Best Streaming Service for Live TV 2017: Sling TV vs DIRECTV NOW vs FuboTV vs PlayStation Vue

Best Streaming Service

When it comes to watching TV, nowadays there are much more options than there were just a few years ago. Gone are the days when a cable subscription was an absolute necessity. Now, with online streaming services galore, there are plenty of alternatives to cable. In this guide, we will go over the best streaming services for live TV, and try to identify what is the best streaming service.

For the purpose of this guide, we’re going to focus on live streaming services, that allow you to watch live TV just like if you had cable. This rules out popular services like Netflix and Amazon Instant Video, as these services are only for on-demand content. In this guide, we’ll focus on the best streaming services currently available. Right now, that comparison will consist of Sling TV vs DIRECTV NOW vs fuboTV vs PlayStation Vue – but more services will be added in the future. Without further ado, here is our examination of the best live streaming services available in 2017.

 

What is the Best Streaming Service for Live TV?

That is a tough question, my friend. Right now, there are 4 big players in the industry, each of which offers unique pros and cons. In the guide below, we’ll compare the big four (which are Sling TV, DIRECTV NOW, FuboTV and PlayStation Vue) and give you a better idea of how these services work. While it’s difficult to select a “best” streaming service, we’ll narrow the playing field and make it easier for you to choose what’s best for you.

To start off with, let’s go over the basics of each of these services, and then we’ll get into the actual comparison.

 

What is Sling TV?

Sling TV reviews

Sling TV is one of the most popular and most-established online streaming services, offered by Dish Network. It is generally one of our favorites as well, due to its low price-point, easy of use, and good channel selection. Here are some basics of the service:

  • Sling TV is an online streaming service that works over the internet
  • No cable required
  • No contract – cancel anytime
  • Plans start from just $20 a month for 30+ channels
  • Expand selection to 70+ channels for $10 extra ($30/month total)
  • Up to 100+ channels available in various packages
  • Premium channels can be added on (such as HBO, Showtime, etc.)
  • Watch from most devices – streaming players, computers, mobile devices, smart TVs, etc.
  • Watch from anywhere with an internet connection
  • There’s a free 7-day trial available

To learn more about Sling TV, head over to our Sling TV review. Or, keep reading for our comparison of the best streaming services.

 

What is DIRECTV NOW?

directv now review

DIRECTV NOW is the newest service currently, having just recently launched in late 2016. As the name suggests, it comes from DirecTV (which is owned by AT&T). This is important to note, because it means that although the service is new, it’s backed by an experienced team that is likely to do a good job of rolling out a great new service. Here are the basics:

  • DIRECTV NOW is a new online streaming service
  • No cable required
  • No contract required – cancel any time
  • Plans start from $35 a month for 60+ channels
  • Up to 100+ channels available
  • Premium channels can be added on
  • Watch from many devices, including streaming devices, computers (web browsers), mobile devices, etc.
  • Watch from anywhere with an internet connection
  • There is a free 7-day trial available – click here to sign up today

For more information on this new service, head over to our DIRECTV NOW review. Or, keep reading for our comparison of the best streaming services.

 

What is FuboTV?

FuboTV is a newly-launched streaming service that aims to compete with the best of the best live streaming services. It used to be just for sports, but FuboTV has recently expanded to offer 44+ live TV channels for their customers. It’s still definitely a sports-first service, marketed mostly towards sports fans, but it does also include general purpose channels.

  • FuboTV is an online streaming service for live TV
  • Plans start from $35 per month for 44+ channels
  • No contract required
  • No cable required
  • Add-on channels available
  • Mostly sports-oriented, with key channels like FS1, FS2, NBCSN, Comcast Sportsnet, etc.
  • Also some general-purpose channels offered
  • Watch from most devices, including streaming players, smartphones, computers and more
  • Watch from anywhere
  • Free 7-day trial available

To learn more about this service, check out our FuboTV review. Or, keep reading for our best live streaming service comparison.

 

What is PlayStation Vue?

vue

PlayStation Vue is another one of the more popular online live streaming services. It comes from Sony, and although it was originally only for PlayStation owners, it’s now available nationwide and on a variety of devices. It’s a solid option, with some notable downsides which we’ll discuss later on. Here are the basics:

  • PlayStation Vue is a cable-free online streaming service
  • Plans start from $30 a month for 45+ channels
  • Up to 90+ channels available in various packages
  • Premium channels can be added on
  • No contract required – cancel any time
  • Watch from most devices – streaming players, PlayStation consoles, and mobile devices (although there are some mobile streaming restrictions)
  • Watch from your home – mobile viewing outside the home is restricted for the most part
  • There’s a free 7-day trial available

Want to learn more about PS Vue? Our full review has all the info you need. And below, we’ll start comparing the four services, Sling TV vs DIRECTV NOW vs FuboTV vs PlayStation Vue.

 

Sling TV vs DIRECTV NOW vs FuboTV vs PlayStation Vue: Channels

In their most basic sense, these three services are quite similar. They all offer a way to watch live TV from home or on-the-go, without paying a fortune for cable. One of the biggest differences between them is in the number of channels that are available from each, and the various packages they offer. Take a look below for a channel comparison.

Sling TV channels – Sling Orange package ($20/month):

sling orange channel list

Sling TV Channels – Blue package ($25/month)

sling blue channel list

Sling TV Channels – Orange+Sling Blue package ($40/month)

sling orange + blue channel list

Sling TV Channels – Multi-Extra Discount add-on ($10/month)

Sling Multi Extra Discount

Note: this is an add-on package that you can add to any existing Sling TV plan, but it’s not available on its own. It adds 4 of the most popular existing add-on channels at a discounted rate of $10 per month (would be $20 separately), and offers a total of 40+ channels.

There are also various add-on packages available, ranging from the Sports Extra pack to World News Extra, etc. Each of these add-ons includes a number of genre-specific additions, and they are available from only $5 per month (or $10 per month for 4 of the packs – see above image). See the full Sling TV channel list for details.

 

DIRECTV NOW Channels – Live a Little Package ($35/month):

DIRECTV NOW Live a Little Channels

60+ channels in total; only the highlights are listed in the picture above.

DIRECTV NOW Channels – Just Right Package ($50/month):

DIRECTV Just Right channels

80+ channels in total; only the featured channels are listed in the picture above. Adds key sports channels from the ESPN family of networks, NBCSN, and regional sports networks.

DIRECTV NOW Channels – Go Big Package ($60/month):

DIRECTV NOW Go Big channels

100+ channels in total; only the featured channels are listed in the above picture. Adds premium channels like NHL Network, NBA TV and more.

DIRECTV NOW Channels – Gotta Have It Package ($70/month):

DIRECTV NOW Gotta Have It channels

120+ channels in total; only highlights listed in above picture. Includes key additions like Starz Encore, El Rey Network, and more.

DIRECTV NOW offers just about all of the channels both services above carry and many more. Its channel lineup is very robust, and it really is the closest thing to cable TV without the drawbacks of the expensive pay TV model. Check the DIRECTV NOW channel list for more details.

 

FuboTV Channels – Fubo Premier Package ($35/month)

FuboTV channels

FuboTV also offers various add-on packages for you to expand your selection. As you can see, the channel selection consists primarily of sports channels, making this an ideal choice for sports fans. Also, note that the $35/month price is an introductory rate and subject to change.

PlayStation Vue Channels – Access Slim Package ($35/month):

PlayStation Vue channels

PlayStation Vue Channels – Core Slim Package ($35/month):

PlayStation Vue Core Slim Package

PlayStation Vue – Elite Slim Package ($45/month):

PlayStation Vue Elite Slim

PlayStation Vue Channels – Ultra Slim Package ($65/month):

PlayStation Vue Ultra Slim

Bottom line: This is a lot of information to absorb, no doubt about it. If you’re a “more is better” type, you’ll like that DIRECTV NOW offers up to 120+ channels. Sling TV is next up, at 100+ channels, while Vue lags behind at 90+. FuboTV offers only 44 channels, plus around 25 offered as add-ons. However, bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better, and you also must consider cost when making your decision.

For basic packages, Sling TV is a clear winner. It’s only $20 a month and includes many of the most popular channels – ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, TBS, AMC, A&E, CNN and many more. $20 a month is a steal of a deal, considering both competing services are at least 50% more than that.

For flexibility, Sling TV is also nice, as their wide selection of add-on packages allows you to add very specific types of channels, for as little as $5 a month. So, instead of having 120+ channels, of which you actually use around 30, you can pick and choose the content that is most relevant to your interests. Additionally, Sling TV recently added a “Multi-Extra Discount” add-on package, that offers 4 of the most popular add-ons for a discounted rate of $10/month. It adds 40+ extra channels, making it effectively $30 per month for 70+ channels (Sling Orange + 4 extras package). See the image below for a quick comparison.

Sling TV add on deal

At this point, Sling TV wins in the channel department. With that said, DIRECTV NOW has the most channels available, their prices are reasonable, and you can add HBO to any package for only $5 per month. PlayStation Vue does not have any distinct advantages in the channel department, and in fact Vue recently dropped all Viacom channels (MTV, Comedy Central, etc.), while both Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW continue to carry these channels.

FuboTV is a great service if you’re a sports fan looking for some key sports channels not offered elsewhere. However, Fubo does NOT offer ESPN, which is a noteable downside. It’s a good service that’s definitely sports-centered, so if you’re looking for a more general-purpose TV streaming service, the others are better options.

So, with Vue lagging behind in this race, and FuboTV really only being best for sports fans, it’s really between Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW. The best streaming service in terms of channel selection really depends on your own preferences, so it’s tough to pick a clear winner in this fight. With the recent addition of a cheaper add-on package from Sling, we’re leaning towards Sling TV being ahead in the channel department.

 

Sling TV vs DIRECTV NOW vs FuboTV vs PlayStation Vue: Devices

Since all of these services work without a cable subscription (and without a cable box), you’ll need a device that is compatible in order to actually use the services. Most services support the majority of streaming players, mobile devices, computers, etc. Take a look below for the breakdown.

Sling TV devices:

  • Most streaming devices, including Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, Android TV, and more
  • Computers, including PC (desktop and laptop), and Mac (desktop and laptop). Note that Chromebooks are not currently supported, as Sling TV requires an app install on the computer.
  • Mobile devices, including tablets and smartphones (iOS, Amazon Fire, and Android)
  • Select smart TVs
  • Gaming consoles, like Xbox One

DIRECTV NOW Devices:

  • Streaming devices, including Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Chromecast. Note that Roku is NOT supported yet
  • Select smart TVs
  • Mobile devices (iOS/Android)
  • Web browsers (PC/Mac/Laptop) – no install required

FuboTV Devices:

  • Streaming devices, including Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, and Chromecast
  • Mobile devices (iOS/Android)
  • Web browsers (PC/Mac/laptop) – via browser, no install required

PlayStation Vue Devices

  • Streaming devices including Roku, Chromecast, and Amazon Fire TV.
  • Mobile devices, including tablets and smartphones from Android and iOS. Note that there are significant mobile streaming restrictions.
  • PlayStation consoles (PS3/PS4)

Bottom line: This is another section where it’s tough to pick a best streaming service. Sling TV currently supports the most devices, which is not surprising given that it’s the oldest of the four services. DIRECTV NOW has a slight advantage for Chromebook and some other computer users, as it does not require an app install and can be viewed through your web browser (while Sling TV requires that you install their program). That said, DirecTV does not currently support Roku, which is a big downside given the popularity of Roku devices. It’s likely that Roku support will be added soon. All four services work on mobile devices, but PlayStation Vue severely limits mobile browsing when you’re outside your home.

Overall, we give this section to Sling TV, as it currently supports the most devices. DIRECTV NOW is a close second, with FuboTV and PlayStation Vue bringing up the rear.

 

Sling TV vs DIRECTV NOW vs Fubo TV vs PlayStation Vue: Features

In the battle for the best streaming service, it’s important to consider the best features of each service you’re considering. We’ve broke it down into a brief pros and cons list for each service, as you can see below:

Sling TV Features

  • Very easy to use
  • Live streaming of all available channels
  • On-demand streaming (rotating selection) of select channels
  • Watch from anywhere with an internet connection – no location requirement (as long as you’re in the USA)
  • Works on most devices
  • Works on only 1 device at a time for Sling Orange, or up to 3 devices at a time for the bigger packages
  • No DVR feature, but Sling is currently beta testing a cloud DVR feature
  • For streaming on a computer, you must install the Sling TV app (no in-browser streaming)

DIRECTV NOW Features

  • Easy to use
  • Convenient grid feature that will be an easy transition from cable TV
  • Live streaming of all available channels
  • 3-day “catch up” period where you can stream select shows on-demand if you missed them live
  • Works on most devices (does not currently support Roku, however)
  • Works on PCs, Macs, Chromebooks, etc (uses in-browser streaming)
  • No DVR feature currently, but DirecTV is working on one

FuboTV Features

  • Easy to use
  • Live streaming of all available channels
  • Sports-focused
  • Lots of regional sports networks not offered elsewhere
  • Cloud DVR feature
  • Works on most devices
  • Works via web browser (so it can be used on any computer/tablet)

PlayStation Vue Features

  • Easy to use
  • Works great on PlayStation consoles and Amazon Fire TV – but it’s a bit clunky on other devices
  • Live streaming of all available channels
  • No on-demand streaming exactly, but there’s a cloud DVR feature
  • The “My Shows” feature allows you to automatically record your favorite shows to watch later
  • Works on a lot of devices
  • Works on up to 5 devices at once
  • You can watch on mobile devices, however you’re tied to your home location – so you can’t watch outside of your house, even on mobile
  • Does not work on PC/Mac – only on compatible streaming devices

Bottom line: These three services are fairly similar in functionality. Sling TV is perhaps the easiest to use, although DIRECTV NOW has a grid pattern function that will be familiar for those switching over from cable. Sling is the most established, and therefore has the fewest issues, glitches, etc. and tends to work the best.

Vue actually does have an advantage here, though, as it’s the only to currently offer a DVR feature. However, Sling TV is already beta testing their new cloud DVR feature, and DIRECTV NOW plans to add one in 2017. We’d call Sling TV the best streaming service based on features, but the competition is stiff in this category.

 

Sling TV vs DIRECTV NOW vs FuboTV vs PlayStation Vue: Special Deals

Now that you know the basics, you’re likely about ready to choose the best streaming service for you and sign up! But before you do that, you should be aware that these services routinely offer some pretty generous sign-up bonuses, as detailed below.

Sling TV Special Deals

DIRECTV NOW Special Deals

FuboTV Special Deals

  • Free 7-day trial
  • The Fubo Premier package is on sale for $35/month (usually $50/month)
  • Non-contract, easy to cancel

PlayStation Vue Special Deals

  • Currently, the only deal is a 7-day free trial.
  • Non-contract, easy to cancel

Bottom line: This is one section where PlayStation Vue really lacks, only offering a free trial. Sling TV and DirecTV both bring some very valuable deals to the table, offering free devices and special discounts.

The best streaming service in terms of sign-up bonuses is really a toss-up between Sling TV and DirecTV. Check out the deals and see which is best for you.

 

What is the Best Streaming Service for Live TV?

And now, after we’ve delved into all the details of these services, it’s time to pick a winner. It’s a tough decision, but here’s how we ranked the best streaming services, from top to bottom:

  1. Best streaming service of 2017 – Sling TV

We chose Sling TV as the best live streaming service of 2017 because it’s the most affordable (starting from only $20/month), the easiest to use, and because it works on the most devices. We like the flexibility of buying the basic package and then adding add-on packs, if needed, which allows you to get more channels that you actually want, instead of paying for a bunch you don’t use. Sling also offers some killer sign-up bonuses, and a free 7-day trial. Overall, it’s the best TV streaming service for your buck.

2. Second-best streaming service of 2017 – DIRECTV NOW

A close runner-up is DIRECTV NOW. Although this service is brand new, it offers an impressive selection of channels with a total of 120+ available. It’s also fairly easy to use, supports most major devices (excluding Roku), and offers a number of good sign-up bonuses. It is significantly more expensive than Sling TV, but still a good deal cheaper than cable. It offers a 7-day free trial.

3. Third-best streaming service of 2017 – FuboTV (and best sports streaming service)

We put FuboTV in the third spot, although if you’re a hardcore sports fan this service might be your #1 or #2 pick. Fubo is affordable, easy to use, works on almost all devices, and offers premium sports channels not available elsewhere – including tons of regional sports networks. FuboTV offers a free 7-day trial.

4. Fourth-best streaming service of 2017 – PlayStation Vue

Tagging a long in third place is PlayStation Vue. Don’t get us wrong – this is still a great service, it just didn’t have enough to make the cut. Vue does offer a good amount of channels, although its channel selection has been shrinking rather than growing recently. It works on most devices, and functions pretty well, especially on PlayStation devices. However, the higher price point, lack of mobile browsing capabilities, and clunkiness on some devices landed this service in our #3 spot on the best streaming services list.

 

So there you have it! We hope that this guide has given you all the info you need to make the right decision possible in choosing the best live streaming service for you. Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

Facebook Comments
Austin Meadows

Austin Meadows

Austin Meadows is a writer, traveler, and cord-cutting expert based in the rainy but beautiful Pacific North West.
Disclosure: This page may contain referral links that allow us to make a bit of money at no expense to you. For more info, see our full disclosure in the footer menu.
Austin Meadows