Best Live TV Streaming (2019): Hulu vs. Sling vs. Vue vs. YouTube TV

Cam Secore
Updated 04/22/2019

After a year of testing, I determined YouTube TV is the best live TV streaming service because of its excellent stream quality and the widespread availability of regional sports and local channels. However, PlayStation Vue is my pick for people who prefer an experience similar to traditional cable.

I’ll explain how I reached my conclusion by comparing four services (Hulu with Live TV vs. Sling vs. PlayStation Vue vs. YouTube TV) while evaluating five categories: stream quality, channels, interface, DVR, and device compatibility.

youtube tv

YouTube TV

10
  • Stream: Impeccable quality with three simultaneous streams. You can pause, and if you’re behind watching a live broadcast (due to pausing), you can fast forward.
  • Channels: Regional sports ($50/month) and local channels are available in almost all locations.
  • Interface: You’ll rarely need the guide because the AI learns what you like with "Top Picks For You,” which queues up DVR recordings, events, or shows.
  • DVR: You get unlimited storage and six different DVR profiles. However, you can’t skip commercials on CBS and FOX once the show’s on-demand version is available (24 hours).
  • Devices: Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, Xbox One, Android, and iOS. (Not available on Fire TV or PlayStation 4).
  • Best Way To Stream: Use the YouTube TV phone app to find content, then push it to your TV via casting or AirPlay.

Best for you if...

You want a perfect stream with all of your local channels and an experience that’s notably different from traditional cable. The YouTube TV apps on streaming devices are rock solid. But the ability to find content on your phone, then send it to your Chromecast or Apple TV is what’s truly brilliant.

playstation vue

PlayStation Vue

8
  • Stream: It’s usually a clean experience with five concurrent streams. You can pause, and if you’re behind live (from pausing), you can fast forward.
  • Channels: Regional sports ($50/month) and local channels are available in almost all locations.
  • Interface: Vue looks like traditional cable with the guide setup. Its recommendations aren’t great, but picture-in-picture is an amazing feature for sports fans.
  • DVR: You get unlimited DVR storage and 10 profiles. Shows are stored for 28 days. You can skip commercials on any network except Fox and FX.
  • Devices: Roku, Apple TV, PS4, Chromecast, Xbox One, Android, and iOS.
  • Best Way To Stream: It runs smoothest and has the best features on PS4 and Apple TV. Fire TV and older Roku devices struggle to provide enough power.

Best for you if...

You want an experience that’s similar to cable for a lower cost, and you have Apple TV, PS4 or newer Roku device. You’ll get an old-fashioned guide, excellent channel lineup, and a capacity for five simultaneous, reliable streams. There are also special features on PS4 and Apple TV like picture-in-picture.

hulu with live tv

Hulu Live TV

7
  • Stream: You can’t pause live TV or fast forward with the entry package. However, Hulu’s quality has vastly improved.
  • Channels: Some regional sports channels are missing, along with AMC.
  • Interface: The "Home" tab still gets confusing, but the "Live Now" and the new guide are dynamite.
  • DVR: You get 50 hours of storage but can’t fast forward. For $10 more, you get 200 hours and commercials are automatically skipped.
  • Devices: Roku, Apple TV, PS4, Chromecast, Xbox One, Android, and iOS.
  • Best Way To Stream: The experience is universal on all of the apps; it’s confusing with the nested menus.

Best for you if...

You want to DVR network shows and don't want commercials recorded. To go fully commercial-free, you'll need the Enhanced Cloud DVR add-on for $55/month total. Hulu Live has come a long way since its inception and now has a brilliant guide and a more stable stream.

sling tv

Sling

4
  • Stream: You can’t pause TV or rewind. You can pick the quality, but it can be choppy and it’s not as crisp as YouTube TV.
  • Channels: You won’t get your local channels or local sports in most areas.
  • Interface: It has an adequate guide, but the rest of the interface is awful and tough to navigate.
  • DVR: It’s not included, but you can add it for $5. There are no profiles, countless restrictions, and only 50 hours of storage.
  • Devices: No other live streaming service is more compatible than Sling.
  • Best Way To Stream: The experience is almost universally terrible though all the apps, stay away from the Apple TV app.

Best for you if...

You’re on a budget and you’re OK with limited channels and a subpar interface. You won’t find a better deal than $25/month, but you won’t have your regional sports or other local channels (CBS, ABC, FOX, NBC). It’s a solid bet if you’re a frequent traveler or if you’re not that into sports.

I made a deals tracker that compares today's price to Amazon's 60-day average. When you use my Amazon links, it supports my site and lets me provide free and unbiased content.

 

Why listen to me?

  1. I’ve been obsessed with gadgets since I was eight years old.
  2. I bought each device with MY money.
  3. I’ll update this post frequently because my opinions change.
  4. I don’t have insider access. I’m just like you, the everyman.

Channel Lineups

Channel YouTube
($50)
Vue
($45)
Hulu
($45)
Sling O
($25)
Sling B
($25)
A&E No No Yes Yes Yes
ABC Yes Yes Yes Bigger No
AMC Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Animal Planet Yes Yes Yes No No
BBC America Yes Yes No Yes Yes
BBC World Yes Bigger No Bigger Bigger
BET No No No Bigger Yes
Big Ten Network Yes Bigger Yes No No
Bloomberg TV No No No Yes Yes
Boomerang No Bigger Yes Bigger Bigger
Bravo Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Cartoon Network Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
CBS Yes Yes Yes No No
CBS Sports Yes Bigger Yes No No
Cheddar Yes No Yes Yes Yes
CMT No No No Bigger Bigger
CNBC Yes Yes Yes No Bigger
CNN Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Comedy Central No No No Yes Yes
Cooking Channel No Bigger No Bigger Bigger
CSPAN No No No No No
CW Yes No Yes No No
Destination Amer. No Yes Bigger No No
Discovery Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Discovery Family No Bigger Bigger No No
Discovery Life No Bigger Bigger No No
Disney Channel Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Disney Junior Yes Yes Yes Bigger No
Disney XD Yes Yes Yes Bigger No
DIY No Bigger No Bigger Bigger
E! Yes Yes Yes No Bigger
EPIX Bigger Bigger No Bigger Bigger
ESPN Yes Yes Yes Yes No
ESPN 2 Yes Yes Yes Yes No
ESPN 3 No No No Yes No
ESPNEWS Yes Bigger Yes Bigger No
ESPNU Yes Bigger Yes Bigger No
Food Network Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Fox Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Fox Business Yes Yes Yes No No
Fox News Yes Yes Yes No No
Fox Sports 1 Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Fox Sports 2 Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Freeform Yes Yes Yes Yes No
FX Yes Yes Yes No Yes
FX Movie Yes Bigger Yes No No
FXX Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Golf Channel Yes Bigger Yes No Bigger
Hallmark No Bigger No Bigger Bigger
HGTV Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
History No No Yes Yes Yes
HLN Yes Yes Yes Bigger Bigger
IFC Yes Bigger No Yes Yes
Investigation Yes Yes No No No
Lifetime No No Yes Yes Yes
Lifetime Movie No No Yes Bigger Bigger
MLB Network Yes Bigger No No No
MSNBC Yes Yes Yes No Bigger
MTV No No No Bigger Bigger
MTV2 No No No Bigger Bigger
MyNetworkTV Yes Yes Yes No No
Nat Geo Wild Yes Bigger Yes No Yes
National Geo Yes Yes Yes No Yes
NBA TV Yes Bigger No Bigger Bigger
NBC Yes Yes Yes No Yes
NBC Sports Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Newsy Yes No No Yes Yes
NFL Network No Bigger No No Yes
NFL Red Zone No Bigger No No Bigger
NHL Network No No No Bigger Bigger
Nick Jr. No No No Bigger Yes
Nickelodeon No No No No No
Nicktoons No No No Bigger Bigger
OWN No Yes No No No
Oxygen Yes Yes Yes No Bigger
Science No Yes Bigger No No
SEC Network Yes Bigger Yes Bigger No
Sundance TV Yes Bigger No Bigger Bigger
Syfy Yes Yes Yes No Yes
TBS Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Telemundo Yes Yes Yes No No
Tennis Channel Yes No No No No
TLC Yes Yes Yes No Yes
TNT Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Travel Channel Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
TruTV Yes Yes Yes Bigger Yes
Turner Classic Yes Bigger Yes Bigger Bigger
TV Land No No No Bigger Bigger
Univision No No No No No
USA Yes Yes Yes No Yes
VH1 No No No Bigger Bigger
Viceland No No Yes Yes Yes
WE tv Yes Yes No Bigger Bigger
Weather No No No No No

Frequently Asked Questions & Concerns

  • I love YouTube TV and it’s an affordable alternative to cable. But cord cutting and streaming aren’t for everyone. Here’s what you need to consider:
    • It’s not always cheaper. If you want to save money, you need to be flexible. If you can’t go without 10 or more channels, you’ll probably end up paying the same amount as you would for cable, once you’ve added up all of the services.
    • Know the type of content you want, and don’t worry about the channel your favorite shows air on. Many times you can find the shows you want on Netflix or Hulu for $10/month.
    • While cord-cutting is trending and millions of people have ditched cable, live TV streaming services are turning into the cable companies you hate. The prices have gone up and inevitably will rise more, while the channel bundles remain. In fact, two days after I finished this post, YouTube TV increased its price from $40/month to $50/month.
    • What’s the most significant difference between live TV streaming and cable? You don’t have contacts, and you use your own equipment. This could change too. The real difference is you’re paying a different billion-dollar corporation than you were previously.
    • You need great internet. You may have to upgrade your current internet speed or improve your router, both of which will cost money. These live TV services recommend around 10/mbps, but that’s for one stream with the assumption that no one else is using the internet while you’re watching TV. If you plan on having concurrent streams, I recommend at least 50/mbps.
  • You need a streaming device or a smart TV for each room you want to stream in. I recommend a dedicated streaming device over smart TVs because smart TVs typically have clunky and outdated interfaces or aren’t fully compatible with the live services. For instance, if your smart TV has a YouTube app, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s compatible with YouTube TV. My recommendations (I wrote about streaming devices too):
  • The current live TV options aren’t ideal for sports fans. The only content I watch on YouTube TV is my local Boston sports games. I stay away from news and reality TV and prefer to use Netflix, HBO, and Showtime for movies and shows over traditional cable. Two hypothetical dreams:
    • I’d pay for three sports channels only and save money. Unfortunately, channels are still bundled together and will never be unbundled.
    • I’d pay for MLB.tv, NBA League Pass, NHL.tv, and NFL Sunday Ticket packages, without a live TV service. Unfortunately, the sports packages blackout your local teams so they can’t be watched.
  • I don’t make money from this post. I’ve received emails from competing services, like Xfinity, with huge commission bribes. I don’t have plans to compare other live TV services aside from these four. My independence on this site is my biggest advantage. Media companies aren’t telling me how or what to write.
  • You can’t watch your local channels with a live streaming service if you’re not logged in from your local area.
  • You can get your local channels for free with a cheap indoors antenna without paying for a live TV streaming service. I can’t get a signal my tiny town, but I think you’d have better luck in a city. If you can pick up local channels for free, it opens up your possibilities for picking a streaming service.
  • PBS isn’t on these streaming services. However, you can stream PBS on demand with PBS Passport, or pick it up with an antenna.
  • “Network sign-ins” should work with all four of these services.
  • How do you watch pay-per-view movies without cable? You rent movies from Amazon Video, iTunes or Vudu for $5 each.
  • Why haven’t I reviewed {insert company here}?
    • DirecTV NOW: I originally included it, but it had a clunky interface and never streamed well consistently without error messages. I took it out of this comparison post to keep things simple. I haven’t tried it in over a year, so leave comments below if you are a fan of DirecTV NOW.
    • Philo: They have a bunch of channels for $16/month, but local channels (Fox, CBS, ABC, NBC), ESPN, and regional sports channels aren’t available. If you don’t like sports or network shows, it might be worth a look, but I can’t vouch for it!
    • Fubo: I haven’t tried it, but the channel lineup looks enticing. It’s $15/month more than YouTube TV to get the same channels and features.
    • There are many illegal live TV services. If the service is $10/month for 100 premium channels and the app isn’t available on streaming devices without a workaround, it’s not legal. Use your head. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Please don’t ask me about jailbreaking your device.

YouTube TV

10

Stream (A):

  • The stream quality is impeccable. This is partly because they always seem to have a buffer of at least 20 seconds. As a result, live streaming is a little behind real-time, but it’s worth it for the improved stream quality.
  • YouTube TV uses 60 frames per second for sports channels to avoid choppiness.
  • This is the only service with which you can see and change the picture resolution while watching a show. It only requires a couple of taps. You don’t need to mess with the settings.
  • There’s a “Stats for Nerds” interface you can pull up when you’re on a channel. You can see buffer strength, latency, video quality, and frames per second. If you’re having problems with your stream, it’s great for diagnosing that.
  • You can watch on three separate devices at the same time.
  • You can pause live TV, and if you’re behind live (from pausing), you can fast forward. You can also go back from any point when you started watching.
  • YouTube TV works when you travel away from home, but local channels (CBS, ABC, FOX, NBC, and regional sports networks) from your zip code won’t work while you’re out of the area.
  • YouTube had several outages during major events. This wasn’t ideal, but YouTube handled it admirably by giving users a free week of service. There have been no outages in the past six months and I don’t expect more because Google is a powerhouse with amazing software developers and vast resources.

Channels (A):

  • Membership is simple; it’s $50/month for all channels. There are no complex tiers.
  • You’ll get your local sports teams in almost any location. The Denver and Washington DC areas are the only two I’m aware of that don’t have all of the local sports because the Altitude Network and MASN aren’t on any streaming services.
  • I get live versions of all my local channels (CBS, FOX, ABC, NBC) and you should too.
  • Overall, YouTube has one of the weakest channel lineups on the market, so why did I give it an “A”? As you may have noticed, I prioritize regional sports and local channels and YouTube has them in every community. My reasoning: Sports and other live events are much better live. Other shows can be anytime with cheaper on-demand services without compromising the experience.
  • The sports setup is excellent. It lists all of your local teams with the full schedule and standings. You can click one button to record every game, no matter the channel.

Interface (A):

  • YouTube TV opens on the Home tab with “Top Picks For You,” regardless of what device you use. This is their secret sauce. The Home tab learns your patterns and provides recommendations. Since I watch mostly sports, my “Top Picks For You” always has a few live games. I rarely have to go to the guide to find them. It’s simple and beautiful.
  • YouTube TV’s app is visually stunning. Rather than showing a generic thumbnail of the  NFL logo, it shows a thumbnail of the two teams playing. It sounds stupid, but seeing familiar team logos make it easier for my brain to process than a channel name or text description does.
  • The YouTube TV apps on streaming devices are solid and have a guide, but there’s nothing unique about the app, apart from the “Top Picks For You” section.
  • The phone interface is amazing. It’s set up with three tabs: Library (your DVR), Home (a way of finding stuff to watch through searching and curation), and Live (a beautifully designed guide). Once you find what you want to watch, you can flawlessly cast or AirPlay to your TV.
  • The fantastic phone app is a big part of what differentiates YouTube TV from the others. It’s a different experience than traditional cable and exponentially better. While I still use the Roku and Apple TV apps for YouTube TV, I prefer to use the YouTube TV phone app to find content, then AirPlay to Apple TV or cast to Chromecast.
  • You can customize the guide. If you only like four channels, for instance, you can hide the other channels, and bring them back whenever you want by switching to back to the “default view.”
  • You can get notifications on your phone to alert you when your shows are on.

DVR & On-Demand (B):

  • YouTube TV’s Cloud DVR gives you unlimited storage, and your content is stored for nine months.
  • You get up to six accounts, and everyone gets an account for DVR with their own Google login. Your recommendations will only be based on your profile.
  • YouTube’s DVR has a catch: your recordings are sometimes overwritten with the on-demand version. When this happens, you can’t skip the commercials.
    • The commercials are shorter (three one-minute breaks for a 30-minute show) with on-demand than live TV, but you can’t skip them.
    • In my experience, CBS and Fox are the only channels that I found that were affected. Other channels record normally, with commercials, which you can fast forward.
    • You typically have a 24-hour window before the on-demand version is posted, so watch your shows quickly if you want it to be ad-free!
  • On-demand and DVR recordings are easy to find, sort and watch. I love the interface on the phone and the streaming device apps. Rather than displaying shows by the date they were aired, it orders them by season and episode number. But you can’t record individual episodes. When you record an episode, it records every airing of the show and bundles in previous on-demand content too. It’s a smarter approach, but it may bother some because it’s unique.
  • I’m not sure how YouTube does it, but they record the entire sporting event, no matter how long it goes over the scheduled time slot. My guess: They’re pulling the scores in real-time and note when the game’s done. It’s seamless!

Compatibility (B-):

  • There are apps for Apple TV, Roku, Android TV, Xbox, and newer Samsung & LG smart TVs.
  • While there are apps on lots of devices, my favorite way to use YouTube TV is to find the content on the phone app, then cast it Chromecast or AirPlay it to my Apple TV.
  • There’s no Amazon Fire TV app and it won’t be coming anytime soon due to Amazon and Google’s beef. There’s no way to natively cast from your phone to Fire TV either. You could potentially use Firefox on Fire TV to stream YouTube TV, but that’s going to be a mess. Buy a Chromecast.
  • There isn’t an app on PlayStation devices.
  • Streaming with the Chrome and Firefox browsers is great.

PlayStation Vue

8

Stream (B):

  • PlayStation Vue is the most polished live service available.
  • It streams at 720p at 60 frames per second.
  • I had clean streams on every channel except my local sports channels, which was sometimes choppy. It’s not unwatchable, but not always perfect.
  • You can pause live TV or rewind from the point at which you started. You can fast forward until you reach live.
  • You can stream with five devices at once with any package.

Channels (A):

  • Vue’s entry-level plan, “Access,” is $45/month.
  • If you want your regional sports channels, you’ll need the “Core” plan for $50/month, making it the same as YouTube TV to get the same sports coverage.
  • Vue offers most Fox and NBC regional sports channels (depending on your location). They have some team-owned regional sports networks like YES, but not all. They eliminated NESN from their lineup.
  • I get live versions of all of my local channels (CBS, FOX, ABC, NBC) and in most cases, you should too.
  • You can’t use it while far away from your city/town without calling customer support.
  • Vue is one of the few streaming services with the option for NFL RedZone ($10/month).
  • Like most of services, Vue is missing BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Network and VH1.

Interface (B+):

  • Vue looks like traditional cable with the ugly guide setup but has three unique features:
    • You can easily jump to specific dates with a couple of taps.
    • You can set it up so that your favorite channels show up first on the guide list.
    • The channel guide scrolls horizontally rather than vertically. I like this setup because I only watch four channels and set them as my favorites, but it’s not ideal if you watch several channels.
  • You can create up to ten personal profiles. Each profile gets its own DVR, favorite channels and algorithmic recommendations.
  • I need to use the guide more often than I do with YouTube TV:
    • Vue isn’t great at predicting what I want to watch. Even after only watching sports, the games that I want to watch don’t consistently show up in the recommendations.
    • I don’t like the thumbnails in the recommendation section because rather than showing the teams playing, it’ll just show a league logo.
    • You might like a guide and feel more comfortable with it, but I don’t want to be reminded of the clunky cable experience.
  • The search feature is solid.
  • PlayStation Vue works best with Apple TV and PS4 because they are the most powerful streaming devices and have exclusive features:
    • On Apple TV, the DVR content goes into the TV App. Your DVR recordings will show in the TV App without touching the Vue app. You can even add sporting events to your “Up Next” section.
    • “Multi-View” lets you watch two, three or four programs at once with picture-in-picture. You choose which channel gets the audio, and you can go full screen from any of the mini screens with one tap. Then, you get back to the picture-in-picture screen with one tap too. This is brilliant for sports lovers.
    • “Quick Nav” gives you easy access to your previous channel.
  • There are “League Pages” for MLB, NBA, NHL, and NFL that show the upcoming schedules.

DVR & On-Demand (B-):

  • There’s unlimited DVR storage, but shows are only stored for 28 days.
  • You get 10 individual profiles, meaning 10 different DVR libraries.
  • After you record, you’ll usually get the option to watch your recorded version or an on-demand version. With the recorded version you can skip commercials, but on-demand doesn’t allow this.
  • FX and Fox can be recorded, but you can’t skip the commercials. You can skip ads on your recorded content on all of the other channels.
  • It’s easiest to skip commercials on Vue with their slick interface. As you tap the skip button, the skips stack together to create a giant skip forward. It’s better than scrubbing.
  • There are channels that let you “watch from the beginning” when you arrive late. I noticed this with ESPN and CNN.

Compatibility (B):

  • Sony should’ve called the service “Vue” instead of PlayStation Vue. For a long time, I didn’t know you could watch PlayStation Vue on non-PlayStation devices. It’s confusing and poor branding.
  • It’s compatible with almost all devices, but I’ve found the guide is slow on Amazon Fire TV and Roku devices made before 2017.
  • PlayStation Vue is best on Apple TV and PS4 because of the extra features talked about above.
  • With the phone app, you can cast to a Chromecast or other castable device, but there’s no AirPlay support.
  • You can watch from your web browser without downloading an app.

Hulu Live TV

7

Stream (B-):

  • In Hulu’s early days, sports channels had a latency issue when the screen moved quickly. Sixty frames per second are critical for watching sports because otherwise, there’s a lag in action. Luckily, Hulu started rolling out 60fps on half of their channels, and it looks like more are coming.
  • Hulu Live users reported lots of stream quality issues in the early days, and I experienced this too.
  • In my recent month-long test, however, the streams worked well and I only had a couple of minor hiccups. I don’t rate the stream quality as highly as YouTube TV or PlayStation Vue, but Hulu hammered out many of the kinks and stream quality shouldn’t factor into your decision in this case.
  • You can pause TV, but once you do, you can’t fast forward. You’re stuck watching preloaded commercials. It’s a terrible experience. But for an additional $10/month, you can add “Enhanced Cloud DVR,” which allows you to pause when you want, then fast forward until you reach live.
  • You get two simultaneous streams in the entry-level package. It’s an additional $10 for unlimited streams.

Channels (B-):

  • Hulu has most of the regional sports channels, including YES Network for Yankees fans, but they don’t have all of the regional sports networks. Unfortunately for me, NESN isn’t an option.
  • I get live versions of all of my local channels (CBS, FOX, ABC, NBC) and, in most cases, you should too.
  • You get “Hulu Limited Commercials” for free (this is the original Hulu that most people know of for $6/month).
  • Like most of these services, Hulu Live is missing BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Network, NFL Network, MLB Network, and VH1.
  • AMC is the only major channel missing that the others in this post have.

Interface (B-):

  • Hulu with Live TV is a different take on television. I admire the boldness. They use huge, eye-catching fonts and focus on getting content in front of you through a curation process, rather than just showing channel names. (Keep in mind, it’s not traditional, so it might take some getting used to).
  • If you search Google for reviews, you’ll see Hulu users have universally hated the app since its redesign in 2017. It’s pleasing to look at but not easy to use.
  • When Hulu Live launched, it didn’t have a guide, you couldn’t mark shows as played, and you’d so get deep in the threaded menus you can’t find your way out. Hulu made major adjustments in 2019. Now, your content is more customizable, and there’s a guide.
  • Hulu Live has three main menus.
    • The “Home” menu is the most confusing because there are over 15 submenus, but the first four of five are all you’ll need:
      • “Hulu Picks” is the sub-menu Hulu opens with. It’s useless and just shows generic on-demand content that Hulu wants you to watch.
      • “Live Now” shows you everything that’s currently on that they think you’ll like based on your previous viewing. I watch a lot of the Boston Celtics and each time they’re playing, it’s the top pick in my “Live Now” section.
      • “Keep Watching” shows you your recordings or live shows that you haven’t finished watching yet.
      • “My Channels” is easy access to live versions on your favorite channels, that were selected by you.
    • The “Live” menu turns on the channel you last used. Then with one swipe up, you can find your guide.
    • The “My Stuff” menu is where your on-demand and DVR recordings are stored.
  • Hulu created a new take on the traditional guide. It’s not a grid style, but it works in the same manner. It’s the cleanest and most intuitive guide I’ve ever used.
    • The guide can be viewed anytime you’re watching a show with a swipe up on the remote.
    • There’s no superfluous information on the guide. It only shows you what’s on now and if you want to see future programming, you can scroll right.
    • The guide defaults to showing only your last ten channels watched. This removes clutter and makes things easier to navigate. You can view “All Channels” if you want to watch something outside of your ten recently used apps.
    • There are clear green playback trackers to show to the show’s progress.
  • Hulu Live has taken huge strides in improving their interface, but I’d love to see two improvements:
    • An option to declutter by deleting or hiding certain menus.
    • When you’re watching a channel and a show ends there’s a slight delay and reloading that happens before the new show loads. I think I know why this happens, but I think it can be fixed.
    • Thumbnails while scrubbing through the timeline.
  • There are push updates you can turn on to alert you when to watch a certain game. Let’s say a guy is in the 8th inning of a no-hitter in a game you wouldn’t usually care about. Hypothetically, Hulu would alert you, and with one tap you could watch the end of that game.

DVR & On-Demand (A+):

  • With the entry-level $45/month package, you get 50 hours of DVR storage, but you can’t fast-forward commercials. You’ll get two sets of non-skippable three-minute ads for each 30-minute show.
  • I can’t recommend buying Hulu Live with the standard package and the DVR category would get an “F” from me.
  • But for an extra $10/month, with Enhanced Cloud DVR you get 200 hours of DVR storage, and you don’t have to watch commercials.
  • Even better, commercials aren’t even recorded, so you don’t even need scrub through to find the right positioning. It’s fantastic.
  • If DVR is your preferred method of watching network shows, the Enhanced Cloud DVR is a no-brainer.
  • You can create up to six profiles, so each profile’s algorithmic suggestions and DVR recordings are individualized.

Compatibility (A-):

  • Hulu is on Apple TV, Roku, Fire TV, Chromecast, Xbox, iPhone, iPad, and Android devices, and the app works well everywhere.
  • You get a universal experience on all the apps. It’s perfectly synced and beautiful.

Stream (B):

  • In my time with Sling, I never had buffering issues, but the stream quality wasn’t as crisp as YouTube TV.
  • You can change the video quality by adjusting the bandwidth allowance. Typically, you’d want your streaming service to determine the Internet strength on its own, then use the best possible quality. But sometimes, you might want to lower the quality so you can have multiple concurrent streams.
  • ESPN and Fox Sports stream at 60 frames per second to eliminate choppiness, but TBS, TNT, MLB Network, NFL Network, and NBC Sports are still in 30 frames per second.
  • You can’t pause live TV or go back on most channels. There is usually a message that says “pause and other playback controls not available on this channel.”
  • Sling Orange only lets you stream on one device.
  • Sling Blue gives you three concurrent streams.
  • You can log on from any location in the U.S. without issue. That’s excellent if you’re on the road a lot. Another benefit of having no location preference is it’s easier to share your account. (I’m not advocating sharing an account but realize many people do it. Some providers like HBO don’t care, but some do).

Channels (D+):

  • Sling Blue and Sling Orange are $25/month each, or you can get them together for $40/month. Sling broke up channels into small packages. (Compare the packages here).
  • Sling TV might be your best bet if you’re NOT into sports or network TV and still want cable, but I’m harsh on the grading here because sports and network TV are usually most important to people looking for live tv services. If you don’t need sports or live events, why do you need to watch TV live? Standalone apps like the regular Hulu, Netflix, HBO, Showtime give you great content, on-demand, without any commercials. While Hulu isn’t live, you can watch your Network shows the day after they air.
  • You might be able to catch your sports teams with Sling, but it’s not likely you’ll see everything. They only have about 20 regional sports channels, with only four different regional NBC sports networks. With Sling, I couldn’t watch the Celtics, Bruins, or Sox.
  • You can’t get any local channels (CBS, FOX, ABC, NBC) in most cases. The only local channel I got is NBC. I’m missing CBS, FOX, and ABC and both local sports channels.
  • There are tons of add-on packages that aren’t typically available with streaming services (NBA League Pass, NFL RedZone, tons of international packages, etc.)

Interface (D):

  • Sling has a traditional guide with a “grid view” and it’s not bad.
  • There’s an “image view” too, but scrolling through channels and lineups isn’t easy with it.
  • The interface isn’t pretty or intuitive. Here are my notes:
    • Sling experiments with ditching the guide with an “On Now” section. I appreciate the effort, but the thumbnails for sports are generic and don’t show the teams in the thumbnails, making it hard to see who’s playing.
    • It’s not as good at predicting what I want to watch as YouTube TV is.
    • There are extra taps needed to perform specific tasks when one tap would suffice. For instance, when you tap on a show from the guide, it brings you to another screen, it should just bring you to the show.
    • The app is too busy. It tries to cater to too many demographics. I’d love to see a simpler version or an option to eliminate some of the noise.
    • I like that the mini guide can be used while you’re watching a show. It’s not intrusive and is actually useful. It’s the best part of the interface.
    • Sling isn’t smart about when it’s actively being watched elsewhere. If I’m watching in my living room, and close the app, and then go to my bedroom to watch, it tells me I’m still watching in the living room. Sometime it’ll let me watch in the bedroom, but usually, I can’t kick off the living room tv, even though the app isn’t active.
  • The Roku and Fire TV apps are the best Sling has, but Sling’s Apple TV app is one of the worst in the business. It doesn’t work well with the trackpad, it’s slow to load, and there are lots of errors.

DVR & On-Demand (F):

  • DVR isn’t included with either the Blue or Orange package. But for an additional $5/month, you can add “Cloud DVR” which will give you 50 hours of recordings.
  • You recordings are never deleted, but 50 hours isn’t much. Your newest recording will overwrite the oldest recording in your DVR when you get close to your quota.
  • You can’t record any Disney channels (including ESPN).
  • Fox channels can’t be recorded, but you can watch them on-demand with commercials.
  • You can record some local channels, but there aren’t many on Sling anyways.
  • There are no profiles. You’re stuck with a DVR and settings combined with all your household member’s preferences.

Compatibility (A+):

  • No other live streaming service is more compatible than Sling. Name a device and Sling is compatible with it.
  • You can cast from your phone app and it’s a decent experience.
  • You can’t AirPlay from your phone.
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41 Comments

  • Ct06 says:

    Great writeup! FYI with the recent YouTube Changes Epix is now available as an add on.

    This helped me confirm I’m sticking with YTTV and philo to get the rest of the channels on my Samsung Tvs and Rokus. Still saving money in the long run!

  • Lisa says:

    Just an FYI, the Washington Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles both broadcast games locally on MASN, which is not available on any streaming service do to contract MASN has with cable providers. Only option is MLB and using VPN during blackout periods.

  • Wells says:

    Great review, thanks!

    I started life with YTTV, but recent price increase to $50/month forced me to trial Hulu + Live TV. Hulu + Live TV has a more modern user interface, and the channel guide lets me know what’s on a channel many hours ahead. A big plus over YTTV. I get more buffering with Hulu + Live TV. On the other hand, the buffering for Hulu + Live TV is for less time than YTTV. I’m going to stick with Hulu for awhile.

  • gds says:

    Awesome review Cam !
    Is there a way to evaluate the Hulu plus Live TV enhanced DVR features during the 5 day trial ?

  • GWL says:

    Well done Cam. Very informative. Today was my first streaming experience. I started the trial with HULU Live, because my TV supported that service. But after reading your review, I believe I may just decide to get ROKU and not worry about TV compatibility. In Tampa area, I cannot get CBS, so I am going OTA for that channel. And I was going to add PHILO to pick up the remaining cable channels I wanted. Will still be cheaper than cable, but feels like much more of a nuisance, at least for now.

  • Ben says:

    I think personally I’m going to try Sling TV. I suppose it really depends on what type of sports you want to watch. If it’s just NFL, Sling seems to really cater to it, if it’s anything else besides NFL, you’re up a creek.

    I just want NFL and some movies channels. I figure with Sling Blue + DVR, and my Amazon Prime (which I already used) I’ll only be paying 30-35 bucks a month extra, which in my book, is a win.

    • Cam Secore says:

      That’s awesome if you can make it work! But most locations don’t even have the local Fox and CBS, so you wouldn’t be able to watch NFL either.

  • Monterey guy says:

    Wondering if anyone could help. Which service is best for a house with 4 TVs to watch and record: Warriors basketball, Giants baseball, Sharks hockey, NFL, basic cable channels, and sitcom/comedy channels like TvLand, Hallmark, Freeform, etc. Oh and HBO? Also, would I need to buy a remote for each Roku? I only have 1 Firestick for now.

    • Cam Secore says:

      None of these services have exactly what you want. Welcome to the world of streaming! If you can sacrifice TV Land, your best bet is PlayStation Vue. Then, you’d buy HBO Now alone for $15/month (putting you at $65/month total). You’ll need one Roku/Fire TV Stick per TV. Each streaming device comes with a remote.

  • Kimberly Nord says:

    Hi Cam! This helps tremendously however I still need help in deciding, we have Netflix and are purchasing a Firestick and most likely using Hulu through our Xbox my question is Can I downgrade our cable and use all all the options I mentioned?

    • Cam Secore says:

      If you’re paying $50/month for Hulu and $12/month for Netflix, you’d want to cancel cable, right?

  • Amy Walz says:

    Very helpful review. The Women’s World Cup is starting in early June. I am a huge soccer fan and only subscribe to streaming services for the 1-2 months to watch. A couple years ago I used Sling to watch men’s world cup and DVR games while I was at work. The Sling navigation was horrible and frustrating. It just listed a # of the game shown like Game 25 WC instead of saying Game 25 US vs France. I was thinking about trying Hulu Plus but you make a good case for You Tube TV.

  • Paul says:

    What about dt now? Works great for me on roku, grandfathered plans have had 145 channels including HBO and stars encore for 80 bucks! Thing is I can’t change package or I get their New packages. Closest to cable you can flip stations with just a sidee arrow

  • Paul says:

    Sling is bad not worth a nickle! Rough streams pixilation
    in dark scenes severe

  • Jerry Knott says:

    Great review Cam, lots of good info. Just now looking to cut the cord. Cable is increasing to $188/mo, no way. My plan: Roku Ultra, plenty of apps available w/ wholesome content for family, especially all the grandkids. YTTV for locals and sports. One ?: anyone know if there are apps available for Hallmark Channel & Hallmark Murders and Mysteries? My wife has to have these as much as I have to get the Big Ten Network haha!

    • Cam Secore says:

      It’s an app called “Hallmark Movies Now” and you get three of the Hallmark channels for $5/month.

  • alex says:

    So you are saying if I got Sling I can only use it on 1 of my 3 tvs at a time? Well that sounds pretty stupid. Trying to go the cheap route, but if that is the case I’ll pass on Sling.

    • Cam Secore says:

      Sling Orange only lets you stream on one device. Sling Blue gives you three concurrent streams. You can buy more streams with Orange too.

  • Gregg says:

    Thanks for the excellent review. I probably will switch from Hulu Live to YouTube TV, because I prefer a better streaming quality and user interface. I noted your comments on the streaming quality of each. Do you have any additional info about the streaming bit-rate or resolution (720p or 1080p) of Hulu Live vs YouTube TV? Or is that largely dependent on the bandwidth of my ISP’s broadband service (which is 100 Mbps) and/or the actual output capacity of each individual channel?

    • Cam Secore says:

      At this point in their maturation, they’re the same to my eyes. They’re usually 720p at 60fps for sports channels and 1080p at 30fps to non-sports channels.

  • Greg says:

    Do any of the services support this scenario: I set the DVR to record a baseball game that starts at 7:30. At 8:30 I want to watch the game starting at the beginning and skip the between-innings commercials until I “catch up” to live. This is how I currently watch all sports using DishNetwork’s DVR.

    • Cam Secore says:

      Like I wrote, YouTube TV and PlayStation Vue can both do this.

      • Greg says:

        I read what you wrote, but I don’t see my exact scenario discussed. I’ve heard (elsewhere) that you can’t begin watching a recorded event until the recording is complete. Or if you can watch, you can’t skip commercials. I’m looking for clarification between “start watching live, pause, and resume” vs “start recording while away, come home and start watching that recording (from the beginning) before it’s complete, and skip commercials as they come up, eventually catching up to live”. Thanks.

  • Thomas says:

    My ISP can only deliver 2 Mbps where I live. Should I not even bother? However, I don’t have any issues streaming Netflix.

  • linda says:

    How do sports look on the newer large 4K tvs? Read a lot about bad picture quality on the newer tvs with both streaming and dish satellite?

    • Cam Secore says:

      What is a “newer tv”? I have a TCL 4K 55″ and YouTube TV looks identical to when I had DirecTV and Spectrum cable.

  • Kevin says:

    To what extent is the ‘just like cable’ functionality determined by the provider (e.g. Hulu) vs. the hardware? My neighbors are using Roku – they (technically) can Fast Forward, but the video freezes while doing it. So, they don’t really know when to stop FF. Other friends subscribe to YTTV and can’t FF through programs that were automatically deleted from their DVR after being available for streaming. What’s the best combination of provider/hardware for keeping recordings and ‘visible’ FF?

    • Cam Secore says:

      Apple TV with PlayStation Vue is the best hardware with the software most similar to traditional cable.

  • LP says:

    Thanks, Cam! Best, best explanation. I have sling, but now know my most imp. Feature is to be able to pause live tv, wait a while then ff through commercials or go back. Is Playstation Vue still the best for this? I will change, if so, or has youtube or another service imprived on this one variable? Thanks so much!

  • Domain Earth says:

    I was experiencing issues as with Sling app on AppleTV … Your reviews and insight helped me go with YouTube and cancel Sling. I’ve been paying for poor video quality for nearly a year. Thanks for having everything laid out in such an easy to follow format. Great stuff!

  • E Jorge says:

    Hi Cam, do you get compensated by YouTube? No History Channel, Does not work on Amazon Fire, these are two major items for many people like myself, but yet you give it 5-lightning bolts. I’ve been using ATT TV Now (formerly Direct TV Now) for a year or so and the picture quality is excellent and it carries History and works on Amazon Fire. My only dislike is the DVR (Beta) which is horrible. Can you include ATT TV Now and Fubo with your next review?

    • Cam Secore says:

      I wish I was compensated for this post because a lot of people have read it, but I haven’t made a dime. Also, if you think my post is dishonest, why do you want me to review something for you?

  • Mike says:

    The DVR for YouTube TV is not really a DVR and is probably what confuses people. YouTube records every show anyways so when you elect to “record” a show or series all you’re really doing is setting a bookmark in your library for quick access to your favorite show. That’s why it’s unlimited and that’s why it throws the entire series with all seasons at you at once.

  • Chad says:

    Hello Cam. Recently switched from PS Vue to Hulu +L. One thing you may not be aware of. Just because an app works on Android is no guarantee it works on Android TV. The Hulu app on Android TV is a different app than the one on Android and until a recently didn’t provide access to Live. Also, I have added a HDHomerun Connect Quatro to my network connected to a Plex Pass account and enjoy all my local channels with DVR. The sub-channels have some excellent content in my market (Houston, TX).

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