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Thursday, 10 August 2017

Tech: There are 6 major services that let you stream live TV over the internet — here's how they compare

Hulu with Live TV.

We dug into the fine print to help you see how PlayStation Vue, Sling TV, DirecTV Now, YouTube TV, Fubo TV, and Hulu's live-TV service compare.

Everyone in the tech industry wants your eyeballs.

More specifically, a growing number of tech companies are trying to attract the millions of "cord-cutters" who have ditched cable for services that stream live TV channels over the internet.

Hulu's flashy new live-TV service is the latest to join the fray, while YouTube recently launched its YouTube TV platform. Sony, Dish Network, and AT&T, meanwhile, have been fighting it out for months now.

But since this is the TV industry in America, figuring out what's what is complicated. So to help you see which, if any, make sense for you, we've broken down the biggest live-TV streaming services you can choose from today: PlayStation Vue, Sling TV, DirecTV Now, YouTube TV, and Hulu with Live TV, as well as a smaller offering called Fubo TV that's expanded in recent months.

Let's dig into the fine print:

Sling TV

1. How much does it cost?

$20 a month for the base Sling Orange package, or $25 a month for a Sling Blue package with more channels.

For $40 a month, you can buy the Orange and Blue packages together, but the two do not totally overlap in terms of channel selection. (Hold that thought.)

From there, you can tack on a bunch of smaller specialized bundles of channels for between $5 and $15 a month per bundle. There are way too many to list here, so you should have a look at Sling’s service page.

2. How many channels does it have?

Sling Orange has about 30 channels. Sling Blue has about 45 channels depending on where you live, but its lineup doesn't include everything in Sling Orange.

The add-on bundles can incorporate a few dozen more channels, but those vary wildly in terms of popularity. The likes of MTV, Starz, and Showtime are very much popular; other networks, like the Outdoor Channel, are more niche.

3. Which major channels are not included?

CBS is absent. ABC is there, but only for some markets, and only with a Sling Orange subscription; it also costs an extra $5 a month. For the kids, the main Nickelodeon channel isn't available, either.

Also, while Sling does carry Fox and NBC channels, they're only included in the Sling Blue package. And there's a good chance those local channels won't even be available if you don't live in one of a few major markets. Check your coverage before you buy.



Sling TV (cont'd)

4. Does it include ESPN?

Yes, but like every other Disney-owned channel, it's only in Sling Orange. There, you get ESPN, ESPN 2, and ESPN 3 by default. This is the main thing that keeps the Orange and Blue packages from overlapping.

5. What about local sports and non-ESPN sports networks?

This is a little convoluted.

Sling Blue doesn't have ESPN, but it does include Fox and Comcast/NBC regional sports channels. Again, those vary by region; you can use the tool on Dish’s FAQ page to check what's covered in your area.

As for other national sports channels, only Sling Blue includes Fox Sports 1, NFL Network, and NBC Sports Network. With Sling Blue, you can add a Sports Extra package that includes the NFL's RedZone channel, NBA TV, NHL Network, and others for $10 a month.

If you have Sling Orange, though, that Sports Extra package costs $5 a month, doesn't include NFL RedZone, and throws in a few more deep-in-the-weeds sports channels. Again, that's in addition to the main ESPN networks, which Sling Blue does not have.

You can probably see why these services aren’t quite revolutionary now.

6. What about HBO?

HBO is available as an add-on to one of the core bundles. It costs $15 a month, the same as the standalone HBO Now streaming service.



Sling TV (cont'd)

7. Which devices does it support?

You can check Sling's support page for the full list, but the only big no-show is Sony's PlayStation 4.

Otherwise, Roku, Apple TV (4th-gen), Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, iOS, Android, Android TV, Windows, macOS, Xbox One, and others are all supported.

8. Does it have DVR so I can record shows I missed?

Yes, but it doesn't come included with a basic subscription. Instead, you have to pay an extra $5 a month for up to 50 hours of DVR storage.

Beyond that, a decent chunk of channels — namely Disney's and ESPN's networks — cannot be recorded for the time being. (Here's a full list.) And while Fox networks can be recorded, you'll automatically be reverted to the on-demand version of those shows if they're available. That means you'll have watch ads.

Sling has done well to roll out DVR support to more devices over the past few months, but Apple's macOS is still out of luck. There's no limit on how long you can keep a recording, though, and Sling now lets you "protect" specific recordings in case you run out of space.

9. Can I pause and rewind live TV?

Technically, yes. But several channels — including ESPN, CNN, TBS, Cartoon Network, and AMC — do not support the feature and can only be watched live.

These channels also typically lack support for Sling's "Replay" feature, in which certain recently-aired programs are available to stream for a limited time after they first air.

10. How many people can use it at once?

With Sling Orange, you can only have one active stream going at a time. With Sling Blue, that's bumped up to three concurrent streams. With the $40-a-month Orange + Blue combo package, it becomes four.



Sling TV (cont'd)

11. Any other extras I should know about?

Sling TV is particularly stacked with bundles of foreign-language channels. Those cost a few bucks extra each month, but if you live a multilingual household, there’s a decent chance of there being something here for you.

Sling has also undergone a big rebranding effort in recent months. Now, it advertises itself as providing “a la carte TV.” This is misleading: A true a la carte service lets you pick and choose which channels you want on an individual basis. Sling TV, like every other live-TV service in America, does not do that. It still saddles you with networks you may not want.

Still, Sling is at least getting at the big difference between it and its peers: flexibility. Yes, navigating the nitpicky differences between its bundles is a headache, but Sling TV is by far the most malleable when it comes to deciding what kind of bundles you want to include. It is by far the most affordable service as a result. According to reports, it's the most popular one as well.



PlayStation Vue

1. How much does it cost?

Vue's entry-level "Access" package costs $40 a month. Tiered packages with more channels then go for $45, $55, and $75 a month.

Beyond the base tiers, there is a handful of add-on channels and packages, which range from $2 to $15 a month.

Sony used to offer Vue for as low as $30 a month in all but a handful of major markets, mainly as a way of offsetting its lack of local network coverage in most areas. But the company recently raised the price to major-market levels across the board, even for those who were already subscribed to a lower-price plan.

Sony has steadily added more local networks in that time, but not everywhere, meaning some subscribers have had to deal with a straight price hike.

2. How many channels does it have?

Vue's entry-level Access tier has about 45 or so channels. The next tier, Core, has about 60 channels. Then there's an Elite tier with 90 channels. Finally, an Ultra tier takes the Elite package and adds HBO and Showtime.

3. Which major channels are not included?

Sony dropped its partnership with Viacom in November, which means Vue has no way to stream Comedy Central, MTV, Spike, Nickelodeon, or any other Viacom property. Those are the biggest outright absences.

As with Sling TV, Vue's relationship with the big four networks is complicated. In total, Vue delivers more local networks nationwide than any of its peers. This is at least part of why Sony bumped Vue's price nationwide; securing those deals isn't cheap.

However, only a handful of very large markets can watch CBS, ABC, Fox, and NBC live. Most others have to watch shows from at least some of the big four networks on-demand, a day after they air. You may get one live, you may get three. But you won't get all four. And in some markets, CBS isn't available altogether.

Just be sure to check where you stand first — or buy an antenna. This is another reminder that live-TV services aren't wresting power away from media and cable giants just yet.



PlayStation Vue (cont'd)

4. Does it include ESPN?

Yes. Even in its base Access tier, PlayStation Vue includes both ESPN and ESPN 2. Other ESPN channels are relegated to higher tiers and add-ons, though.

5. What about local sports and non-ESPN sports networks?

The entry-level Access tier also includes Fox Sports 1 and NBC Sports Network.

Going up a tier adds other national sports channels like the NFL Network and MLB Network, as well as regional sports networks from Fox, Comcast/NBC, and the like.

Sony recently introduced a separate $10 a month "Sports Pack," which includes NFL RedZone, some extra ESPN channels, and national feeds for various Comcast/NBC regional sports channels and NESN (a Boston-based regional sports channel). This is only available to non-Access subscribers, so adding it will bring your total cost to at least $55 a month.

Still, there's no guarantee Vue will have all regional sports networks in a given market, and exactly which games those networks are allowed to air can vary. Sony has been expanding its regional support over time, but not every gap is filled yet.

6. What about HBO?

HBO is available as an add-on to one of the core bundles. It costs $15 a month on its own, the same as HBO's standalone HBO Now streaming service.



PlayStation Vue (cont'd)

7. Which devices does it support?

While it has PlayStation in the name, Vue does work with boxes beyond Sony's PS4 and PS3. This is actually one of Vue's biggest strengths: Roku boxes, Apple TV (2015), Amazon Fire TV, iOS, Android, and Android TV are all supported. The only major absentee is Microsoft's Xbox One.

8. Does it have DVR so I can record shows I missed?

Yes. With few exceptions, you can record whatever show you want to the cloud. There's no limit on how many hours you can record, but you can only save each recording for up to 28 days after it airs.

Sony recently added the ability to watch things from your DVR outside of your home internet network, too, though that option isn't available for everything (namely CBS).

The company does note that it will "occassionally" replace your DVR recordings with the on-demand version of certain programs, though, particularly when "a specific episode hasn't recently aired" or when it doesn't have the DVR rights for that show. That means you may have to watch ads.

9. Can I pause and rewind live TV?

Yes. Generally speaking, Vue allows you to pause and rewind more channels than its peers.

Like every other live-TV service, though, it can't make every program of every show available to watch on-demand.

10. How many people can use it at once?

You can have up to five streams going at a time. That's more than any other service.

However, some channels still won't work outside of your home network. And things can vary depending on what devices you use: Sony says that only one PS4 console and one PS3 console can stream simultaneously on one network, and that only three separate streams can be done simultaneously on iOS, Android, and a web browser.

11. Any other extras I should know about?

In our testing, PlayStation Vue has had the fewest technical problems. You may be less lucky, but that, combined with the full-ish feature set and simple enough interface, makes Vue feel like the most polished service to date.

Along with DirecTV Now, Vue also works with more TV Everywhere apps than its peers. That means you can use your Vue login to watch various network streaming apps that normally require a cable account.



DirecTV Now

1. How much does it cost?

DirecTV Now's entry-level package, called Live a Little, costs $35 a month. A larger Just Right tier then costs $50 a month. Next, a Go Big tier costs $60 a month. Finally, a Gotta Have It tier costs $70 a month.

2. How many channels does it have?

The base tier includes a little more than 60 channels. The Just Right tier raises that to about 80 channels. The Go Big tier brings it to about 100 channels. Then the final tier includes about 120 channels.

You can also add HBO, Cinemax, and Starz for separate monthly fees. A Showtime add-on will be available in the near future, too.

Purely on a cost-per-channel basis, this makes DirecTV Now the densest service of the bunch. Seen another way, it's also the most cable-like streaming service.

3. Which major channels are not included?

CBS was the big absentee, but AT&T has since patched that hole and now says it will add CBS and The CW to all of its packages. Showtime will be available as an $8 montly add-on, while others like CBS Sports Network will be available in higher tiers.

Still, AT&T is playing catch-up: Only a select number of major markets will get CBS and The CW to start, and on-demand support for those networks won't be available right away.

Getting the other three major networks once again depends on where you live. A small selection of major markets broadcast NBC, ABC, and Fox live — some carry two, others get only one. In some cases, one of these channels might not be available live; DirecTV Now will then make its content available on-demand after a 24-hour delay.

It's worth using AT&T's channel lookup tool to see if you need an antenna. Vue's local networks generally cover more people for, but AT&T is steadily getting closer.



DirecTV Now (cont'd)

4. Does it include ESPN?

Yes. Even in the base tier, you get ESPN and ESPN 2 by default. Other ESPN channels are relegated to the next-highest tier, though.

5. What about local sports and non-ESPN sports networks?

The entry-level tier includes Fox Sports 1 and NBC Sports Network.

As with Vue, you need to step up a tier to get regional sports channels from Fox and Comcast/NBC. AT&T covers a good chunk of those, but definitely not all, so use the lookup tool to see where you stand. Even then, it's hard to talk in absolutes when it comes to licensing agreements for each market.

Various other sports networks are included in the higher tiers, but there's no NFL Network or RedZone. There's also no NFL Sunday Ticket, even though DirecTV sells that as part of its standard satellite-TV service.

6. What about HBO?

HBO is available as an add-on to one of the main tiers. However, it costs just $5 a month. That's $10 less than it is with Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, or Hulu.



DirecTV Now (cont'd)

7. Which devices does it support?

Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android, iOS, Chromecast (but only for Android phones), and newer Roku devices. It's available through the web, too, but only via Google Chrome or Apple's Safari browser.

AT&T says support for Xbox One and Chromecast on iOS is coming, but those aren't live yet. There's also nothing for PlayStation 4 and most Android TVs.

8. Does it have DVR so I can record shows I missed?

No. This is the biggest knock against DirecTV Now for the time being. AT&T recently started to roll out invites to a beta version of its DVR feature, however, and says a finished version will be available to everyone this fall. It's unclear what limits that DVR may have.

Right now, there are on-demand recordings for a select number of shows, as well as a "72 Hour Rewind" rewind feature that lets you go back and watch programs aired within the last three days on certain networks. AT&T has worked to expand support for the latter, though it still doesn't include any of the four major networks, nor regional sports channels.

9. Can I pause and rewind live TV?

You can pause, but not rewind or fast-forward. And you can only pause for a few seconds at a time. This is another major shortcoming.

AT&T does have a "Restart" feature that lets you go back to the beginning of a program if you tune in late, but again, only select networks are supported.

10. How many people can use it at once?

DirecTV Now supports two concurrent streams on an account. That's relatively low. Like Vue, it can also keep you from streaming some local channels when you're out of town.



DirecTV Now (cont'd)

11. Any other extras I should know about?

If you subscribe to AT&T's mobile service, you can stream DirecTV Now over a mobile connection at no cost to your data cap. This is a practice called zero-rating, and the way AT&T does it may or may not be killing the open internet. But it's a nifty perk.

Beyond that, if you pay $90 a month for AT&T's "unlimited" data plan, you can shave $25 off the service each month (through monthly credits). That is a very good deal if you're already okay with AT&T's mobile service, and effectively makes DirecTV Now as low as $10 a month. That plan also comes with a free HBO subscription, potentially bypassing DirecTV Now's $5 monthly fee.

All that said, DirecTV Now has faced the most technical issues in our testing. Things have calmed down a bit since launch, but don't be surprised if you come across a crash or two.

Similar to PlayStation Vue, your DirecTV Now login can also be used to work with a good chunk of network-specific streaming apps.

It's also worth noting that AT&T is promising some appealing features for DirecTV Now in the future, including an overhauled interface, 4K HDR streaming support, and the ability to download shows for offline viewing. We'll be sure to keep an eye out.



YouTube TV

1. How much does it cost?

$35 a month. You can add Showtime for another $11 a month, or Fox Soccer Plus for another $15 a month.

2. How many channels does it have?

A little less than 50, plus the original (and youth-focused) shows that come with a YouTube Red subscription.

3. Which major channels are not included?

YouTube pitches its service as a more curated selection of channels. Right now, that means there are no Viacom channels (Comedy Central, MTV, Spike, Nickelodeon), no Turner channels (TNT, TBS, CNN), no Discovery channels, and no A&E.

YouTube did recently fill in a few gaps, though, adding AMC (and thus "The Walking Dead"), along with BBC America, IFC, and other smaller channels.

One notable selling point: Besides ABC in the Dallas area, YouTube offers all of the major broadcast networks in every market it's available. The big four are all available to watch live, too; Youtube says only The CW content is limited to on-demand in certain areas.



YouTube TV (cont'd)

4. Does it include ESPN?

Yes. ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPNEWS, and ESPN U channels are included. YouTube has said it plans to add ESPN 3 at some point in the future.

5. What about local sports and non-ESPN sports networks?

You get Fox Sports 1, NBC Sports Network, Big Ten Network, and CBS Sports Network by default. But again, the lack of Turner channels means you'll miss NBA games on TNT and playoff baseball on TBS.

There are regional sports stations from Fox and Comcast/NBC, too, but per usual those aren't fully covered everywhere. You can use YouTube TV’s sign-up page to see what's available before you buy.

6. What about HBO?

Nope. YouTube does not have deals in place with Time Warner, HBO’s owner. This also explains the lack of Turner channels. You'll have to use HBO Now separately.



YouTube TV (cont'd)

7. Which devices does it support?

YouTube TV works with Android, iOS, Apple AirPlay, Chromecast, the web, Android TV, and any other smart TVs with Google Cast built in.

YouTube has said support for more devices will come later in the year, but right now, those with an Apple TV, Fire TV, Roku, PlayStation 4, or Xbox One have to go mobile.

The one saving grace is that YouTube is temporarily giving a free Chromecast to first-time subscribers. (You have to make a month's payment first.) Still, this may be YouTube TV's biggest flaw at the moment.

8. Does it have DVR so I can record shows I missed?

Yes. Not only that, there’s no cap on the number of hours you can record. YouTube saves your recordings for up to nine months.

That’s great, but, annoyingly, you can’t skip ads with some recordings. This is because YouTube often replaces DVR recordings with the on-demand copies you’d normally see through a cable subscription.

9. Can I pause and rewind live TV?

Yes. And like every other service, YouTube TV makes a select number of shows available on-demand and through "replay" recordings.

10. How many people can use it at once?

You can have three streams simultaneously.

Beyond that, you can tie up to six separate accounts to one subscription. Each of those gets its own DVR and content suggestions. PlayStation Vue allows for separate user profiles, too, but it makes you share one username and password. So this is a good one for families.



YouTube TV (cont'd)

11. Any other extras I should know about?

The big thing to know is that YouTube TV is not yet available nationwide. The service launched earlier this year in five markets — Chicago, Los Angeles, the Bay Area, Philadelphia, and New York City — and recently expanded to 10 more— Houston, Dallas, Phoenix, Detroit, Miami, Orlando, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Charlotte, and Washington, DC. Everyone else is on the waiting list for now.

In our testing, YouTube TV has been the most consistent service when it comes to actual streaming quality. The interface can chug along at points, but hiccups and outright crashes have been rare.

One thing YouTube doesn’t do all that well, however, is work in videos from YouTube proper. The notion of going from vlogs to live sporting events to fail videos, all within one smooth app, is still a fantasy.



Hulu with Live TV (beta)

1. How much does it cost?

$40 a month. Like YouTube TV, Hulu is looking to keep it simple and not split things up across several tiers of service. This is good and bad: It has one of the most expensive starting prices of the bunch, but arguably the most comprehensive channel package for an entry-level tier.

There are three add-on channels on top of the core package: HBO for $15 a month, Cinemax for $10 a month, or Showtime for $9 a month.

2. How many channels does it have?

More than 50, though the specific amount varies by region.

Hulu’s trump card is that the Live TV package also includes the company’s core on-demand service, which normally goes for $8 a month.

Either way, this means you have access to the all the on-demand content that comes with a Hulu subscription, plus all the original shows that Hulu produces.

Hulu is the youngest live-TV service here, but only PlayStation Vue has wider national support for local channels as of this writing. It's still a ways off from Vue, but you have a better chance of getting live local channels here than with Sling or YouTube.



Hulu with Live TV (cont'd)

3. Which major channels are not included?

AMC is the biggest one. That means no "The Walking Dead." There’s also no Viacom, again, so you can’t watch Comedy Central, MTV, Spike, Nickelodeon, and so on. Starz and Discovery channels are absent as well.

The fact that Hulu bakes its standard service into the Live TV package gives it a little bit of cover, though. You can still watch AMC shows that are available as on-demand recordings on Hulu anyway, for example, but you can’t watch the channel live.

And, if it wasn’t obvious by now, only some people will be able to watch local affiliates of the four major networks live as they air. If you’re in New York, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Chicago, you’re good. Everywhere else, you'll lose at least one live local feed.

In Detroit, for instance, you can watch the local CBS and Fox stations live, but you can only watch ABC and NBC shows on-demand, after they air. Hulu puts a useful channel-checking tool on its homepage, so be sure to use that.

4. Does it include ESPN?

Yes. ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPNEWS, and ESPN U are all included.

5. What about local sports and non-ESPN sports networks?

Fox Sports 1 and 2, NBC Sports Network, and CBS Sports Network are there. There are no NFL- or MLB-specific channels, though.

Regional sports stations, per usual, are dependent on where you live. Hulu has signed deals with Comcast/NBC and Fox for several markets, but things can still be spotty.

6. What about HBO?

HBO is available as an add-on to one of the core bundles. It costs $15 a month on its own, the same as HBO's standalone HBO Now streaming service.



Hulu with Live TV (cont'd)

7. Which devices does it support?

Right now, Hulu with Live TV works on iOS, Android, Apple TV (4th-gen), Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, and Xbox One.

Hulu recently started beta testing its Live TV app on Roku, the big absentee above, so it shouldn't be much longer until that's cleared up. The company says it plans to make the service available through the web and Samsung's smart TVs in the near future, too.

8. Does it have DVR so I can record shows I missed?

Yes. You get 50 hours of recording time. Your recordings won’t be deleted after a set period of time, either.

If you need more storage space, there’s a “Enhanced Cloud DVR” add-on that raises your limit to 200 hours of storage time. That costs an extra $15 a month.

Like YouTube TV, Hulu doesn't let you can’t fast-forward through commercials when you watch recordings with the base live TV service. Here, though, that goes for both your DVR recordings and Hulu's on-demand recordings. This is pretty annoying!

To explain: Hulu with Live TV’s DVR doesn’t always act like a “DVR.” When it can, Hulu tries to replace shows you save with recordings that already exist in Hulu proper. Since Hulu proper’s base tier still shows ads in those recordings, that’s what you see here.

If you pay another $4 a month, however, you won’t see ads in the on-demand recordings Hulu tries to steer you toward. This is the case with Hulu's regular streaming service, too.

To skip commercials in shows that are actually recorded by the DVR, you have to pay for the “Enhanced Cloud DVR” option above.



Hulu with Live TV (cont'd)

9. Can I pause and rewind live TV?

Yes. But the extent of the rewinding is dependent on what channel and program you’re watching, and, again, whether you’re in a commercial.

In some cases, you can scroll back to the beginning of a show even if you joined it midway through. With others, you can only skip back to the point where you first started watching.

10. How many people can use it at once?

The base subscription lets you watch the service on two screens simultaneously.

Hulu sells an “Unlimited Screens” add-on that lets you stream on as many devices as you want over a home internet connection, or up to three devices at once over a mobile connection. That also costs an extra $15 a month.



Hulu with Live TV (cont'd)

11. Any other extras I should know about?

You can combine the “Enhanced Cloud DVR” and “Unlimited Screens” add-ons together for $20 a month. That saves $10, but it still raises the monthly cost up a good amount.

On a higher level, Hulu with Live TV is the most ambitious of the current live-TV services, in both scope and design. Its interface is a radical departure from Hulu proper, so it may take some time to get used to. It is entirely focused on shows — there’s not a channel grid in sight — and it relies heavily on algorithmically knowing which shows you’re more likely to watch.

In my time with it, that’s worked fine. Hulu puts you through a whole onboarding procedure to get a feel for your interests, and the service has since pointed me toward the kind of sports- and comedy-related programming I tend to like.

If you use Hulu proper, it also does well to blend the shows I've been watching into those recommendations. It nicely calls up episode you've started but not finished, too. And the dedicated "My Channels" tab, which cuts out every network you don't care about, is great.

If you want to just browse around, though, be prepared to do some swiping. The whole UI is gorgeous, with big graphics and clean text everywhere, but it splits everything up into many, many cards and tabs. Simply getting to your DVR takes too long.

The search function could also use some fine-tuning. I had moments where searching for a particular show didn't bring up an episode that was airing live at that time, for instance.

Still, this is really the only service that successfully blends live TV with on-demand content. You can swipe to live shows specifically if you’d like, but by default your “lineup” (the main menu) swirls on-demand, live shows, and DVR recordings together, centering them on what kind of thing you want to watch, rather than where they originate. That’s significant, and it makes you less beholden to time than you are anywhere else.

Hulu is generally steady in terms of technical streaming quality, too, but it's not immune to the occasional stutter.



Fubo TV

1. How much does it cost?

Right now, $35 a month. This is a promotional price, though: Fubo says the service normally costs $50 a month. Then there are a handful of niche channel add-ons that range from $3 a month to $15 a month.

Alternatively, you can start with a "Latino" package with Spanish-language channels for $15 a month or a "Portuguese" package with Portuguese-language channels for $20 a month.

2. How many channels does it have?

The main "Fubo Premier" service includes a little under 70 channels, but a high percentage of those are very niche. We’ll get into the reasons why below.

3. Which major channels are not included?

Fubo started out as a sort of streaming haven for soccer fans. It’s raised millions to expand its horizons, but at its core, live sports of all kinds are still its bread and butter. Its current channel lineup reflects that.

Familiar names like NBC, Fox, FX, USA, and A&E are there, but there are no CBS channels, no ABC/Disney channels, no Turner channels, no Viacom channels, and no AMC, among others, as of this writing. CBS-owned stations are coming to some markets in the near future, but this is easily the weakest channel lineup for a general purpose audience.

Fubo’s local network coverage isn’t terrible for what it is, but they’re generally only available live in major markets. Check the company’s local network support list before you subscribe. Fubo says markets without live local broadcasts will get on-demand versions of shows from those networks after they air.



Fubo TV (cont'd)

4. Does it include ESPN?

Nope. This is what will kill Fubo TV dead for most people — it’s a sports-focused streaming service without access to the country’s biggest sports channel.

5. What about local sports and non-ESPN sports networks?

This is Fubo’s whole value proposition at the moment. Fubo TV comes with a few niche sports channels that are typically unavailable or reserved for pricier tiers with rival services. Those include several BeIn Sports channels, NBA TV, Fox Soccer Plus, Fox Deportes, the Big Ten Network, and Eleven Sports. That’s on top of NBC Sports Network, Fox Sports 1, and others like the Golf Channel.

Does everyone need those? Nope. But Fubo is going for that niche that wants to watch any and every sporting event on TV (particularly world soccer matches). The first thing you see when you open the app is a list of live and upcoming sporting events, with everything from baseball to darts to Australian rules football highlighted. And its channel guide lists every sports channel above more traditional stations.

Fubo also covers a decent amount of regional sports networks from Fox and Comcast/NBC, though per usual it doesn’t have everything everywhere. Those absences, plus its lack of ESPN, means it can’t guarantee you’ll be able to see all of your team’s games in a given season. But it does let you watch the regional sports networks you do get outside of your home network.

6. What about HBO?

No. You’ll have to purchase HBO Now separately.



Fubo TV (cont'd)

7. What devices does it support?

Fubo says it supports Android, iOS, the web, Apple TV (4th-gen), Amazon Fire TV, Roku, and Chromecast. That leaves game consoles like the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One as the biggest absences.

This doesn’t tell the whole story, though, as Fubo’s service is limited on some platforms more than others. The Android tablet app, for instance, only supports vertical display mode. The Roku and Apple TV apps only support live-TV viewing, while the Fire TV and Android TV apps do not have on-demand shows. That leaves the web, Chromecast, and Fubo’s smartphone app as the only fully functional platforms.

8. Does it have DVR so I can record shows I missed?

Yes, but it’s limited. Fubo sets it up so you can only record 10 individual programs at any given time. Those individual programs are then only available for 10 days at a time.

This might be enough if you plan on just recording a missed game or two, but there’s no getting around the fact that this is anemic compared to the DVRs on every other live-TV service. Fubo says it’s trying to make more space available in the future, at least.

Beyond this, Fubo has a "lookback" feature that lets you watch select sports matches for up to three days after they air. The latter applies only to sporting events, though; a show from Bravo or A&E isn’t included. And again, it’s available only on select platforms.



Fubo TV (cont'd)

9. Can I pause and rewind live TV?

With live TV, you can only pause. With on-demand shows, you can rewind and fast-forward.

10. How many people can use it at once?

Fubo says you can stream from two devices simultaneously.

11. Any other extras I should know about?

Fubo’s lacking channel support makes it a tough sell for anyone who doesn’t care about watching every soccer match imaginable. The four major sports leagues still air on larger channels that are either not here or available on other live TV services. The same goes for MLS and the Premier League, the most popular soccer leagues among Americans.

Fubo’s other problem is its interface. It looks plain, for one, but getting from the channel guide — the only way to see what’s actually on — to whatever you’re watching feels stiff. Once you start watching a show, you have to back out of it completely just to change channels. There’s little in the way of personalized recommendations, and no way to highlight favorite channels. Its streaming quality isn’t flawless, either.

On the plus side, you can use a Fubo login to authenticate a few dozen separate streaming apps.



So which one should I get?

With Sony hiking the price of PlayStation Vue in most markets, YouTube TV expanding to more markets, and the continued improvements to Hulu and DirecTV Now, saying which live-TV service is "best" has become a bit more complicated.

The truth is there's no obvious winner; you have to assess the info, use those free trials, and see which one best fits your needs and price range.

• Still, in a vacuum, we think PlayStation Vue remains the most fully-formed cable replacement. It's streamed smoothly in our testing. It's simple enough to navigate. It has no issues with device support. It lets you stream to the most devices at once — making it good for families — and you can use its login to sign into several outside streaming apps. Its channel lineup, while not flawless, compares favorably to its peers, and it supports the most local networks overall. Its DVR is relatively generous, too, and it's not terribly restrictive about letting you pause and rewind live TV.

But there's no denying that $40 a month isn't super cheap. The limitations Vue still puts on some networks when you're on the go are a pain, too.

• If you're in one of the 15 markets where YouTube TV is available, though, it might be your best bet. Its 9-month DVR is the most spacious you can buy; it has the big four networks in all but one market; and it streams nice and smoothly. If it could integrate with YouTube proper in any meaningful way, it could be something special.

Its ad-skipping annoyances are nearly as frustrating as Hulu's, though, and it still omits channels that some people may need. Worse, it makes you use a Chromecast or AirPlay to watch things on the TV. But if YouTube can expand its device support and make its way to more markets, it has a shot of cutting out any advantage Vue has.



• Conceptually, Hulu has the most compelling offering. The way it blends live and on-demand shows into one feels like the first step in where these services should go. It's also pleasant to look at. And if you're already a heavy Hulu user, it makes the most sense.

But the inability to skip commercials anywhere without paying extra is rough, and its interface, while attractive, can get clunky. It also charges too much for the kind of DVR space that comes standard with Vue and YouTube. It also doesn't work on a web browser.

• If you just want the cheapest package possible, Sling TV's Blue service is competitively priced for a bundle with regional sports. Its recently-revamped interface is much easier to get around, too. But its local channel support is still lacking, it sacrifices ESPN, and its DVR is lacking. Still, it's getting at a good idea by curating tightly and lowering costs.

• It's harder to recommend DirecTV Now right now given its lack of DVR and history of technical hiccups. But if you use AT&T, being able to stream it on mobile at no cost to your data cap is an advantage — as troubling as it may be. It's a no-brainer if you plan to subscribe to AT&T's unlimited data plan. AT&T is beefing up its local channel support and promising useful updates for the future, too, so it's definitely on the up.

Fubo TV is a non-starter unless you're really into world soccer and niche sporting events.



Finally, a quick note on what these services are not.

As we've noted before, none of the above live-TV services are solving the cord-cutter's conundrum: getting the shows you want, on time, whenever and wherever you want, without paying more than you have to for channels you'll never watch.

In other words, all of these services still look a lot like cable packages; they're just smaller cable packages, delivered over the internet, with slightly lower starting prices. The major networks are still in the driver's seat.

There are other issues:

The on-demand selection is similar in every service, and almost exactly like what you'd get with a cable subscription.

In most cases, on-demand and live content still feel stuck in separate silos.

They all have gaps in channel selection. (This excellent CNET list has a full breakdown.)

They usually won't let you fast-forward through every show.

You'll still face blackouts with some sporting events.

And most significantly, they've all had bugs and technical issues.

Today, if you're looking for cable, you should just buy cable. It's reliable.



That said, here's what you do get from these services.

Though all of these services can have their technical hiccups, they're not unusable. All of their interfaces are clean and easy enough to navigate.

And when they work, they have value for those who can't quit the cord. They cover gaps that a hodgepodge of Netflix, Hulu, and insular streaming services can't — most notably with sports, and, well, watching popular shows as they air. Plus, they are more affordable than cable.

As more cords are cut, they should make more sense. And even if they don't take a wrecking ball to the TV industry's current power structure, they should improve.



Nobody has cracked the code just yet.

But again, nothing here is truly groundbreaking. The way the cable and TV industries are set up in America makes it so adding one of these services to your internet bill may not save much money in the first place. And cable is arguably a more complete product overall.

If you aren't beholden to the "cable lite" idea most of these services are selling, you may be better off saving your cash and mixing Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Now, and the like.

For now, growing pains remain throughout. That's unlikely to change until structures that hold the TV industry in place crumble completely. But it may not be long until that day comes.





from pulse.ng - Nigeria's entertainment & lifestyle platform online

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