Cable TV channels used to keep you tethered to pay TV. But online 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 new is the growing number of new 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 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. (In particular, local broadcast channels, such as ABC and CBS, are often available only in bigger cities.) And remember that package details can change often, so check the latest offers before signing up.

All the 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 expires and cancel or your card will be charged.

Here are all the current cable-TV replacement services:

DirecTV Now

Monthly bill: $35 and up

What you get: DirecTV Now should appeal to anyone who wants DirecTV service but not the satellite dish. You get about 60 channels for $35 per month, or 80 channels for $50. Add HBO for just $5 per month. DirecTV supports two simultaneous users at a time.

What you don’t: There’s no CBS or Showtime—and live TV from some other networks is available only in larger cities. Also, there’s no cloud DVR, though one is promised for the future.

Hulu With Live TV

Monthly bill: $40 and up

What you get: The Hulu with Live TV service offers about 50 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.

What you don’t: Not all streaming devices are supported, and you can’t watch AMC, Discovery, or Viacom (Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Spike TV).

Sling TV

Monthly bill: $20 and up

What you get: Sling’s $20 Orange package includes about 30 cable channels but no broadcast TV. It supports one user at a time. Sling Blue ($25 per month) supports three users and about 40 channels, including local broadcasts and regional sports. A combined plan costs $40. Themed add-on packs cost $5 per month, and you can add HBO, $15; Showtime, $10; and Starz, $9.

What you don’t: Sling lacks CBS, Discovery Channel, and Fox News. Sling’s 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: $40 and up

What you get: PlayStation Vue can be configured to resemble an expansive, if somewhat pricey, cable TV-style programming plan. Packages range from a $40-per-month basic option to a $75 “Ultra” plan with about 90 channels, including premium channels such as Showtime and HBO. You get local channels in some markets and a cloud DVR. Vue supports up to five simultaneous users.

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

YouTube TV

Monthly bill: $35 and up

What you get: YouTube TV is available in just five major markets so far, with more on the way, the company says. You can watch on three devices at a time, getting major networks, a decent selection of cable channels, and a cloud DVR with unlimited storage. You also get the original programming on YouTube Red Originals. Showtime can be added for an additional $11 per month.

What you don’t: The list of cable no-shows includes Comedy Central, CNN, HBO, and HGTV.

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the August 2017 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.