4 Best Live TV Streaming Apps and Services (2020)

This story is a part of a series on how we watch stuff—from the emotional tug of Facebook video series to crappy captions on YouTube.

As is often said, we’re living in the golden age of TV. Every channel and every premium subscription service is defined by its big-budget serials and bingeable content. Even Apple and Disney have gotten in on the game and launched their own streaming services.

As much as we all love big-budget tentpoles like Game of Thrones, there’s a whole landscape of live television out there that cord-cutters (like us) end up missing out on. Take House Hunters or Real Housewives, for example. Those are shows you find when you’re surfing channels, and you can’t really surf channels on a streaming service. Then there’s the problem of sports. The easiest way to get it all back without subscribing to cable is a Live TV service. These apps cost more than Netflix, but give you the ability to livestream many major channels, just like you would on cable—often with more ease and on more devices.

There are tons of live TV streaming services you can subscribe to, but some are definitely better than others. We spent several weeks diving back into the world we left behind years ago. These are the best live TV streaming services for every kind of viewer.

Updated September 2020: We added FuboTV and removed PS Vue, as Sony discontinued it.

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  • Hulu Live TV

    Photograph: Hulu

    Best Overall

    Hulu + Live TV

    Hulu’s live TV interface isn’t the best. There’s a separate tab for only live channels but if you’re searching through anything else, the on-demand options are confusingly mixed in with the live offerings. Still, it has a leg up on the competition because it offers both live TV in addition to its vast library of streamable content, including original shows like Castle Rock and The Handmaid’s Tale. That’s a big advantage.

    If you can live without Netflix, you can cut your subscriptions to just one payment of around $55 for its base plan—though that price includes ads on live shows and on-demand content. Not so great when you consider an on-demand Hulu subscription without ads is just $12. You can disable ads for on-demand content, but your monthly price will jump to $61. If you’re a sports fan, you may want to look elsewhere. Hulu doesn’t carry the NFL Network, NBA TV, or MLB Network. There’s a free 7-day trial if you want to test the service out before committing.

    Watch It On: Android, iOS, macOS, Windows, Chromecast, Apple TV, Xbox One and 360, PS4, Nintendo Switch, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Android TV, and Samsung TV

    Major Channels Missing: AMC, BBC America, Comedy Central, MLB Network, MTV, NBA TV, NFL Network, NFL Red Zone, and Nickelodeon

  • Photograph: YouTube

    Runner-Up

    YouTube TV

    YouTube TV is widely available and isn’t a hassle to use. It’s quite pricey at $65 a month, but it does supports three simultaneous streams without making you shell out extra money, and up to six people can share your account (with their own profiles). Not to mention you get unlimited cloud DVR storage so you can watch movies and shows you missed at any other time. There are some notable omissions from its channel lineup (every streaming service has channels it doesn’t carry), but YouTube TV’s omissions are shorter than many and it includes popular networks like NBA and MLB, which are notably missing from Hulu’s live TV lineup.

    Strangely enough, using YouTube TV doesn’t automatically get you access to YouTube Premium, which is a service that lets you watch YouTube and listen to YouTube Music ad-free. That also means you can’t access YouTube Originals. You’ll need to pay extra for that.

    Watch It On: Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, Fire TV, Apple TV, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PS3, PS4, Chromecast, Roku, and some Samsung and Vizio smart TVs

    Major Missing Channels: A&E, History, Lifetime, and NFL Network

  • Photograph: FuboTV

    Best for Sports and Spanish Language Channels

    FuboTV

    FuboTV and Sling TV (below) are quite similar, so the right one for you depends on your needs. The former is more expensive at $60, but its base plan has 110 channels, including almost every major channel that’s missing from our other picks. (MLB network isn’t part of the base plan, but you can get it with the sports add-on.) Even without MLB, Fubo is better for sports, as it includes several sports channels in the base plan, including the NFL Network, ESPN, Golf Channel, and Fubo’s own Sports Network. It also includes ABC, CBS, and NBC so I can catch the news as well as daytime talk shows. Just be aware that FuboTV advertises the family plan on its home page—click on “Browse all available plans” and go to “Add-ons and More” to see the standard base plan all the way at the bottom.

    Even better, there are a few Spanish language channels, with the option to add the full lineup to your plan for $20 extra. Or if you only want those channels, you can get a Spanish language package for just $30 a month. You’ll have to pay more to set up a family account, or else you’ll have to share DVRs and view history as you do with Sling.

    Watch It On: Android, iOS, macOS, Windows, Chromecast, Fire TV, Apple TV, Xbox One, Roku, Samsung Smart TV, and Android TV

    Major Missing Channels: MLB Network

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