Comparing the Best Streaming Services for Live TV – 2021 Guide

For the “too long, didn’t read” crowd:

Remember when cord cutting used to mean paying $10 a month for a Netflix subscription and that was basically your only option?

While many look fondly back on the “good ol’ days” when it comes to cutting the cord (and maybe even prefer it), there’s no doubt that it spurred a revolution when it comes to how consumers can choose to watch TV without cable.

Over the past five years, the competition has ramped up in a huge way, and now there are dozens of different streaming services to choose from when it comes to not only on-demand TV and movies but live TV as well. We’ve seen a massive spike in people who have cancelled their cable subscription in exchange for a handful of streaming services. Even if you end up picking 2-3 differnt services, the odds are good you’ll get the majority of entertainment you want at a fraction of the cost of basic cable.

So with that in mind, if you’re curious what streaming service is best for live TV, you’ve come to the right place. Below you’ll find a quick answer to your question as well as a deep dive below that.

Drumroll please….

The best overall streaming service for live TV is…

Current overall best streaming service for live TV: Hulu Live

Starting at around $60 per month with full access to their on-demand library as well.

At the end of the day, Hulu Live for us is the best consolidation of multiple streaming services all in one neat little package. While there are cheaper services and there are services with perhaps better on-demand video selection, Hulu Live does a great job giving consumers one solid hub of both live TV and an massive on-demand library.

They’ve been around for a long time too, so you know they’re not going anywhere anytime soon. As time has progressed over the last ten or so years since they started breaking into the mainstream, they’ve only improved their service offerings.

With hundreds of channels, and a streaming library with thousands of titles (including tons of next-day TV), Hulu is going to be a great place to start. The best part, they’ve got a free trial and absolutely no contracts to sign, so you can be up and streaming in a matter of minutes. Check them out here:

Get a Hulu Free Trial

The best cheapest live streaming service

The best cheap live TV streaming service: Sling TV

Starting at around $30 a month, no contract required.

If Hulu is a bit too pricey, we wouldn’t blame you for looking at cheaper options. Right out of the gate, the first service that immediately comes to mind for us for the budget conscious is going to be Sling TV.

What we love about Sling more than the other services is their modular packages. Basically, you start by picking a base package (about 1/3rd of the price of some of the bigger competitors if you start with their entry level package), and then you can add on whatever you want for a few bucks per channel or additional package of channels.

All-around, Sling TV has plenty of package options for just about any cord cutter looking to replace their cable subscription, and all their different packages make it feel like you’re ordering a custom pizza, just the way you want it.

We definitely recommend checking out Sling TV through their free trial if you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option.

Get a Sling Free Trial

The best streaming service for live sports

Fubo takes the trophy here, starting at around $65 per month.

While we’d love for you to navigate over to our complete guide to streaming live sports, we’re also pretty quick to simply say that Fubo TV is going to be a solid choice for those of you looking to get a streaming service that focuses on the major sports leagues around the world.

Whether you’re after NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, or a massive list of international sports leagues, Fubo TV is going to be your best all-around choice.

No contracts here either, so you’ll be able to test out their free trial and cancel anytime:

Get a Fubo Free Trial

The best streaming service for local channels

If you still tune in for the 5PM local nightly news, and you’re looking for a streaming service that will allow you to best do this, then we recommend you check out Hulu Live first, and then Sling TV second.

If you’re after CBS-specific content, then you’re going to want to check out a service called Paramount+, which focuses heavily on CBS-related content.

Local networks are a little tricky sometimes though, as even tech giant Apple learned when they tried to unify every local channel into one massive streaming service. Many of them have private affiliate ownership meaning it’s a massive battle of will through contract negotiation after contract negotiation. With that, if neither Hulu Live or Sling TV feature your local broadcast affiliates, then we’d recommend getting an antenna that you can hook up to the back of your TV.

Check out Amazon’s selections of digital antennas if you’re looking to simply get OTA networks on your TV. A ton of people forget that this is a free option when it comes to getting local networks.

Frequently asked questions

Do all live TV streaming services have on-demand catalogs as well?

Good question, but unfortunately the answer is no. Hulu Live has the best overall on-demand catalog, and Sling TV has a smaller one but it’s definitely an afterthought.

If you’re looking purely at on-demand content, we recommend looking at Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, or even Hulu’s standalone on-demand option if you’re looking to keep things cheap and aren’t as focused on live TV.

Are all live TV streams the same across the US?

This one is tricky, but the short answer is “not really.” However, if you are slightly more technologically capable, you could try something like a VPN to spoof a streaming service into thinking you were in the region you want to watch TV in. More on this in another guide later.

How much are all these live TV streaming services?

Live TV streams are considerably more expensive than simpler on-demand libraries. Here’s a brief breakdown:

  • Most on-demand services (think Netflix, Amazon, etc), are going to start at around $10 per month.
  • The cheapest live TV streaming service is Sling TV, and it starts at just above $30 a month.
  • The bigger services, with more channels and larger on-demand libraries (think Hulu Live), start north of $60 a month.
  • Standalone cable packages with your traditional cable channels are going to run you around $100 per month.

How much internet do you need to stream live TV?

We’ve got a great guide here regarding how much internet is needed to stream live TV, but if you’re looking for a simple answer, keep your average download speeds above 25 Mbps from your cable provider and you shouldn’t notice too much buffering or lag in your live stream.

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