YouTube TV on iPad ProSource: Bryan M. Wolfe/iMore

Best Streaming TV Services for Cord Cutters iMore 2020

Millions of U.S. cable and satellite subscribers have long ago cut the cord and are now using one of the many over-the-air internet services. Whether you're looking for your first service or thinking of switching to something else, we've got you covered. Though our favorite streaming TV service is YouTube TV, we've included others that you might like more, depending on your preferences.

Best Overall: YouTube TV

YouTube TV on iPhoneSource: Bryan M. Wolfe/iMore

YouTube TV is our favorite over-the-air internet service for 2020. The service scores high marks on price, availability, and other factors. Mostly taking a one-size-fits-all approach, YouTube TV offers only one base package, plus lots of add-ons such as EPIX, Showtime, Sundance Now, and more.

YouTube TV Specs

  • Base price: $65/month
  • Channels available: 70+
  • Networks: ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, PBS in most areas
  • Cloud DVR: Unlimited with storage up to 9 months
  • Simultaneous streams: 3
  • Fast-forward, skip commercials w/cloud DVR: Yes
  • Profile creation: Yes, up to 6

For the price of admission, YouTube TV offers more than 70 channels (and growing), including every local network channel (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, and PBS) in most U.S. markets, Disney content, including multiple ESPN channels, YouTube Premium original movies, and shows. In May 2020, the service added 14 Viacom channels from the ViacomCBS portfolio, including Comedy Central, MTV, Nick Jr., and Paramount Network. It also recently reached an agreement to carry HBO, Cinemax, and HBO Max as add-ons.

YouTube TV's reach extends to mobile devices, computers, streaming media players, and smart TVs. A good rule of thumb: if you own a late-generation streaming device, the odds are pretty good it includes YouTube TV built into the interface or through an app.

From a design perspective, nothing beats YouTube TV. From its more traditional live guide to its home page that's always changing based on your viewing habits, the YouTube TV interface is simple to use and also fun. Then there's the unlimited cloud-based DVR that lets you keep recorded television series and films for up to nine months.

On the negative side, there are less expensive options available (see Sling Blue), and some channels remain missing on YouTube TV, including History, Hallmark, and Lifetime. Also, there's currently no support for 4K streaming, although you will find most content now supports up to 1080p resolution at 30 frames per second. Plus, you can no longer get past the reality that YouTube TV is getting increasingly more expensive. It's $65 per month now.

Pros:

  • Great interface
  • Unlimited cloud storage
  • Overall, good channel coverage

Cons:

  • Some key channels are still missing
  • Not the least expensive option
  • No 4K options
  • Recent price hike hurts

Best Overall

YouTube TV

A great all-around choice

For most people, YouTube TV is the service to get. Nicely priced, it includes an intuitive interface, great content, and plenty of extras.

Runner-Up: Hulu with Live TV

Normal People on Hulu on iPad ProSource: Bryan M. Wolfe/iMore

Hulu, which is now majority-owned by Disney, launched its Hulu + Live TV package in 2017. It recently bested Sling TV to become the most subscribed to live streamer in the United States. Hulu's increasing popularity, o doubt, has a lot to do with Disney+, which arrived in late 2019 and offers a discounted bundle with Hulu and ESPN+.

Regardless of the reason for its growing popularity, Hulu offers a fresh take on live TV streaming by including a forward-thinking interface that highlights content based on your history and likes. It's an interface that some might not find enjoyable, however, and there's a slight learning curve also.

Hulu with Live TV offers a plan with and without ads. By paying extra for the ad-free version, you can breeze through on-demand content without commercials. You'll need to pay extra to move past ads on recorded content. Each plan offers over 65 live and on-demand channels, including local networks in most markets. Plus, you'll get popular entertainment channels, family-friendly content, national sports channels, including ESPN, and national news channels. There's also a special entertainment bundle, and ones for HBO, Cinemax, and Starz. You'll also get full access to Hulu's growing lineup of original material.

Hulu with Live TV Specs

  • Base price: $55
  • Channels available: More than 65
  • Networks: ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, PBS in most areas
  • Cloud DVR: 50 hours, which can be increased to 200
  • Simultaneous streams: 2, can increase for extra
  • Fast-forward, skip commercials w/cloud DVR: Yes, with an upgrade
  • Profile creation: Yes, up to 6

Pros:

  • Unique interface
  • Networks in most markets
  • Nice selection of extras
  • Access to Hulu Originals content

Cons:

  • Can get expensive
  • Need to pay extra for fast-forwarding of ads on recorded content
  • The interface requires a learning curve

Runner-Up

Hulu with Live TV

Hot, very hot

Hulu is the most popular streaming service right now and should get even better in the coming years, thanks to Disney's vast resources.

Best Budget: Philo

Philo on MacSource: Bryan M. Wolfe/iMore

If you're not a sports fan and don't want network channels, Philo could be the choice for you. Launched by students at Harvard University in 2009, Philo is now owned by A&E Networks, Discovery, Inc., and ViacomCBS. Not surprisingly, you're going to see a lot (but not all) of the content from these three entities here. What you aren't going to see is content from Fox Corporation, NBCUniversal, Disney, WarnerMedia, or any channel formerly owned by CBS Corporation.

In total, Philo currently offers 59 channels available through on-demand and live TV. For the price, you get an unlimited cloud DVR and three simultaneous streams. Supported devices include the usual suspects, including mobile, Roku, Apple TV, and Fire TV. You can't find Philo through Chromecast, gaming consoles, or built-into smart TVs, however.

Philo streams video in high definition (HD) resolution: live TV in 720p and on-demand in 1080p. Audio is streamed in standard, 2.0 stereo quality. There's no 4K availability at this time.

Philo Specs

  • Base price: $20
  • Channels available: 59
  • Networks: None
  • Cloud DVR: Unlimited, for up to 30 days
  • Simultaneous streams: 3
  • Fast-forward, skip commercials w/cloud DVR: Yes
  • Profile creation: Yes, up to 10

Pros:

  • Cheap
  • Unlimited cloud DVR
  • Nice selection of channels

Cons:

  • No networks or sports
  • Limited device support
  • No 4K

Best Budget

Philo

A less expensive solution

Philo isn't for everyone, but that's okay. It includes lots of entertainment channels to help you enjoy your day.

Most Choices: Sling

Sling TV on iPad Pro with magic keyboardSource: Bryan M. Wolfe/iMore

Since its inception in 2015, Dish Network's Sling TV has taken the flexible approach when it comes to the streaming packages it offers and where the service is available. Currently, there are three main packages, plus many, many extras, with Sling TV accessible on a long list of devices. These include TV and media players, phones, tablets, computers, and game consoles.

The Sling Orange service offers more than 30 channels for just $20 per month. However, you can only enjoy one stream at a time with this package. The $30 Sling Blue plan offers more than 45 channels and lets you watch up to three streams at the same time. For $35, you can get a Sling Orange + Sling Blue plan that gives you more than 50 channels and allows you to enjoy up to four streams at the same time.

Sling TV offers NBC and Fox in a limited number of U.S. markets. For ABC, CBS, and PBS, it suggests installing an over-the-air (OTA) antenna. For now, Sling TV offers no 4K content.

Sling Specs

  • Base price: $20
  • Channels available: Between 30 and 50, and premium options too
  • Cloud DVR: 10 hours, upgradeable to 50
  • Simultaneous streams: 1, 3, or 4, depending on the plan
  • Fast-forward, skip commercials w/cloud DVR: Yes, except select channels
  • Profile creation: No

Where things get confusing (and very quickly, expensive) is when you start adding extras and cloud DVR support. Most add-ons are $5 per month and add between five and 10 channels, all based on a theme. For example, with the Kids Extras plan, you more Disney and Nickelodeon channels, while Hollywood Extras adds FXX, FX Movies, and other movie-related channels. The $15 Sports Extras add-on, meanwhile, adds channels like the NFL RedZone, Olympic Channel, and Pac-12. Sling TV also offers premium channels such as Showtime, Starz, Cinefest, Epic, and many others.

If you want to save content to the Sling TV cloud, it's going to cost you and probably still would satisfy your need. Each base plan comes with a paltry 10 hours of recordable hours. For $5 per month extra, you can increase that number to a still underwhelming 50 hours.

One final point worth mentioning is the troubling state of the Sling TV interface. Little changed since 2015, the design is both stale and difficult to navigate. Hopefully, we'll see an update soon.

Pros:

  • Flexible choices
  • A lot of extras
  • Available nearly everywhere

Cons:

  • Limited network options
  • Embarrassing cloud DVR options
  • Can prove costly as you add more
  • No profiles

Most Choices

Sling

Find the package you want and customize it.

So many choices! Unfortunately, it has an older design and limited cloud DVR storage.

Best for (most) sports: FuboTV

Fubo TV with Belkin speakerSource: Bryan M. Wolfe/iMore

First introduced in 2015, FuboTV has long been noted for its focus on professional sports, including the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, MLS, and international soccer. And some of this is available in 4K! In recent years, and especially since COVID-19 upended live sports, the New York City-based company has expanded its reach to appeal to non-sports fans too.

In 2020, FuboTV offers four main plans, plus a slew of add-ons. These include Fubo Standard, Family, Family Plan with Showtime, and Ultra. For most subscribers, you'll see CBS and NBC local affiliates, but not ABC and FOX.

FuboTV Specs

  • Base price: $55
  • Channels available: 100+
  • Networks: CBS, FOX, NBC many areas
  • Cloud DVR: 30 hours for base, 500 max
  • Simultaneous streams: Up to 3
  • Fast-forward, skip commercials w/cloud DVR: Yes

Fubo Standard offers over 100 channels in 4K, plus 30 hours on your cloud DVR. With this plan, two people can use the service at the same time. The family plan includes the same channels but increases the number of users to three at one time. Also, cloud DVR storage jumps to 500 hours! For an extra $10 per month, you can get the Fubo Family Plan with Showtime, which adds nine Showtime premium channels with on-demand.

Next, there's the Fubo Ultra plan, which features 40 extra entertainment channels, 22 "high-energy" sports channels, and the previously mentioned Showtime channels.

Besides Showtime, Fubo's add-ons mostly center on live sports. There's also Fubtbol Trimestral, which offers the "best" in Latin TV by adding 30 Spanish-language channels to the mix. With AMC Premiere, you can watch new episodes from AMC ad-free and gain access to full-season bingers, extended episodes, and bonus content. If you love "The Walking Dead," this is the extra for you.

Fubo TV is available in the United States, Canada, and Spain across multiple devices. These devices include Apple TV, iPhone, iPad, Roku, Fire TV, Android, Chromecast, and select Samsung Smart TVs.

There are a few areas where Fubo TV is lacking, starting with its omission of ABC, ESPN, and other Disney programming. For a world where most live sports aren't happening, not having ESPN might not mean nearly as much as it usually does. Missing out on Disney content could be a deal-breaker in households with smaller children. Beyond this, Fubo isn't cheap, although we love the interface.

Pros:

  • So many sports
  • Up to 500 hours for cloud DVR
  • Beautiful interface
  • 4K live content, especially sports

Cons:

  • No ABC, Disney, or ESPN
  • Expensive
  • No live sports currently

Best for (most) sports

Fubo TV

Sports fans' best choice, but ...

During regular times, this would appeal to sports fans. With live sports mostly on hiatus, you'll have to look at its other offering to see if it's worth it.

Bottom line

When looking for a streaming TV service for your household, there are some critical points to consider and not just the price. You should also look at which devices support the service, how many people can access the content at the same time, and whether local network channels are available. You should also decide whether having a cloud DVR is essential and how many hours of storage you need for this purpose. A cloud DVR lets you save content for later viewing across any of your supported devices. Finally, make sure the service offers your favorite channels.

YouTube TV isn't the only streaming video service on the market for live TV, but it's definitely the best for most people. Available at a reasonable price, the service offers all of the U.S. television networks in most areas and includes an ever-growing library of other channels.

Besides content, YouTube TV set itself apart from other services with its easy to understand interface, unlimited cloud DVD offering, and availability across multiple platforms and devices. Not so sure? You can try YouTube TV through a limited-time free trial at any time.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Bryan M. Wolfe is a dad who loves technology, especially anything new from Apple. Penn State (go Nittany Lions) graduate here, also a huge fan of the New England Patriots. Thanks for reading. @bryanmwolfe

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