Best Livestreaming TV Providers in Customer Satisfaction 2020
Learn how cord-cutters across the US rate their favorite (and least favorite) livestreaming TV services.
Even though a livestreaming service differs from traditional TV services, viewers still have the same concerns: Does it get all the channels and shows I want? Can I record those shows? How does the picture look? Am I getting my money’s worth?
Directly below are the results for who were chosen as the best overall providers but you can also jump to each of the nine categories we asked about specifically for more details.
Best overall livestreaming TV providers
Best livestreaming TV providers by category
Best overall customer satisfaction
We’ll bottom-line it for you right now: Hulu + Live TV once again took the top spot in our survey. Congrats on two years in a row—go green!
- Good live channel selection
- Great on-demand content
- Good original content
Hulu + Live TV is the only livestreaming TV service that also has a fully loaded library of original and on-demand content, giving it a distinct advantage over the competition. It doesn’t skimp on the “live” side, either, making for a best-of-both-worlds streaming package.
It also doesn’t hurt that Hulu + Live TV is available on every streaming device out there, even recently appearing on the longtime holdout PlayStation (probably not coincidental to the shutdown of Vue).
As we mentioned earlier, this was a tight numbers race—but we’re still more than a little surprised to see YouTube TV at the bottom. In our reviews and personal experience, YouTube TV is a fantastic service that competes easily with Hulu + Live TV, at least in livestreaming.
YouTube TV still doesn’t have much to offer in the original content category, however, and we don’t see that changing. We think the recent addition of several Viacom channels to its lineup (including Comedy Central, Paramount Network, MTV, Nickelodeon, and 10 others) will bump YouTube TV up in our 2021 survey.
Best channel offering
Hulu + Live TV, depending on the area, carries as many as 70 live channels—not bad for $54.99 a month. But YouTube TV gives you over 85 channels for $64.99 a month, so we don’t really get its last-place finish here.
Sling TV offers a lot of popular cable channels at a low price point but skimps on local channels (more on this below). Add-on packages are where it’s at with Sling—it’s super customizable, but those extra costs stack up quick.
Speaking of costs: AT&T TV NOW offers seven livestreaming TV packages, with emphasis on its PLUS (45+ channels at $55 a month) and MAX (60+ channels at $80 a month) plans. The ULTIMATE plan (125+ channels at $135 a month) is NOW’s fattest lineup. None of these are what we’d call a “budget” plan.
Best for local channels
AT&T TV NOW has impressive channel counts and local station inclusivity, but the plans are on the expensive side—almost what you’d pay for standard cable or satellite service. You usually cut the cord to cut the costs, but our survey respondents apparently feel differently.
Sling TV’s second-place local channel finish is just weird. The service is inexpensive, but it’s also weaker than every other service here on local channels. Sling TV is particularly vigorous at encouraging DIY antenna usage, though, with receiver integration hardware and antenna giveaways.
Hulu + Live TV and YouTube placed at the bottom, which is surprising considering that both offer more channels than Sling TV (including locals). They’re also cheaper than most of AT&T TV NOW’s plans, if you’re eyeing the budget (we know we always are).
Best add-on channel options
- Included premium channels like HBO
- Cheap premium add-ons
AT&T TV NOW’s most attractive add-on package is HBO®. You’d pay just $10 a month for HBO alone on the PLUS plan but, with the MAX plan, both HBO and CINEMAX® are included free. SHOWTIME® and EPIX are also available for lower-than-the-competition rates on AT&T TV NOW.
Sling TV offers over 20—yes, 20—add-on packages for its livestreaming TV plans, but HBO and CINEMAX aren’t among them. That’s two major strikes against Sling TV.
Hulu + Live TV offers a standard suite of premium add-ons: HBO, CINEMAX, SHOWTIME, and STARZ. YouTube TV has only SHOWTIME, STARZ, and EPIX. But you can also get Sundance Now, Shudder, and FOX Soccer Plus through YouTube TV, which kind of evens the scales.
- Tons of add-on options
- HBO Max, SHOWTIME, and STARZ add-ons
It’s a clear-cut vote here: YouTube TV offers HBO, CINEMAX, SHOWTIME, STARZ, EPIX, Sundance Now, Shudder, and FOX Soccer Plus as premium add-ons.
On that note, it’s a bit surprising that Sling TV dropped to third place here—did we mention the plethora of add-ons available through Sling TV? A larger quantity means more (and better) choices, we say.
Best streaming quality
This category is more about perception than reception, since all of the TV services here stream at 720p HD, which is as high as livestreaming gets. On-demand streaming can reach 1080p, but it’s a different animal because it’s not transmitting data, you know, live.
Still, our survey respondents liked Sling TV’s picture best, followed closely by AT&T TV NOW and Hulu + Live TV. In our reviewing experience at CableTV.com, we’ve barely detected an HD difference between those three and YouTube TV, so we think you’d be satisfied with any of their pictures.
Best for reliability
The polling numbers were single-digit tight in every category but reliability, where Hulu + Live TV pulled away from the pack with a double-digit lead. It’s very exciting (we take what we can get with stats around here).
Our survey participants experienced fewer blackouts, playback problems, and general streaming issues with Hulu + Live TV, which has also been our take in service reviews.
Best user experience
Sling TV’s simple, clean channel guide is a breeze to navigate—as long as you know exactly what you’re looking for. Intuitive search isn’t a strong point with any of these four livestreaming TV services, unfortunately.
AT&T TV NOW’s interface looks less like a clone of a satellite TV guide than DIRECTV NOW’s did, but it’s actually easier to “surf” channels like on standard TV than before. It’s not a major departure from the standard cable/satellite experience, so that’s good if you’re a new cord-cutter looking for familiarity.
Hulu + Live TV’s interface is still a bit stark and clunky for our liking. Apparently, Hulu’s recent on-demand makeover hasn’t translated to Live yet.
Once again, we’re perplexed by the last-place showing for YouTube TV—we’ve all been using regular YouTube for over a decade, and YouTube TV is just as simple to navigate.
Best cloud DVR
DVR usage isn’t a big deal for the people we surveyed, as only a small percentage responded to this category. The ones who did, however, like using AT&T TV NOW’s 500-hour cloud DVR.
Sling TV only recently began including a mere 10 hours of DVR space with its plans (although it’s upgradeable to 50 hours), while Hulu + Live TV gives you 50 hours (upgradeable to 200 hours).
Meanwhile, YouTube TV still includes unlimited DVR space (for nine months before it wipes your shows) with its service. That’s right, unlimited.
No dramatic changes here beyond Hulu + Live TV and Sling TV trading spots—50 hours of cloud DVR space beats 10, but neither can compete with AT&T TV NOW’s 500.
Did we mention that YouTube TV features unlimited DVR space? We’ll leave it alone now.
In your experience, rate your streaming service’s overall value.
As we said before, Hulu + Live TV has a near-perfect combo of premium on-demand content and livestreaming TV offerings. If you could subscribe to only one streaming service—we know, scary—Hulu + Live TV would be an obvious choice.
Second-place AT&T TV NOW’s plan pricing doesn’t exactly scream “value” to us, but the availability of inexpensive HBO add-ons does help even things up.
We have our own opinions on Sling TV (it’s cheap!) and YouTube TV (it’s underrated!), but we’ll defer to our survey participants in this case.
Slightly more people are using dedicated streaming devices than smart TV apps, a trend we like, as devices offer more flexibility and are easier (and less expensive) to upgrade than TVs. Gaming consoles also had a decent showing, but no survey-takers mentioned apps in Blu-ray players—remember those?
YouTube TV scored high with viewers using mobile devices and laptops, which makes sense: its interface lends itself particularly well to those platforms. YouTube is still YouTube, after all.
Our final take
For livestreaming TV, we like all four of the services that our survey participants ranked in overall quality, for different reasons.
- Hulu + Live TV (#1) offers an excellent balance of live channels and on-demand content.
- AT&T TV NOW (#2) gives you stacks of channels.
- Sling TV (#3) is inexpensive and customizable.
- YouTube TV (#4) is easy to navigate and includes an unlimited DVR.
There’s still a lot to like about fuboTV and Philo, too, even if they didn’t make the cut this year. Again, get in on those free trials—no contracts means no worries. Check out what our experts think of these services and more with our article “Best Live TV streaming Services.”
Livestreaming TV: 2020 vs. 2019
Livestreaming TV—television streamed live over the internet instead of cable or satellite—is still a new and evolving platform, so we expected some changes year-over-year in CableTV.com’s annual customer satisfaction survey. We didn’t count on one service disappearing completely, however—it’s tough out there in the streamverse.
Here’s what changed (and what didn’t) between our 2019 and 2020 livesteaming TV customer satisfaction surveys.
CableTV.com surveyed fewer people this year. That one’s on us—but we still talked to enough livestreaming TV customers to create a solid survey.
Hulu + Live TV is still #1. Our survey participants still love the livestreaming experience of Hulu + Live TV—it took the top spot for the second year in a row for overall customer satisfaction.
We also like it at CableTV.com, but in 2020, we’ve crowned YouTube TV as our editorial best-overall favorite, and named Hulu + Live TV as our best value pick (thanks to the vast Hulu on-demand library).
PlayStation Vue ceased to exist. Last year’s #2 customer choice didn’t make it far into 2020, as Sony shut down its livestreaming service for good in January. In many a CableTV.com review, we praised PS Vue’s excellent sports coverage, so this was a blow to the jocks. Fortunately, another livestreaming TV service has stepped up its game (more on that in a moment).
DIRECTV became AT&T TV NOW. While little changed but the name, AT&T TV NOW actually fared better this year than DIRECTV did on 2019’s survey. We think it’s a fine, if slightly expensive, livestreaming service, and also believe AT&T’s frequent HBO and HBO Max discounts and freebies may have something to do with AT&T TV NOW’s popularity.
YouTube TV barely budged. As we mentioned earlier, we’ve named YouTube TV as CableTV.com’s best overall livestreaming service of 2020, but our survey participants don’t (yet) agree.
YouTube TV’s static position could be attributed to the fact that our survey was conducted before the service added over a dozen channels to its lineup in June (but also raised its monthly rate from $50 to $65). We’ll see if any opinions change in 2021.
fuboTV didn’t make the cut. Soccer-centric streamer fuboTV cracked the top six in 2019, but barely made a showing in 2020. We think it’ll be back with a vengeance in 2021 because the service has added a decent chunk of new channels this year, especially in the sports arena. In fact, it’s Cable TV.com’s 2020 top pick for livestreaming sports.
Philo was also snubbed. We’ve chosen Philo as our favorite cheap livestreaming service (it’s hard to beat 60 channels for $20 a month), but it didn’t register in our 2020 survey. We also expect a resurgence for Philo in 2021 because a lot of YouTube TV users who were turned off by its June price hike jumped ship to Philo—very vocally on social media, at that.
Smart TVs lost ground. According to our survey, fewer people were streaming content through smart TV apps in 2020 than in 2019.
Conversely, the numbers for dedicated streaming devices (like Roku and Chromecast) and mobile screens (phones and tablets) ticked up. Laptops and computers stayed about the same, but gaming console numbers took a huge loss thanks to the demise of PlayStation Vue.
Using Pollfish, we surveyed thousands of livestreaming TV customers about their cord-cutting journey as of 2020. We asked users to rank providers based on the following categories:
We also asked which streaming devices are most preferred.