A Guide To TV Streaming Services In 2018

by Grey One •

Due to licensing issues, streaming TV on your computer isn’t easy. Basically, all the streaming services are bound by frustrating restrictions and limitations. Sports and other live broadcasts tend to be the most restricted of all. Often, these broadcasts can only be viewed in certain cities or regions. To make matters worse, popular broadcasts often cannot be viewed on mobile devices.

Here is a summary of what’s available:

CBS programs are only available on YouTube TV and PlayStation Vue or directly from CBS.  These services do not include CBS All-Access programs. CBS-All Access programs must be purchased separately — it is only available as a $9.99 per month service that must be purchased directly from CBS or from Amazon.

With TV streaming services, programming from HBO, Starz and Showtime are almost always offered as add-ons for $8-15 per month. They are included in a couple of expensive premium packages — the $74 Ultra Package from PlayStation Vue and the $110 Premier Package from DirectTV.

If you are just interested in watching cable TV channels (no broadcast channels), you’ll find that many of these shows freely available (see my article Watching TV Online For Free). You can also subscribe to Philo TV ($16 per month) and get a selection of 37 cable channels stream to you.

If you’d like some sports channels with your cable TV channels, but don’t need broadcast channels,  Sling TV ($20 per month) is probably your best choice.

If you mostly want to watch live sports then FuboTV ($35 per month) is probably the best choice. FuboTU includes includes channels like NFL, MLB, NBA, MLS and international soccer channels, plus some news, network television series and movies.

Amazon Channels offers a wide selection of premium channels like HBO, CBS All Access and Sundance Now. You can pick and choose from many channels, and add them to a Prime Membership account.

The PlayStation Vue streaming service is similar to Sling TV. It currently carries a lineup of local, broadcast, and On Demand channels from Disney-ABC, AMC, CBS, Discovery, Fox, NBCUniversal, Scripps, and Turner.

YouTube TV ($40 per month) ofers live networks TV and sports. It includes local ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC streams, ESPN and regional sports networks.

If you want a large channel selection  DirectTV ($35 per month) offers 120+ channels for streaming. Unforunately, this service has no monthly plan — you must sign up for at least 24 months.

Hulu With Live TV is service with a clunky interface and some missing channels (CBS, Discovery Channels, Comedy Central, MTV, VH1, BET, AMC channels). It doesn’t have much to offer to compete with the other services listed here.

Here are more details on these services:

Philo TV

  • Website: Philo
  • Base Price: $16 per month
  • Notable Channels: Comedy Central, Food Network
  • Notable Missing Channels: No broadcast channels, no sports channels, no Disney or Fox shows
  • Number of Simultaneous Streams: 3
  • Free Trial: 7 days
  • DVR Function: Yes, saves shows for 30 days
  • Supported Devices: Roku, iOS, Android Chrome, and Web.

Philo is a sports-free and broadcast channels-free set of live cable channels. Two plans are offered:

  • $16 per month for 37 channels
  • $20 per month for 46 channels

Philo is missing the four major networks, no Disney or Fox owned content. Also no sports content. The rest of the content is heavily reliant on Viacom networks: Comedy Central, MTV, Nick Jr., VH1, and some of the other big-name channels above are all Viacom-owned.

Here is the channel list:

A&E, AMC, AXSTV, BBC America, BBC World News, BET, Cheddar, CMT, Comedy Central, Discovery, DIY, Food Network, FYI, GSN, HGTV, IFC, ID, LifeTime, LifeTime Movies, MTV, MTV2, Nick, Own, Sci, Paramount Channel (formerly Spike), Sundance TV, Nick Jr, Teen Nick, History, TLC, Travel Channel, TV Land, Velocity, VH1, Viceland, and We

For $4 more per month you get: AHC, BET Her, Cooking Channel, Destination America, Family Channel, Life, Logo, MTV Live, Nicktoons.

Other features:

  • Ability to pause live programming and watch programs from the beginning if they’ve aired within the last three days
  • On-demand programming

Sling TV

  • Website: Sling TV
  • Base Price: $20 or $25 per month
  • Noteable Channels Inlcuded: NBC Live, NFL Network, ESPN 1-3, CNN AMC, Fox and ABC in select markets
  • Channels Not Included: No broadcast channels (for the Orange package), no NHL Network
  • Number of Simultaneous Streams: 1 steam for $20 Orange package, 3 streams for $25 Blue Package
  • Free Trial: 7 days
  • DVR Function: Yes but costs $5 per month extra, saves shows for 30 days
  • Supported Devices: Windows and Mac PCs and laptops, Android and iOS devices, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Nexus player, Xbox One, and 4th Generation Apple TV

Sling TV offers only cable-based channels — it does not include broadcast channels. However, there are a number of $5 monthly add-on channel packages.

“Sling TV Orange” is the basic package that costs $20 a month. This package provides 25 channels including:

ESPN, AMC, CNN, HGTV, Comedy Central, Cartoon Network/Adult Swim, History, Disney Channel, ESPN2, ESPN3, TNT, Food Network, TBS, BBC America, Freeform, IFC, EPIX Drive-In, Tribeca Shortlist, A&E, Viceland, Lifetime, Travel Channel, AXS.TV, Newsy, Cheddar, Bloomberg Television, Local Now, Flama, and Galavision.

“Sling TV Blue” costs $25 per month. This package allow 3 simultaneous streams and includes FOX and NBC-owned channels. Most channels that are in Sling Orange are also in Sling Blue, with the exception of ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, Disney Channel, and Freeform. This is the Sling Blue channel list:

AMC, CNN, HGTV, Comedy Central, Cartoon Network/Adult Swim, History, TNT, Food Network, TBS, BBC America, IFC, EPIX Drive-In, Tribeca Shortlist, A&E, Viceland, Lifetime, Travel Channel, AXS.TV, Newsy, Cheddar, Bloomberg Television, Local Now, Flama, and Galavision, FOX (select markets), NBC (select markets), FOX Sports Regional networks (select markets), CSN regional networks (select markets), NFL Network, FX, USA, Bravo, FS1, FS2, NBCSN, FXX, SyFy, NickJr, El Rey Network, TruTV, BET, National Geographic, Nat Geo Wild, Univision and UniMas.

You can subscribe to both the Blue and Orange package for $40 per month.

Cloud DVR is available on the majority of Sling supported devices: AirTV, Amazon, Android, Apple TV, iOS, Roku, Windows 10, and Xbox One. DVR functionality is not available on all channels.

Most of channels that are missing from the basic lineup can be tacked on as part of an extra package. This may be appealing to Spanish-speaking viewers because this service has one of the more robust sets of foreign-language content.

Amazon Prime TV

  • Website: Amazon Channels
  • Price: $8.99 per month, plus an Amazon Prime membership ($119 per year)
  • Number of Simultaneous Streams: 2 — but you can only stream the same video to one device at a time
  • Free Trial: 7 days
  • DVR Function: Not applicable
  • Supported Devices: Desktop, iPhone, iPad, Android Phone & Tablet, Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV

Amazon Channels is a collection of streaming services you can subscribe to via Amazon. It requires an Amazon Prime membership which cost $119 per year.

This service does not include broadcast TV channels (except for CBS All-Access which is available live).

Here’s a list of some of the better Amazon Channels:

  • HBO ($14.99 per month)
  • CBS All Access ($9.99 per month)
  • Cinemax ($9.99 per month)
  • Showtime ($8.99 per month)
  • Starz ($8.99 per month)
  • Mubi ($5.99 per month)
  • Sundance Now ($6.99 per month)
  • Sports Illustrated TV ($4.99 per month)
  • Comic Con HQ ($4.99 per month)
  • History Vault ($4.99 per month)
  • Comedy Central Stand-Up ($3.99 per month)
  • PBS Masterpiece ($5.99 per month)
  • IndiePix Unlimited ($5.99 per month)
  • DocComTV ($2.99 per month)
  • Smithsonian Earth ($3.99 per month)
  • Reelz ($3.99 per month)
  • Daily Burn ($14.99 per month)
  • PBS Kids ($4.99 per month)
  • Shudder ($4.99 per month)
  • Cheddar ($2.99 per month)

FuboTV

  • Website: FuboTV
  • Base Price: $44.99 per month (first month is $19.99 — promotional price)
  • Notable Channels: Fox Sports regional channels, NBCSN, NBA TV, CNBC, Bravo, A&E
  • Noteable Missing Channels: CBS, ESPN, PBS, ABC
  • Number of Simultaneous Streams: 2
  • Free Trial: 7 days
  • DVR Function: Yes (content is available in English, Spanish and Portuguese)
  • Supported Devices: Desktop, iPhone, iPad, Android Phone & Tablet, Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV (Gen 4)
  • Restrictions: Only available in the USA. Some channels are also available in Canada, Regional Sport Networks are only available in their respective regions.

FuboTV is a TV streaming service that focuses primarily live sports, including channels like NFL, MLB, NBA, MLS and international soccer, plus news, network television series and movies.

Note that FuboTV only allows two simultaneous streams per account.

Sports channels: FOX Sports regional channels, NBCSN, FS1, FS2, NBA TV, beIN Sports, Univision, BTN, Fox Soccer Plus, Golf Channel, Unimas, Eleven Sports, Galavision, Football Report TV, and fuboTV network

Other fuboTV channels: Bravo, FX, National Geographic, USA, CNBC, FXX, FXM, Viceland, FOX News, FOX Business, MSNBC, E!, The Weather Channel, Local NOW, Syfy, A&E, History Channel, Lifetime, LMN, Hallmark, HMM, Sprout, Nat Geo Wild, El Rey, fuse, Revolt, fyi, and Oxygen

FuboTV: FOX Sports regional channels, NBCSN, FS1, FS2, NBA TV, beIN Sports, Univision, BTN, Fox Soccer Plus, Golf, Unimas, Eleven Sports, Galavision, Football Report TV, and fuboTV network

YouTube TV

  • Website: YouTube TV
  • Base Price: $40 per month
  • Channels: ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, ESPN, TNT, Adult Swim, TBS, CNN, Cartoon Network, truTV, and TCM
  • Number of Simultaneous Streams: 3 simultaneous streams (6 users allowed overall)
  • Free Trial: 7 days
  • DVR Function: Yes, no storage limits
  • Supported Devices: Desktop, iPhone, iPad, Android Phone & Tablet, Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV (Gen 4)
  • Limitations; Live TV channel depend on you location in the US, NFL live streams are not available on mobile

YouTube TV is available in most metro area locations around the United States. This service features live TV from 60 network, with live sports and news. The interface is well designed and the streaming quality is good.

YouTube TV works everywhere in the U.S., with live TV offered in certain areas. Your access to local networks will vary depending on which zip code you’re in. You must sign in from home at least once every 3 months to keep your account active. You’ll need to sign in from home monthly in order to stream MLB content. You won’t be able to access any programs on YouTube TV, either live or recorded, while traveling internationally.

Additional sports and premium networks like SHOWTIME, Shudder, SundanceTV and Fox Soccer Plus are also available for an additional monthly charge.

DirecTV

  • Website: DirecTV
  • Base Price: $35 per month
  • Noteable Channels: ESPN, ABC, FOX, and NBC local broadcasts [only for select markets]
  • Noteable Missing Channels: CBS
  • Number of Simultaneous Streams: 2
  • Free Trial: 7 days
  • DVR Function: Yes
  • Supported Devices: Desktop, iPhone, iPad, Android Phone & Tablet, Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV (Gen 4)

DirecTV has one of the largest channel selections (more than 120). This service has no monthly plans, only 24-month plans are available with a $30 termination fee.

This service could suit you if you stream a lot of video from your smartphone, thanks to promotions from AT&T that allow its cellphone customers to watch an unlimited amount of DirecTV Now with mobile data.

HBO and Cinemax is available for a lower price on DirecTV than other services.

  • Live a Little ($35/month, 60+ channels) includes DIRECTV NOW local channels in select markets as well as A&E, ABC (select markets), AMC, Animal Planet, Audience, AXS TV, Baby First, BBC America, BET, Bloomberg TV, Bravo, C-SPAN, C-SPAN 2, Cartoon Network/Adult Swim, CMT, CNBC, CNN, Comedy Central, Discovery Channel, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD, E!, ESPN, ESPN 2, Food Network, Fox (select areas), Fox Business, Fox News, Fox Sports 1, Freeform, FX, FXX, Galavision, Hallmark, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, HGTV, History, HLN, Investigation Discovery, Lifetime, MSNBC, MTV, MTV2, National Geographic, NBC (select areas), NBCSN, Nick Jr., Nickelodeon, OAN, RFD TV, Spike, Syfy, TBS, TCM, Teen Nick, Telemundo, TLC, TNT, truTV, TV Land, Univision, USA Network, Velocity HD, VH1, Viceland, WE tv, and WeatherNation.
  • Just Right ($50/month, 80+ channels) includes all channels in the Live a Little package plus regional sports networks in select markets, plus you get AWE, BTN, CNBC World, Comedy.TV, Cooking Channel, ESPNEWS, ESPNU, Fox Sports Prime Ticket, Fuse, Fusion, GSN, IFC, JusticeCentral.TV, MLB Network, Nicktoons, OWN, Science, SEC Network, Sundance TV, Tennis Channel, Travel Channel, TV ONE, Univision Mas and The Weather Channel.
  • Go Big ($60/month; 100+ channels) includes every channel listed in the lower packages along with American Heroes, BBC World News, Centric, Destination America, Discovery Family, Discovery Life, DIY, FM, Fox Sports 2, FXM, FYI, Golf Channel, Lifetime Movie Network, LOGO, MTV Classic, Nat Geo Wild, NBA TV, NHL Network, Oxygen, Revolt, Sprout, TVG and NBC Universo.
  • Gotta Have It ($70/month, 120+ channels)-Contains all channels in lower packages as well as Boomerang, Chiller, El Rey, Starz Encore (8 channels), and Univision Deportes
  • You can HBO and Cinemax to any package for just $5 for month each, or Starz for $8 a month.

Playstation Vue

  • Website: Playstation Vue
  • Base Price: $39.99 per month
  • Notable Channels Included: ESPN 1 & 2, AMC, CNN, ABC, NBC
  • Noteable Missing Channels: Viacom channels like Comedy Central and MTV, A&E, Cinemax
  • Number of Simultaneous Streams: 2
  • Free Trial: 5 days
  • DVR Function: Yes for up to 28 days. However there many restrictions (details).
  • Supported Devices: Desktop, iPhone, iPad, Android Phone & Tablet, Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV (Gen 4)
  • Restrictions: Can only be used in the US, and various other restrictions apply (details).

PlayStation Vue currently carries a lineup of local, broadcast, and On Demand channels from top network groups.

These are the basic channel included:

AMC, Animal Planet, Bravo, Cartoon Network, CNBC, CNN, Destination America, Discovery, Discovery Family, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD, diy Network, E!, ESPN, ESPN2, Food Network, Fox Business, Fox News Channel, FREEFORM, FX, FXX, HGTV, HLN, Investigation Discovery, msnbc, National Geographic, NBCSN, OWN, oxygen, Pop, SCI, Syfy, tbs, TLC, TNT, Travel Channel, truTV, USA, and WE

  • The Access plan is $40 per month for 45 channels
  • The Core plan is $45 per month for 60 channels
  • The Elite plan is $55 per month for 90 channels
  • The Ultra plan is $75 per month for 90 channels plus HBO and Showtime

Some channel availability will vary depending on your location and zip code. In some zip codes, they may not have live-broadcast feeds for ABC, CBS, FOX, and/or NBC, so an alternative On Demand version of the channels will be included instead, with catalogs of top programming for that channel. On Demand versions of these channels do not air live sports games.

Here some notes on the sports channels from the FAQ:

  • Your local regional sports networks can be watched from anywhere in the country, as long as you’ve signed into PlayStation™Vue at least once from the zip code you chose when you subscribed.
  • Premium sports content is available through SHOWTIME and FOX Soccer Plus. SHOWTIME is included in the Ultra plan, and may also be subscribed to on its own. FOX Soccer Plus may be subscribed to on its own.
  • CBS Sports Network, ESPN channels, NFL Network, MLB Network, NBA TV, Big Ten Network (BTN), and Eleven Sports are accessible with differing availability through Access, Core, Elite, and Ultra plans of PlayStation™Vue.
  • NFL RedZone and 10+ other sports channels are available in the Sports Pack. The Sports Pack can be added-on to a Core, Elite, or Ultra plan. Learn more about the sports pack.
  • NoteNFL games airing on channels other than ABC or ESPN are not available live on mobile phones but can be viewed on a tablet, and can be cast to Chromecast from a mobile phone. NFL games may not be available for out-of-home streaming. NFL Network, however, is available on a mobile phone.

Hulu with Live TV

  • Website: Hulu Live TV
  • Base Price: $39.99 per month
  • Channels: AMC, Animal Planet, Bravo, Cartoon Network, CNBC, CNN, Destination America, Discovery, Discovery Family, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD, diy Network, E!, ESPN, ESPN2, Food Network, Fox Business, Fox News Channel, FREEFORM, FX, FXX, HGTV, HLN, Investigation Discovery, msnbc, National Geographic, NBCSN, OWN, oxygen, Pop, SCI, Syfy, tbs, TLC, TNT, Travel Channel, truTV, USA, and WE
  • Noteable Missing Channels: CBS, Discovery Channels, Comedy Central, MTV, VH1, BET, AMC channels
  • Number of Simultaneous Streams: 2
  • Free Trial: 7 days
  • DVR Function: Yes
  • Supported Devices: Desktop, iPhone, iPad, Android Phone & Tablet, Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV (Gen 4)

Hulu Live TV is streaming service with a reasonable selection of channels, but it is missing Viacom channels like Comedy Central and MTV. You can add Showtime as an extra, but not HBO or Starz.

Like other bundles, Hulu offers local broadcasts of the four major networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC) in select markets. But Hulu’s local broadcast markets are far fewer than other bundles – right now it’s just New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Francisco.

Hulu Live TV does offer Fox properties (Fox, FX, FS1, and others) Disney properties (ESPN, Freeform, Disney Channel, and others), NBC properties (NBC, Golf Channel, NBCSN, and others), plus channels from A&E Networks, Turner, Scripps, and CBS. Some regional sports networks are available in select areas, bolstering a pretty solid sports channel lineup.

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