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I’m finally cutting the cord — and this is my choice to replace cable

Cutting the cord with streaming TV
(Image credit: Shutterstock; Tom's Guide)

Deciding to cut the cord is easy. Figuring out how to replace cable is the hard part.

Last week, I detailed why I’m finally cutting the cord (an astronomical cable bill) and the things I needed from a cable replacement. Now, I have to make a choice among the various live TV options. 

There are quite a few, as seen on our list of cable TV alternatives. I’ve read through it numerous times and tested most of them personally. None of them are perfect; they all have their pros and cons. I settled on choosing between three of those services: Sling, Fubo and YouTube TV.

Before I get into the nitty gritty of those choices, I should explain why Hulu With Live TV isn’t in the running. I actually really like the service, and it would be awesome to simply add it into my existing Hulu account. However, I get Hulu through a grandfathered Spotify Premium bundle. I can’t upgrade to Hulu With Live TV unless I cancel the bundle, which I don’t want to do. 

Sling vs Fubo vs YouTube TV

Okay, back to the final three contestants. In part one of my cord cutting saga, I made a list of “must have” and “nice to have channels.” I also noted I’d like to have everything integrated in one place. At first, I thought that would strike Sling, because it doesn’t offer all the broadcast networks. 

However, I realized they offer several AirTV devices that pull in local channels. I can get an AirTV Anywhere with HD antenna for $99 (one-time fee) if I prepay for three months of Sling. That’s a significant cost, but since I’m cutting the cord for good, I realized I had to look at it as an investment over the long term. 

Fubo and YouTube TV are similar in that they don’t require a separate device to get local channels. They both cost $65 per month, with Fubo’s Starter Plan offering 121 channels while YouTube TV’s lineup is 85 channels. Sling’s $50 per month Orange + Blue plan comes with 50. 

Here’s the breakdown of cost for a year, any missing channels and the DVR features. For comparison, a year of cable would cost me around $2,220.

One yearMissing channelsDVR
Sling$699 (including $99 AirTV)MTV, VH150 hours cloud + AirTV storage
Fubo$780The CW, TBS, TNT250 hours cloud
YouTube TV$780LifetimeUnlimited cloud

Why I’m choosing Sling

As you can see, even with the one-time fee to get an AirTV Anywhere, Sling beats Fubo and YouTube TV on cost for a year’s worth of live TV. The savings are even better over a longer period — over two years, Sling will cost $1,300, while the other two come in at $1,560 (this is, of course, barring any price hikes). 

All three services are missing channels, but Sling edges ahead there, too, since MTV and VH1 are in my “nice to have” category. Meanwhile, Fubo and YouTube TV are both missing “must have” channels. That could change in the future, since live TV services are constantly feuding/making up with the entertainment conglomerates that own channels. 

For now, Sling’s Orange + Blue plan has almost everything I want. And actually, I could pay $6/month for the Comedy Extra add-on to get MTV or the same for Lifestyle Extra to get VH1. So, if I want to watch The Hills: New Beginnings, I can just get Comedy Extra while the season is airing and then unsubscribe when it’s over.

Sling TV

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Why did I decide to get an AirTV Anywhere over an AirTV 2 or an AirTV Mini? I nixed the Mini because it streams local channels through Locast, which doesn’t allow recording. That’s an absolute must-have feature. The AirTV 2 is a good option — it can come with an HD antenna or you can use your own. But it requires separate USB storage to record local channels, whereas the AirTV Anywhere comes with a built-in 1TB DVR hard drive. 

The only downside to Sling is that I find the navigation and interface clunky at times. And having never used an AirTV, I’m curious to see how well it functions — and if this Sling combo turns out to be a true cable replacement. At the least, I would save $1,520 over the next year if this works out. And having recently binged Stanley Tucci Searching for Italy, I could use the funds to go on the pasta and pizza tour of my dreams. 

In two weeks, the final part of this cord-cutting saga: How Sling is working out as a cable replacement

Kelly Woo

Kelly is a senior writer covering streaming media for Tom’s Guide, so basically, she watches TV for a living. Previously, she was a freelance entertainment writer for Yahoo, Vulture, TV Guide and other outlets. When she’s not watching TV and movies for work, she’s watching them for fun, seeing live music, writing songs, knitting and gardening.