’s almost a year since the price jumped from $45 to $55 per month.

The service has ads in the Hulu video-on-demand part of the bundle. To go ad-free, you now have to pay $71 per month.

The basic service lets you create six separate profiles—though only two people can use the service at a time—and includes a cloud DVR with 60 hours of recording time. Both plans combine everything you get with the regular Hulu service with the additional channels available on Hulu + Live TV. 

Hulu has 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 $10 each per month. A combination of the two, which was $20 per month, now costs $15. A second option, without ads, is now $61, a $10 increase. Both services combine everything you get in the regular Hulu plan with the additional channels available on Hulu + Live TV.

Hulu + Live TV is now available on most Roku streaming players and all Roku TVs, as well as many LG and Samsung smart TVs. The service is supported on Amazon Fire TV devices, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, PlayStation and Xbox game consoles, and Android and iOS mobile devices. You can use voice commands on Amazon Alexa-powered devices to watch shows on Hulu. The company continues to add local TV affiliates.

What you don’t get: Now that it has a deal to get missing ViacomCBS channels, the service is mainly missing AMC, BBC America, MLB Network, NBA TV, NFL Network, or PBS.


Sling TV

Monthly bill: $35 and up

What you get: Sling has raised prices $5 per month for new subscribers. With the updated pricing, Sling’s Orange package now costs $35 and includes about 30 cable channels but no broadcast TV. It supports one user at a time. Sling Blue, also $35, supports three users and has a different mix of about 40 channels, including local broadcasts and regional sports. (Among other differences, Sling Orange includes ESPN.) A combined plan costs $50, up from $45.

Thanks to a one-year price guarantee instituted in 2020, existing customers get to keep their current price through July 2021 as long as they maintain active subscriptions.

Sling TV also increased prices for its themed add-on packages, though only by $1 per month. For example, Sports Extra now costs $11 per month instead of $10, and Comedy Extra, Kids Extra, News Extra, Lifestyle Extra, and Hollywood Extra now cost $6 per month each, up from $5 per month extra.

The good news is that Sling has beefed up its cloud DVR. Everyone now gets 50 hours of free DVR storage, up from 10 hours. You can also get 200 hours of storage—up from 50 hours—for $5 per month with the DVR Plus add-on.

For those who want all the channels and add-ons Sling offers, the Total TV Deal package now costs $21 per month with a Sling Orange or Sling Blue plan—a $1 hike—or $27 per month when you get both, up from $25 per month increase. The Total TV Deal package includes all seven Sling Extra add-ons, plus the DVR Plus storage.

Other options include adding premium channels such as Showtime and Starz ($10 and $9 per month, respectively) or league sports channels. For example, in addition to the $29-per-month NBA League Pass, Sling now also has a lower-cost NBA Team Pass, a separate plan that lets you get out-of-market games for a single NBA team. Team Pass costs $18 per month on top of a Sling Orange, Sling Blue, and/or Spanish-language services plan.

Sling TV often runs promotions when you pay in advance for two months of service; right now, you can get a free TiVo Stream 4K streaming player, which typically costs about $50 when you prepay.

What you don’t get: Sling lacks ABC and CBS, and NBC and Fox aren’t available in all markets. And Sling doesn’t offer HBO Max. Also, Sling subscribers outside of several major markets can no longer get NBC on-demand channels. Sling had provided on-demand NBC channels in markets where the live NBC channel wasn’t available.

This affects all Sling TV subscribers who don’t live in Boston, Chicago, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Hartford/New Haven, Los Angeles, Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, New York, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose, or Washington, D.C. Sling is recommending that these subscribers try using an antenna to receive local NBC broadcasts.


T-Mobile TVision

Monthly bill: $10 and up (at launch)

What you get: A tiered service that offers some lower-priced plans. The new TVision streaming service replaces the pricey fiber-based internet TVision Home service, which was launched in eight markets last year before shutting down Dec. 30. The cheapest plan, for those who don’t need local TV or sports, is called TVision Vibe. It costs $10 per month. It has 30-odd channels, mainly cable fare such as AMC, BET, Discovery, Food Network, Hallmark, HGTV, and TLC.

The main plan, TVision Live, has about 35 channels mainly focused on news and sports, including live local channels such as ABC, NBC, and Fox, though not CBS. It also provides news (ABC News, CNBC, CNN, and Fox News); sports (ESPN, FS1 and FS2, and NBC Sports); and some cable networks, including Bravo, Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, SyFy, TBS, TNT, and USA.

There are two additional tiers of TVision Live. The $50 Live TV+ package adds more sports channels (including the Big Ten Network, ESPNU, NFL Network, and regional NBC sports channels), while the $60 Live Zone plan adds even more sports fare. (Think NFL RedZone.)

T-Mobile hopes to transition TVision Home subscribers to the new service.

Customers of T-Mobile or Sprint can get TVision Live Zone and TVision Vibe free of charge until June 2021. They can also get a TVision Hub—the company’s streaming box—at no charge for each TVision Home television connected to their account. TVision Home customers who aren’t T-Mobile or Sprint wireless customers can get a 20 percent break on wireless service—ask for the “Insider Hookup”—while they maintain a qualifying Magenta plan, plus TVision Zone and TVision Vibe free until June 2021.

You can also add premium channels, including Epix ($6 per month), Showtime ($11), and Starz ($9). All the TVision Live plans include a cloud-based DVR that stores up to 100 hours of recordings.

What you don’t get: CBS live broadcasts are missing, and so far you can’t get HBO Max as an add-on to the service. (You can subscribe to HBO Max separately for $15.) And right now, TVision is available only for T-Mobile and Sprint customers; the service will be rolled out nationally in 2021.

Also, right after the service launched, Discovery Channel executives objected to the way T-Mobile had decided to bundle its channels, claiming the company violated agreements that call for the channels to be carried on all basic tiers. CNET reported that Viacom/CBS and NBCUniversal have also objected.

As a result, T-Mobile may end up rejiggering plan lineups and maybe even its pricing.


YouTube TV

Monthly bill: $65

What you get: YouTube TV offers access to more than 85 channels, including all the major local networks, plus the original programming on YouTube Premium. It has a nice selection of channels, including AMC, Bravo, Disney, ESPN, FX, Fox News, Fox Sports, MSNBC, National Geographic, Turner, USA, and some regional sports networks. You also get access to the original programming on YouTube Premium, usually $10 per month.

It has a cloud DVR with unlimited storage and allows up to three simultaneous users and six individual accounts. And thanks to a recent expansion, the service is available in most national markets.

But the company hiked its monthly price from $50 to $65 several months ago. This follows last year’s jump from $40 to $50 per month. The move came as YouTube TV finally reached a deal with ViacomCBS to bring eight of its channels—BET, CMT, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Network, TV Land, and VH1—to the service. BET Her, MTV2, MTV Classic, Nick Jr., NickToons, and TeenNick will be added at a later date.

The company has also reached a deal with WarnerMedia that will let YouTube TV subscribers get HBO Max service as part of a bundle. The service also lets you add premium cable channels, such as Showtime and Starz, and others, such as CuriosityStream and AMC Premiere, for additional monthly fees.

YouTube is also reportedly interested in acquiring the rights to NFL Sunday Ticket when its contract with DirecTV expires after the 2021 to 2022 season.

What you don’t get: Now that YouTube TV has reached a deal with ViacomCBS and WarnerMedia (for HBO and HBO Max), it has filled its biggest content holes, though it still lacks A&E, DIY Network, History Channel, and Lifetime. While YouTube TV reached a deal with Sinclair to keep 19 of the 21 Fox regional sports networks on its service, the bad news is that Fox Sports Prime Ticket and Fox Sports West aren’t part of the deal, and Yankees fans have lost the Yes Network.

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

Streaming Devices to Consider

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Amazon Fire TV Cube

Price: $120

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Roku Ultra

Price: $80

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