Streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime allow consumers to stream their favorite movies, TV series and original content on-demand. When streaming services were originally available, subscribers didn’t have a way to watch live cable channels like MSNBC and TBS online. But as streaming platforms evolve, that’s changing.
Now, you can do more than watch TV shows like The Handmaid’s Tale on streaming platforms. Live TV streaming is becoming more widely available, and an increasing number of companies are offering it. It comes across as a new and attractive choice for cord cutters looking for an alternative to cable or satellite TV.
So, how do live streaming services stack up against services like satellite TV and traditional cable, and how do you know which one to choose?
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Live TV streaming services work similarly to cable in that they let you watch live TV channels, like AMC, CNN and Discovery, in real time. However, live TV streaming is offered over the internet, and many live streaming services also include a digital video recorder and let you watch TV on multiple screens or mobile devices.
Some of the best live TV streaming services even offer their own channel lineups, and some offer cloud DVR storage, simultaneous streams or upgrades to specialty TV channels like STARZ or NFL RedZone.
Live TV streaming services can vary greatly in their pricing models, functions and the channels they offer, so you should be aware of a variety of things before you make your pick. Some services even require special equipment to use. In the next few sections, we’ll explore several things you should consider before you cut the cable and switch to live TV streaming.
For instance, sports fans will likely want a service that includes channels like the MLB Network, NFL Network, Fox Sports and regional sports networks. You may even have other interests that might demand content on channels like BET, TNT, the BBC or Turner Classic Movies.
Live streaming TV and using a cloud DVR can use a lot of data. If your internet plan has a data cap, live streaming can be risky. Some internet service providers may slow down your internet service as you close in on your data cap, but other ISPs might charge you overages or shut off your internet altogether.
Most live TV streaming providers let you choose the resolution in which you’d like to stream. However, just one hour of streaming TV in high definition can use over 2 GB of data. Just imagine if four people in your household were streaming TV on different streaming devices at the same time. You’d potentially use over 8 GB of data every hour.
Before deciding on a live TV streaming service, it’s good to first estimate how much television your household watches, and then make sure you’ll stay under your internet data cap. And make sure to consider other online activities like gaming and downloading music.
When it comes to streaming live TV, you’ll need your own equipment, like a smart TV, Roku, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV Stick or Apple TV, which has a variety of streaming apps. Then, it’s up to you to make sure your device will work with your streaming option. Understanding which devices will work with which services can get really confusing. (More on How to choose the right streaming device?)
For example, Philo won’t work with smart TVs made by LG, and unless you have Hulu + Live TV or YouTube TV, you won’t be able to stream live TV on a smart Vizio without casting it from another device like a smartphone. Similarly, Sling won’t work on any PlayStation consoles, but it works on an Xbox One.
Even if your device is the right brand, you’ll have to be sure it’s current enough to work with your streaming platform. For example, most TV streaming services only work on Samsung smart TVs made in the year 2016 or later.
Each live TV streaming service offers its own selection of live channels. Depending on what package you get, you might not be able to get some of your favorite movies, television or sports channels. Some services let you buy upgrades to get additional channels, but some channels might be absent altogether.
For example, fuboTV and Philo are some of the only services that offer channels like MTV and Comedy Central. However, YouTube TV is the only streaming service that lets you watch PBS.
Depending on what live TV streaming service you go with, you might not be able to get all your favorite news and local channels. Some streaming services may even charge you extra for access to them, while others might not have them at all.
For example, Sling TV doesn’t even give you access to ABC or CBS. Instead, it has two different streaming packages. Sling Blue lets some areas watch local Fox and NBC channels, but you’ll need Sling Orange if you want to watch Disney and ESPN.
You can always purchase an antenna for your TV to get local channels, but every time you want to watch them, you’ll have to change the input on your TV, which is much more complicated than using cable.
If you’re looking for great TV now, and you demand service that’s reliable, see the great TV services offered by Frontier. Frontier has different TV plans that will give you access to your favorite live sports, news and entertainment channels.
You can also get add-ons if you want premium channels, like HBO Max, SHOWTIME or CINEMAX. And our service has cool features that let you do things like watch TV on the go using your smartphone or tablet.
Channel availability on streaming services may have changed and is subject to change. Streaming services may require a subscription fee. Streaming service channel add-ons and channel packages may require an additional fee.