Best Live TV Streaming Services for 2020: Cord Cutter’s Guide

What’s the best option for live streaming TV shows, sports and movies?  

The best live TV streaming services in 2020 include some familiar names, and ones that you’ve likely never heard of. 

Philo, fuboTV, Hulu with Live TV and new services provide cheaper ways to live stream sports on ESPN. There are national news channels such as CNN and FOX News. And a dash of local CBS and ABC stations.

Some of the older players in the live streaming space — namely PlayStation Vue and DirecTV Now — have either shut down or re-branded. New streaming services continue to crop up in hopes of better fortunes. 

Let’s face it: Cable and satellite TV rates aren’t going to get cheaper. So it’s time to learn how to cut the cord from cable TV. 

At the end of this article,  I’ll give you three battle-tested tips on how to get free live TV; how to activate apps without a cable TV login, and ways you can lower how much you pay for Internet every month. 

All of these streaming services are ones that I’m either currently using or have used in the past.  I’m not ranking these services because each one caters to different needs, but these live TV services are the best.

Sling TV: Best Budget Live TV Streaming Service 

  • 32 or 47 Channels with Orange or Blue plan
  • Base price: $30 per month
  • 1-3 simultaneous streams
  • 10 hours of Cloud DVR
  • On-demand shows and movies

Sling TV is the O.G. among live TV streaming services, and still one of the cheapest options around. 

Sling lets you pick a core bundle. One is Sling Orange — it has a little over 30 channels such as ESPN, AMC and A&E for $30 per month. 

The other is Sling Blue, which has about 47 channels and costs $30 per month. 

Sling Blue has FX, FS1, FS2, both National Geographic channels and regional NBC Sports networks. The Orange plan lets you live stream TV channels on one screen at a time. Sling Blue gives you up to three simultaneous streams.  

The Blue bundle also offers local NBC and FOX in some markets. But Sling TV recommends using their service in addition to a TV antenna. Sling TV does offer a free week-long trial, but the company offers a free streaming device or TV antenna for customers willing to pay in advance for a brief subscription.

There is no obligation or contract with Sling TV, so you are not required to keep the service afterward. 

best-live-tv-streaming-services
Sling TV costs $30 per month for a base plan, which includes 10 hours of Cloud DVR.

Sling add-on bundles and Cloud DVR 

One thing to be aware of is that ESPN is only on Sling Orange. So if you want the channels offered in Sling Blue, you do have the option of mashing both the Orange and Blue bundles together for $45 per month.

If you want to record a show, Sling TV now gives you 10 hours of Cloud DVR on the house. 50 hours costs an extra $5 per month.

Sling TV is built on the premise of offering smaller bundles, so budget-minded people have more control over cost and what channels are added to their subscription. 

Sling offers a lot of add-on bundles. Sports Extra is another $10 per month and gets you another 14 channels like NHL Network, SEC Network and beIN Sports. 

There are add-on bundles for news, lifestyle, premiums like SHOWTIME and STARZ. You can peruse the Sling TV channel lineup or sign up for a free 7-day trial

Philo: Best Live TV Streaming for History, A&E and AMC 

  • 59 Channels (No sports)
  • Single base plan: $20 per month
  • 3 simultaneous streams
  • Unlimited Cloud DVR
  • On-demand movies and TV shows

Let’s say you’re not a sports fan. You don’t want any sports channels, but you really want entertainment channels such as A&E, Paramount Networks, all the Hallmark Channels.

Philo is now the least expensive way to get live TV channels. For $20 per month, you get 59 entertainment networks, unlimited Cloud DVR and a huge-on demand library of movies and shows.

Just be aware that Philo takes a very different approach to live TV. There are no sports and no local channels. 

It’s the cheapest way to watch The Walking Dead on AMC or Live PD on A&E.

best-live-tv-streaming-services
Philo has 59 channels such as A&E, AMC and History.

My favorite channels on Philo are AXS TV and MTV Live because I’m a huge live music fan. So I get a lot of great concerts to watch on the weekend and a healthy dose of “Austin City Limits” and “Live… with Jools Holland” on MTV Live.

You can sign up for a free 7-day trial in under a minute using your mobile number, or look over the channel lineup

Philo might be all you’ll if you already have a lot to watch with a TV antenna, Netflix, or Amazon Prime.

You can use Philo on a Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV, Android TV devices such as a NVIDIA Shield. And Philo has a responsive mobile app for Android and iPhones. 

fuboTV: Live streaming sports and entertainment

  • 100+ channels
  • Base plan: $54.99 per month
  • 2 simultaneous streams
  • 30 hours of Cloud DVR
  • On-demand movies and TV shows

fuboTV gives you a big, diverse channel lineup. The fubo basic package is about 100 or 110 channels. If you have a family with a lot of different needs, this is where you might want to land. 

There is a mix of entertainment channels like AMC, History, IFC, TNT, TBS, and HGTV. The entry-level fubo basic subscription includes 30 hours of Cloud DVR storage. You can add up to 500 hours of cloud storage for your recordings. You can add a third simultaneous stream for $5.99 per month. 

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fuboTV has 100+ channels, including AMC, TNT and FS1.

fuboTV carries local NBC Sports Networks and even local gems such as NESN, and MSG. Big 10 Network, PAC 12 Network, and bein Sports are there too. 

On the news-front, there’s CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. And fubo carries local NBC, FOX, and CBS stations in most of the country. fuboTV has a huge on-demand section for movies and TV shows. And there are a couple of things that make fuboTV really unique in the streaming world. 

It’s currently the only live TV streaming service that shows a select number of live sporting events and entertainment shows in 4K.

If you can’t watch a basketball game or soccer match live, fuboTV has a “look back” feature, which is basically an on-demand library of all sporting events that aired in the last 72 hours. One downside to fubo is that it doesn’t carry ESPN. 

But for a certain sports fan that just needs major broadcast and regional sports networks, fubo will have everything you need. 

Subscribers also have the option of add-on channel bundles focused on cycling, international sports, expanded PAC 12 coverage and adventure networks like Outside TV. You can add all 9 Showtime channels for $10.99 per month. 

You can sign up for a free 7-day trial with the link below, or just check out the channel lineup.

Hulu with Live TV

  • 65+ channels 
  • $54.99 per month
  • 2 simultaneous streams
  • Includes Hulu’s on-demand library
  • 50 hours Cloud DVR

Hulu with Live TV has all the ESPN networks, FOX Regional Sports networks and a wide variety of news and entertainment networks. A subscription comes with 50 hours of Cloud DVR and costs $54.99 per month. 

But Hulu also throws in its on-demand streaming service that people pay $5.99 per month for. The on-demand library includes Hulu Originals like “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “The Path”.

So you essentially get two subscriptions for the same price as a number of competitors. 

Hulu with Live TV includes unlimited access to its on-demand library.

If you’re already paying for Hulu on-demand, you might want to consider getting your live TV with the Hulu app that you’re already using — so you have all your streaming needs met in once place. 

You can watch Hulu with Live TV on up to two screens at once. For a little extra, you can also have “unlimited screens” if two devices at once isn’t enough. HBO, Cinemax and Showtime can be added on as well.

Hulu’s channel lineup has local channels, including CBS and ABC. So if you already subscribe to Hulu’s on-demand service, then this is probably the live TV service you want.

YouTube TV

  • 75+ channels
  • $49.99 per month
  • 3 simultaneous streams
  • Unlimited Cloud DVR
  • On-demand movies and TV shows

YouTube TV is becoming one of the most popular live streaming solutions out there. The menu for streaming devices — whether you’re using a Roku, or Chromecast — is pretty slick. 

Subscribers get unlimited Cloud DVR and three simultaneous streams. 

For local channels, you’ll find ABC, NBC, FOX and CBS in many parts of the U.S. Big Ten Network, FS1, FS2 and four different ESPN channels round out sports. 

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YouTube TV has 75+ channels including sports, local channels and entertainment networks.

Bravo, the FX family of channels, IFC, TBS and TNT are among the major networks here.

You can add on Showtime, Fox Soccer Plus, Shudder and Sundance Now.

I’ve been using YouTube TV for about a year and a half now, and I’ve been impressed with its crisp picture quality and the overall user experience with the menu.

The live section has an easy to see menu. Scheduling recordings are a breeze and the new app for Windows can give you PC or laptop the full YouTube TV experience that you have on a television. 

YouTube TV costs $49.99 per month, has a free trial

There are two more smaller streaming services that are worth an honorable mention. 

FANATIZ: Live Streaming for soccer fans

  • 12 channels 
  • $7.99 per month
  • 1 stream at a time
  • No Cloud DVR
  • On-demand games

Fanatiz is a little-known live TV streaming service that has a lot to offer soccer fans. It’s pretty much the best way to watch live soccer matches on the cheap at $7.99 per month. 

Fanatiz has a small channel bundle that includes:

beIN Sports, beIN Sports en Espanol, beIN Sports La Liga, beIN Sports Connect, TyC Sports, Fanatiz Club de Soccer, RCN, GOLTV, GOLTV Espanol, Nuestra Tele Internacional, XTREM Football and CDO (Canal del Deporte Olímpico). 

You can watch live soccer games, highlights and past games. Be aware that there is no Cloud DVR for recording games. But you can catch up on a soccer match by watching on-demand.

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fanatiz offers a 12 channel skinny bundle for soccer fans.

The menu on Fanatiz is pretty basic compared to the polished apps you see with more established services. But the folks at Fanatiz have told me that you can expect to see some new and exciting developments for 2020. 

The fanatiz app is supported on Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and Chromecast. There is iOS and Android support for smartphones. Or you can just watch through the fanatiz site. 

Fanatiz offers a free one-week trial

ESPN+ for live streaming UFC, MLB and college sports

  • Thousands of live sporting events: UFC, MLB and college sports
  • $4.99 per month
  • 3 simultaneous streams
  • No Cloud DVR
  • On-demand and original shows

ESPN+ is the company’s first all-digital network, focusing on live UFC Fight Night, UFC pay-per-view matches, daily MLB games, soccer matches and college sports.

Don’t make the rookie mistake of thinking that ESPN+ is a straight up replacement for ESPN or any of its sibling networks.

ESPN+ is an extension into its already-robust lineup of networks focused on niche sports or leagues. It has exclusive content, and does not air anything from ACC Network, SEC Network, ESPN2 and so on. 

At $4.99 per month, it’s dirt cheap — less than a movie rental. 

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ESPN+ has 30 for 30 episodes, live UFC, college football and MLB games.

This year, ESPN+ had live streams of hundreds of college football and basketball games from 17 different conferences. 

UFC Fight Night and UFC pay-per-view events are now exclusive to ESPN+. But if you’re going to get a pay-per-view one night, you need an ESPN+ subscription. But no worries, ESPN+ makes it easy to sign up for both at the same time. 

If you’re looking for episodes of 30 for 30, then you need an ESPN+ subscription. New episodes like the two-part series on Michael Vick get added to ESPN+ after it debuts on ESPN. And you’ll get access to exclusive fantasy analysis, draft tips and recommendations by experts.

Is the Disney+ bundle worth it?

If you already have Hulu or Disney Plus, and you’re thinking about getting ESPN+, you might want to consider getting the Disney+ bundle

The Disney+ bundle rolls Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ together for $12.99 per month.

For $12.99 per month — the same cost as a Netflix subscription — you can get Hulu, Disney+ and ESPN+. Keep in mind that Hulu’s cheaper on-demand service is now the new hub for all FX shows. So you don’t need a live TV subscription anymore to catch the latest episodes of American Horror Story.

Look over what the Disney+ bundle offers, or check out my video about the Disney Plus bundle for a deeper dive into what it offers.

Tips for Supplementing Live TV Streaming Services

Get yourself a legit TV antenna. One of the best indoor TV antennas is the ClearStream Eclipse. There are a number of other models that I really like too. You can check out my annual review of the best indoor TV antennas and see how I test them out. 

A TV antenna isn’t your only option. Add the Locast.org app to your streaming device if you live in one of the 17 cities listed below. Locast.org is a non-profit that’s re-transmitting free over-the-air signals online. 

Dallas Seattle
Denver Sioux City
Houston Sioux Falls
Los Angeles Washington, D.C.
New York
Philadelphia
Phoenix
Rapid City
San Francisco
Seattle
Sioux City
Sioux Falls
Washington, D.C.

You should also check out Pluto TV. You won’t get a local NBC station with Pluto, but you will get hundreds of free live channels that have music, movies and sports. The huge on-demand library of movies alone makes it worth adding to your Roku or Fire TV. 

Activate apps without cable TV

Here’s a neat hack for activating TV channel apps on a Roku, Fire TV or Smart TV that people rarely talk about.

If you’re paying for a live TV streaming service such as Philo, fuboTV, Hulu with Live TV or YouTube TV, you can use your subscription to sign in to a lot of apps that you see on your streaming device. 

Each streaming service has a help page listing the TV Everywhere apps that it supports. 

So if you want to sign in to A&E and you are subscribed to Philo, just choose Philo as your TV provider instead of Comcast or DIRECTV.

Sometimes these apps are worth signing in to — not so much for on-demand content — but because they carry extra live streams of their channels that you won’t get within your live TV subscription. 

A good example is the FX Now app — that has live streams from both the East and West coasts; it’s a nice way to happen upon a movie that’s playing right now. 

Get Cheaper Internet

I’ve been paying about $35 to $40 per month for Internet since 2016, even when I was living in places where there was no competition among Internet service providers.

Now it’s a lot easier to get a better price because there has been millions of people who have already cut the cord and dumped their cable and satellite subscriptions

The new race among companies like Comcast, Verizon and others is to add as many customers as they can for Internet-only bundles. Verizon FiOS has launched its mix and match campaign so you can get just Internet for about $40 a month

If you go with Fios, here’s how to keep your bill down. Head on over to eBay and buy your own refurbished Fios router. I’ve bought a couple of these refurbished Fios routers, including one for my parents. They work really well, and it’s’ better than paying $11 per month for renting a router. 

3 Steps for Cheaper Internet

If another cable TV company is the Internet provider in your area, you should see some more competitive prices online now.

But let’s say you’re going to call up and talk to someone about just getting Internet. Make sure you do these three things.

1) Don’t ever accept the first offer thrown at you because it’s not the best one. 

2) If a customer service rep asks what you do with your Internet service, don’t tell them you’re streaming. Why? Because they’ll just throw at you some pricey high-speed plan you don’t need. Tell them you use a TV antenna, and just need Internet for email. 

3) Buy your own cable modem and router. Check out my review and video on the best router for streaming for tips on that front. 

So I hope all this helped. Tell me in the comments below if you already use a streaming service. Seriously, I want to know what you like, what you don’t and why. 

For more tips on live TV streaming services, and other hardware, check out the main page of The Cord Cutting Report.

 

 

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