Top Channels Roundup: YouTube TV vs. Hulu Live vs. DirecTV Stream and More
A handy guide to which live streaming service has the most popular channels.
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.
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David KatzmaierEditorial Director -- Personal Tech
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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.
We should mention that DirecTV is in the midst of a carriage dispute with Nexstar, which has resulted in roughly 200 local TV stations going dark on DirecTV Stream and other platforms. As of Sept. 1, access to the CW has been restored in some markets, but NBC, CBS, Fox and ABC are still unavailable. Viewers should seek alternatives like Peacock, Paramount Plus or an antenna to access sports and other local programming.
The Big Chart: Top 100 channels compared, updated September 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. But prepare for Hulu with Live TV to raise its rates in October, to $77 a month with ads and $90 without ads.
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 $70 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. But, Hulu Live TV is a better value as it's $3 less than YouTube TV and is our top choice for live TV streaming. 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. Rather than run a free trial, Sling offers a 50% discount for your first month. 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 tied for the most expensive at $75, beating 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.