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Best streaming platforms for watching live TV after cutting the cord with cable

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Sling TV

As more and more households send a "Dear John" letter to their cable company, instead signing up for one (or more) streaming services or live TV streaming services, finding the right TV streaming service has never been more important. Not all streaming services are equal, with each offering different channels, packages and price ranges. 

From free trials and no long-term contracts to sports and news-specific packages and services that offer live coverage of your local TV affiliates, the right streaming service can replace your local cable company -- and save you money in the process.


Streaming platforms vs. Live TV streaming platforms: Understanding the difference

When you're looking to add streaming platforms, it's important to know the difference between a streaming platform and a live TV streaming platform (and which ones are which).

A streaming platform like Netflix, Hulu, Peacock and Max offer original content, plus they generally house a vast library of TV shows and movies -- often associated with a TV network owned by the same parent company. A Live TV streamer like Fubo, SlingTV and Hulu + Live TV, offers the live feed of most (or all) of your local TV affiliates' programming, as well as the live feed of some cable channels. 

Streamers like Paramount+ with Showtime offer the live feed of one TV affiliate (in this case CBS), or Peacock Premium Plus subscribers can get access to the live feed from local NBC affiliates, but you won't be able to access all your local affiliates' live feed.

CBS News, CBS, Paramount+ with Showtime and Pluto TV are all subsidiaries of Paramount.


The best streaming platforms

Not all streaming platforms do the same thing. Below, see our picks for which streamers are the best in their category.

Keep reading for more on each streaming platform, including what you get with each subscription (and what you don't).


Best overall live TV streaming platform: Fubo

In the crowded marketplace of live TV streaming platforms, Fubo stands out. The streamer earns high marks thanks to its seven-day free trial allowing one can test drive the platform before fully committing, vast channel offerings and no-commitment subscriptions that can be canceled anytime without penalty.

Fubo is a sports-centric streaming service that offers access to access to local network affiliates, ESPN and more. Sign up and begin watching immediately on your TV, phone, tablet or computer. You'll have access to NFL football, MLB, NBA, NHL, NASCAR, MLS and international soccer games. starting at $80 per month after your free seven-day trial with the Pro Tier.

Sports fans can also level up access by adding on the $7.99 per month Fubo Extra package, which includes MLB Network, NBA TV, NHL Network, Tennis Channel, SEC Network and more channels with live games. Or upgrade to the Fubo Elite tier and get all the Fubo Extra channels, plus the ability to stream in 4K, starting at $90 per month ($70 for the first month).

Top features of FuboTV:

  • There are no contracts with Fubo, you can cancel anytime.
  • The streamer offers a seven-day free trial.
  • All tiers come with 1,000 hours of cloud-based DVR recording.
  • Stream on your TV, phone, tablet and other devices.
  • The lookback feature allows you to rewatch programming for up to 72 hours.

What you get with a FuboTV subscription:

  • The Pro tier includes over 190 channels, including the live feed of local network affiliates (where available). 
  • Fubo includes most channels you'll need to watch live sports, including CBS (not available through Sling TV).

What you don't get with a FuboTV subscription


Best streaming package: Hulu + Live TV/ESPN+ bundle

The triple-threat of streaming platforms, Hulu + Live TV is not only a live TV streaming platform, it offers original content courtesy of Hulu and comes bundled with ESPN+ and Disney+, making it our pick for the best streaming package available. 

The bundle features 95 channels, including local network affiliates where available (CBS, NBC, Fox and CBS) as well as popular cable channels such as ESPN, TNT, TBS, A&E, CNN and Bravo. It also includes the ESPN+ streaming service and unlimited DVR storage. 

Hulu + Live TV comes bundled with ESPN+ and Disney+. The streamer offers a three-day free trial and pricing tiers. A subscription to Hulu + Live TV (with ads) is $77 per month, and the ad-free (except for ESPN+) option is priced at $90 per month.

Top features of Hulu + Live TV:

  • There are no contracts, cancel anytime.
  • Unlimited DVR storage
  • You can record live TV with a Hulu + Live TV subscription.

What you get with a Hulu + Live TV subscription

  • A subscription gives you access to Hulu original content like "The Bear" and "Only Murderers in the Building", ESPN+ original content and the "30 for 30" library of content.
  • Hulu + Live TV includes all the channels sports fans will need to watch every network-aired NFL, NBA and MLB game.
  • Disney+ is included in the bundle.

What you don't get with a Hulu + Live TV subscription:

  • A subscription does not include NBA TV, home to a small amount of NBA Playoffs games.
  • AMC is not accessed through Hulu + Live TV.

Best budget sports and live event streaming: Sling TV

One of the most cost-effective live TV streaming platforms is Sling TV.  The platform's Orange + Blue tier gives subscribers access to the live feed of local ABC, NBC and Fox affiliates (where available), plus ESPN, TBS, TNT and more cable channels. 

The Orange + Blue tier costs $35 for your first month, and $60 per month after that. You can cancel anytime.  Add the Sports Extra package to get NBA TV, MLB Network and more for $11 per month.

Top features of Sling TV Orange tier:

  • All subscription tiers include 50 hours of cloud-based DVR storage.
  • Because Sling TV is a live TV streaming service, there are no blackouts on network-aired sporting events or award shows.

What you get with a Sling TV subscription:

  • There are 46 channels total included in the Orange + Blue tier, including local network affiliates' live feed.
  • Football fans get access to NFL games airing on ESPN, including Monday Night Football games, ABC, NBC and Fox.

What you don't get with a Sling TV subscription

  • Because Sling TV doesn't carry CBS, subscribers won't be able to access CBS-aired content, including AFC NFL games.

Best budget live TV streamer: Philo

For a budget-friendly live TV streaming option, look no further than Philo. The platform offers over 70 live TV options, priced at just $25 per month after a seven-day free trial. The platform offers unlimited DVR space, perfect for recording your favorite programs and movies airing on channels such as HGTV, History, Discovery, AMC, BBC America, World News and Hallmark Channel. The platform is particularly attractive for parents looking for cost-effective access to kid-friendly content airing on Nickelodeon, Nick J. and Nicktoons. The streamer also features a vast library of on-demand titles, plus the option of add-ons such as Epix and Starz.

Top features of a Philo subscription:

  • Philo offers a seven-day free trial.
  • Starting at $25 per month, Philo is one of the least expensive live TV streaming platforms.
  • The streamer offers unlimited DVR space.

What you get with a subscription to Philo:

  • A subscription includes over 70 channels, including ABC, A&E, MTV and VH1.

What you don't get with a subscription to Philo:

  • Unlike other live TV streaming platforms, Philo doesn't give subscribers access to the live feed of their local TV affiliates.

Best way to stream live CBS affiliate and Showtime: Paramount+ 

Paramount+ gives viewers access to all CBS original content and features original programming. That means NFL fans can watch every CBS-aired NFL game and the Champions League live on all of its pricing tiers (including Paramount+  Essential). With the Paramount + with Showtime tier, subscribers get access to the live feed of their local CBS affiliate, while also being able to watch top-tier awards shows and events live, that originally aired on CBS. 

A subscription to Paramount + with Showtime costs $11.99 per month.

Top features of Paramount + with Showtime:

  • The streamer offers a seven-day free trial.
  • No ads except those airing in the live CBS feed

What you get with a subscription to Paramount+ with Showtime

  • On-demand CBS programming including hit shows like "Survivor" and "NCIS"
  • Showtime's library of content like "Billions" 
  • Professional soccer, including Champions League live
  • SEC college football games and NCAA March Madness games airing on CBS
  • PGA Golf

What you don't get with a subscription to Paramount + with Showtime:

  • You won't be able to watch network-aired programming that did not originate on CBS.
  • Sports fans won't be able to watch games airing on other networks through Paramount+ with Showtime.

Cheapest cable and live TV add-ons: Prime Video Channels

Prime Video subscribers can access the streaming platform's vast library of movies and TV shows (some are included in the Prime membership free and some require a rental or purchase for a fee), but you can also add on top-tier cable channels and get access to the live feed of your local CBS affiliate through Prime Video Channels. Subscriptions can be managed directly from your Prime account, which means no extra apps need to be downloaded. 

While most channel add-ons are only accessed for a fee (as little as $4.99 per month), some channels can be accessed for free.

Top features of Prime Video Channels:

  • You don't have to download a new app or manage a separate account. Prime Video Channels are managed through your current Prime Video account.
  • No cable subscription is required, but a wireless connection is.
  • There are no contracts. Cancel anytime.

What you get with Prime Video Channels:

  • Channels include: Freevee, HBO Max, Discovery+, Starz, Showtime, CBS All Access, Paramount+ and Epix Now

What you don't get with Prime Video Channels:

  • Prime Video Channels only offers live TV streaming of local CBS affiliates.

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