Are you paying more than $100 a month for cable or satellite TV service? You may be able to cut that bill in half by switching to one of several new live TV streaming options.
Live TV streaming: DirecTV Now, YouTube TV, PlayStation Vue, Hulu with Live TV, Sling TV
“As you look at an average pay-TV bill of over $100 a month, you can instead go with streaming services that typically will run you from a base of $20 a month for a bare-bones streaming package to typically more common $40 a month,” says money expert Clark Howard.
The best part? Instead of being married to your own sofa and TV, these streaming services allow you to watch from anywhere — on your phone, computer or TV.
Before you sign up for a streaming service, here’s what you’ll need:
- High-speed internet service: Requirements vary by provider, but 10 Mbps or higher is generally recommended for a streaming experience without buffering. Check your current download speed at Speedtest.net.
- Compatible streaming device: Although no cable box is required, you may need to buy a streaming device (Google Chromecast, Roku, Amazon Fire TV) to play content on your TV. Check with each provider for a list of supported devices.
- Digital antenna: You can pick up a digital antenna for $10 to $40 if your live TV streaming package doesn’t include your favorite local channels like ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and PBS.
Team Clark has been testing various live TV streaming services over the past few months. Some of the key differences are price, channel lineup, DVR, supported devices and the ability to watch multiple streams at once.
“My favorite of all the streaming products is YouTube TV. It has a pretty wide array of television programming, but what’s really neat is that multiple people could be watching different things at the same time and everybody has an unlimited DVR,” Clark said.
Ready to lower your pay TV bill once and for all? Read on to learn more about your options in Clark’s guide to the best streaming plans and deals in 2018…
Key takeaway: Clark said DirecTV Now was “abysmally, horrifically terrible” when it first launched. After giving it a second chance, he said it was “flawless.”
- Price: “Live a Little” plan starts at $35 per month
- Channels: More than 60 channels included in the base package, such as A&E, Bravo, CNN, Disney, ESPN, Fox News, History, HGTV, MSNBC, Nickelodeon, TBS, TNT, USA (Full channel lineup)
- DVR: 20 free hours of cloud DVR storage (beta)
- Supported devices for TV: Amazon Fire TV Edition Smart TV, Amazon Fire TV media player, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Amazon Fire TV Pendant, Apple TV (4th generation), Chromecast (2nd generation and higher on Android & iOS devices, Chrome browser), Chromecast built-in TV, Roku (select models)
- Multiple streams: Up to two devices at the same time; $5/month for third stream
- Internet speed: Minimum of 12 Mbps for broadband connections to the home
Key takeaway: Sling TV has a plan starting at $20 per month, but you may need to purchase a few add-ons to get everything you really want.
- Price: $20 per month for Sling Orange, $25 for Sling Blue, $40 for Sling Orange + Blue
- Channels: Sling Orange offers 30 channels including ESPN, Disney, AMC, CNN and HGTV; Sling Blue offers 40+ channels like FOX, NBC, regional sports, NFL Network and FX (Full channel lineup)
- DVR: 50 hours of storage for an extra $5 per month
- Supported devices for TV: Apple TV (4th generation), Roku LT and higher, Amazon Fire TV players, Chromecast, Android TV, AirTV Player, Mi Box, LG WebOS 3.0 and 3.5, 2016 and 2017 Samsung TVs, Xbox One
- Multiple streams: One stream at a time with Sling Orange; three streams at a time with Sling Blue; four streams at once with Sling Orange + Blue
- Internet speed: 5 Mbps for a single stream of video content on a TV, PC or Mac; 25 Mbps for households that maintain internet use on multiple devices
Hulu with Live TV
Key takeaway: If you’re already paying for Hulu, this live TV streaming service is worth a closer look. Its Limited Commercials plan comes with the $39.99 monthly package.
- Price: $39.99 per month
- Channels: Access Hulu’s entire streaming library, plus get channels like A&E, Bravo, Disney, E!, ESPN, FS1, FS2, Food Network, HGTV, History and more (Full channel lineup)
- DVR: 50 hours of cloud DVR storage included; additional charge to upgrade to 200 hours
- Supported devices for TV: Chromecast, Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, Nintendo Switch, Roku and Roku Stick (select models), Samsung TV (select models), Xbox 360, Xbox One
- Multiple streams: Watch videos simultaneously on up to two screens
- Internet speed: 8 Mbps or higher for a reliable, high-quality viewing experience; multiple concurrent streams may require higher bandwidth
Key takeaway: Unlimited cloud DVR and the ability to use up to three separate devices at the same time make this Clark’s #1 favorite.
- Price: $40 per month
- Channels: Turner networks TNT, Adult Swim, TBS, CNN, HLN, Cartoon Network, truTV and Turner Classic Movies among the 50+ networks included (Full channel lineup)
- DVR: Record as many programs as you want at the same time and never run out of storage space
- Supported devices for TV: Stream with Chromecast or download the YouTube TV app on Roku, Apple TV, Android TV, Xbox One and supported Samsung and LG TVs
- Multiple streams: Up to three separate devices at the same time
- Internet speed: At least 7 Mbps to stream one High Definition (HD) video; 13 Mbps to reliably stream HD video, even with other devices using the same network
RELATED: Should you sign up for YouTube TV?
Key takeaway: Don’t let the name fool you! A PlayStation console isn’t necessary to sign up for this live TV streaming service.
- Price: $39.99 for “Access” plan
- Channels: The only streaming service to feature OWN in its cheapest plan; 40+ other networks like ESPN, Disney and HGTV are also included (Full channel lineup)
- DVR: Programming saved to DVR in “My Shows” can be watched in and out of your home network; stored for up to 28 days
- Supported devices for TV: PlayStation consoles, Roku players (firmware 7.7 and up), Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV (4th generation running tvOS 10.0 and up), Android TV (Android OS 4.4 and up), Chromecast
- Multiple streams: Up to five devices at the same time
- Internet speed: Minimum of 10 Mbps or higher is recommended for the best experience, plus 5 Mbps for each additional stream
Key takeaway: Philo is priced below the competition, but the absence of ESPN, Bravo, CNN and Disney will be deal-breakers for many households.
- Price: $16 per month for 37 channels and $20 per month for 46 channels
- Channels: AMC, Food Network, HGTV, Investigation Discovery, OWN, Nickelodeon and more; no sports or local stations (Full channel lineup)
- DVR: Unlimited DVR to save any shows you want for up to 30 days
- Supported devices for TV: All current Roku models
- Multiple streams: Three different streams can be played at the same time
- Internet speed: Minimum of 5 Mbps for HD quality and 1.5 Mbps for Standard Definition (SD) quality
Key takeaway: Without ESPN, fuboTV is not a home run for all sports fans!
- Price: $19.99 for the first month and $44.99 per month thereafter
- Channels: 75+ channels including FS1, FS2, NBCSN, NFL Network, NBA TV, beIN Sports, Pac-12 Network, CBS Sports Network, Big Ten Network, Golf Channel, Olympic Channel and regional sports networks (Read more here)
- DVR: Up to 30 hours of recorded programming time is included with a base subscription and 500 hours is available for an additional $9.99 per month
- Supported devices for TV: Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Chromecast, Android TV
- Multiple streams: Up to two devices at the same time
- Internet speed: At least 20 Mbps download speed to ensure a clear and consistent stream
Coming soon: AT&T Watch
AT&T already offers DirecTV Now, but we learned in April that a new streaming service called AT&T Watch is expected to be available to consumers in the coming weeks.
The skinny bundle of live TV channels will cost $15 per month, but it won’t include any sports. Read more here.
Listen to Clark talk about live TV streaming options on The Clark Howard Show Podcast
Still not sure which live TV streaming service to try? Call a family meeting and have everyone write down the channels that are most important to them, then decide together which service is the best fit. (Our channel comparison chart can help!)
All of these streaming services offer free trials to allow you to test them out before breaking up with your existing provider.
And if you’re happy with your current cable or satellite service but not your monthly bill, it doesn’t hurt to give customer service a call and see if they’d be willing to work with you on the price.