Top Channels Roundup: YouTube TV vs. Hulu Live vs. DirecTV Stream and More
A helpful reference for the most popular channels on each live TV streaming platform.
Kourtnee covers TV streaming services and home entertainment news and reviews at CNET. She previously worked as an entertainment reporter at Showbiz Cheat Sheet where she wrote about film, television, music, celebrities, and streaming platforms.
ExpertiseKourtnee is a longtime cord-cutter who's subscribed to streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus, HBO Max, Crunchyroll, Sling, Spotify and more. As a real-life user of these services, she tracks the latest developments in streaming, the newest reCredentials
Though Kourtnee hasn't won any journalism awards yet, she's been a Netflix streaming subscriber since 2012 and knows the magic of its hidden codes.
David KatzmaierEditorial Director -- Personal Tech
David reviews TVs and leads the Personal Tech team at CNET, covering mobile, software, computing, streaming and home entertainment. We provide helpful, expert reviews, advice and videos on what gadget or service to buy and how to get the most out of it.
ExpertiseA 20-year CNET veteran, David has been reviewing TVs since the days of CRT, rear-projection and plasma. Prior to CNET he worked at Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com. He is known to two people on Twitter as the Cormac McCarthy of consumer electronics.Credentials
Although still awaiting his Oscar for Best Picture Reviewer, David does hold certifications from the Imaging Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology on display calibration and evaluation.
Pricing and channel lineups for live TV streaming services are changing, seemingly closing the gap in what you'd pay for a cable package. But all is not lost for cord-cutters who prefer contract-free live streaming apps. These platforms have a wider range of channels than antennas, but also make it easy to watch on desktops and mobile devices.
Six major streaming services are in the rotation: YouTube TV, Hulu Plus Live TV, Sling TV, DirecTV Stream, Fubo and Philo. Our comprehensive live-TV streaming guide provides details about prices and features, but the channels they offer is what it's all about. That's why we've sifted through these services to compile a list of which ones offer the top lineups.
As of Sept. 17, Nexstar has temporarily restored access to roughly 200 local TV stations for DirecTV customers. Channels such as NBC, ABC and Fox are available again. Viewers may still prefer to seek alternatives like Peacock, Paramount Plus or an antenna to access sports and other local programming.
The Big Chart: Top 100 channels compared, updated October 2023
The main difference between the services is their channel selection. All of them offer different lineups of channels for various prices.
Below you'll find a chart that shows the top 100 channels across all six services, but note that not each service has a worthy 100. There are actually seven listed because Sling TV has two different "base" tiers, Orange and Blue. And if you're wondering, I chose which "top" channels made the cut. Sorry, AXS TV, Discovery Life, GSN and Universal HD.
Plenty of live TV streaming choices are available to anyone who wants to cut the cable cord. Sling TV's basic packages are $40 in most cities. But costs have increased everywhere. YouTube TV is now $73 per month. Fubo's base bundle is $75, and DirecTV Stream increased its plan subscriptions as well. Those changes are reflected in the chart below where applicable. Hulu's live tv service now costs $77 a month with ads and $90 without ads, making it the most expensive option for a basic plan.
Some more stuff to know about the chart:
Yes = The channel is available on the cheapest pricing tier. That price is listed next to the service's name.
No = The channel isn't available at all on that service.
$ = The channel is available for an extra fee, either a la carte or as part of a more expensive package or add-on.
Regional sports networks -- local channels devoted to showing regular-season games of particular pro baseball, basketball and hockey teams -- are not listed. DirecTV Stream's $100 tier has the most RSNs by far, but a few are available on other services. See our NBA and NHL streaming guides for details.
Local ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, MyNetworkTV and The CW networks are not available in every city. Since availability of these channels varies, you'll want to check the service's website to verify carries your local network.
Local PBS stations are only currently available on YouTube TV and DirecTV Stream, but will roll out on Hulu with Live TV in the coming months. Again, you'll want to check local availability.
Sling Blue subscribers in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia and San Francisco must now pay $45 per month, but have access to local ABC, Fox and NBC channels. Customers in Fresno, Houston and Raleigh now have both ABC and Fox on their Blue or Orange-and-Blue subscriptions at no extra charge. This is not reflected in the chart. Check Sling's site to see which local channels are available in your area.
Fubo subscribers may find that the ACC Network and SEC Network are included with their package at no extra cost. Check availability for your state.
The chart columns are arranged in order of price, so if you can't see everything you want, try scrolling right.
A series of price hikes has brought a number of additional channels to Hulu, including PBS and access to Disney Plus and ESPN Plus, at a $77 price tag. Its channel selection isn't as robust as YouTube TV and Fubo, yet it's Hulu's significant catalog of on-demand content which sets it apart. Exclusive titles such as The Handmaid's Tale, The Orville and Only Murders in the Building give it a content advantage no other service can match.
Live TV subscribers also receive unlimited DVR that includes fast-forwarding and on-demand playback -- at no additional cost. It's a move that has aligned Hulu with its competitors in terms of features, but the channel lineup may still be a deciding factor. For example, the platform recently lost Sinclair-owned ABC affiliate channels. It's $4 more than YouTube TV which has more channels, but the access to Disney Plus and ESPN Plus may make it a more appealing choice for you. Read our Hulu Plus Live TV review.
With an excellent channel selection, easy-to-use interface and best-in-class cloud DVR, the $73 per month YouTube TV is one of the best cable TV replacements. It offers a $20 4K upgrade, but the downside is there isn't much to watch at present unless you watch select channels. If you don't mind paying a bit more than the Sling TVs of the world, or want to watch live NBA games, YouTube TV offers a high standard of live TV streaming. Read our YouTube TV review.
If you want to save a little money, and don't mind missing out on local channels, Sling TV is the best of the budget services. Its Orange and Blue packages go for $40 per month, and you can combine them for a monthly rate of $55. The Orange option nets you one stream, while Blue gives you three. It's not as comprehensive or as easy to navigate as YouTube but with a bit of work, including adding an antenna or an AirTV 2 DVR, it's an unbeatable value. Read our Sling TV review.
DirecTV Stream is no longer the most expensive, but its stiffest competition is still Hulu Plus Live TV and YouTube TV. The service does have its pluses, though -- for example, it includes the flipper-friendly ability to swipe left and right to change channels. Additionally, it includes some channels the other services can't, including nearly 250 PBS stations nationwide. The $75 Entertainment package may suit your needs with its 75-plus channels. But for cord-cutters who want to follow their local NBA or MLB team, DirecTV Stream's $100 Choice package is our live TV streaming pick because it has access to more regional sports networks than the competition. Nonetheless, you'll want to make sure your channel is included here, and not available on one of our preferred picks, before you pony up. Read our DirecTV Stream review.
There's a lot to like about Fubo -- it offers a wide selection of channels and its sports focus makes it especially attractive to soccer fans or NBA, NHL and MLB fans who live in an area served by one of Fubo's RSNs. It's also a great choice for NFL fans since it's one of three services, alongside YouTube TV and Hulu, with NFL Network and optional RedZone. In 2023, Fubo will offer 19 Bally Sports RSNs with a new package that includes the lineup. The biggest hole in Fubo's lineup is the lack of Turner networks, including CNN, TNT and TBS -- especially since the latter two carry a lot of sports content, in particular NBA, NHL and MLB. Those missing channels, and the same $75 price tag, makes it less attractive than YouTube TV for most viewers. Read our Fubo review.
At $25 Philo is still a cheap live TV streaming service with a variety of channels, but it lacks sports channels, local stations and big-name news networks -- although Cheddar and BBC news are available. Philo offers bread-and-butter cable staples like AMC, Comedy Channel, Nickelodeon and Magnolia Network, and specializes in lifestyle and reality programming. It's also one of the cheapest live services that streams Paramount, home of Yellowstone, and it includes a cloud DVR and optional add-ons from Epix and Starz. We think most people are better off paying another $15 for Sling TV's superior service, but if Philo has every channel you want, it's a decent deal. Read our Philo review.