It’s been a little while since we took a close look at cloud-based DVRs and how the various options offered by the leading live TV streaming services all stack up. For this roundup, we’re taking a look at six of the biggest live TV streaming services around, as well as the DVR options they offer. Pricing and features differ from service to service, and some offer upgrade options for a monthly fee. If you’ve been thinking about adding a live TV plan to your streaming lineup and a robust, flexible DVR is a must-have, this guide should come in handy.
How Do Cloud DVRs Work?
If you’re used to in-home DVRs from TiVo or perhaps your pay TV provider, you might be surprised how capable cloud DVRs can be. Instead of storing your favorite video recordings on a hard-drive-equipped device in your living room, cloud DVRs typically store your shows within large data centers (aka “the cloud”). This approach offers a couple of advantages, including less hardware to worry about, the ability to watch on a number of mobile devices, and impressive storage limits. Of course, while all of the live TV streaming services we’re comparing leverage this cloud-based approach, each one offers some specific pros and cons.
Live TV Streaming Service Cloud DVRs Compared
|Starting Monthly Price||Standard DVR Storage||Upgrade Option?||Recording Expiration||Ad Skip|
|YouTube TV||$49.99||Unlimited||No||9 months||Yes|
|Hulu + Live TV||$54.99||50 hours||Yes: Enhanced Cloud DVR with ad skip and 200-hour storage for $9.99/month||Unlimited||Yes, with Enhanced Cloud DVR|
|Fubo TV||$59.99||30 hours||Yes: Cloud DVR Plus with 500 hours for $9.99/month||Unlimited||Yes|
|Sling TV||$30||10 hours||Yes: Cloud DVR Plus with 50 hours for $5/month||Unlimited||Varies|
|AT&T TV Now||$55||500 hours||N/A||90 days||Yes|
YouTube TV’s cloud DVR offers unlimited storage as standard. So you can record as much content as you want, but there is a nine-month limit on the recordings themselves. There’s also no limit on the amount of simultaneous recordings, which could come in handy if several of your favorite new shows all air at the same time. The service supports up to six individual profiles and each one gets their own personal library — so you won’t have to search through your entire household’s collection.
Of note, it’s currently not possible to record a single episode of a given show. Instead, adding a show to your DVR list means all future airings will be recorded. YouTube TV says that shouldn’t be much of an issue since you have unlimited storage, but it’s worth pointing out.
Supported Devices: Android, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, iOS, LG, PlayStation, Roku, Samsung, Sharp, Vizio, Web, Xbox One
Hulu + Live TV
Hulu offers two tiers of cloud DVR service: a standard option with 50 hours of storage, and an Enhanced Cloud DVR that adds ad-skipping support and 200 hours of storage for $9.99 per month. Those hour limits apply to the entire account, meaning all connected profiles share that pool of 50, or 200 hours.
Once you reach your storage limit, you’ll see a DVR Full message in the Manage DVR section. If the service needs to make room for upcoming recordings, it’ll start clearing out the oldest recordings first. There’s also no expiration on recordings, so as long as you don’t hit or exceed your storage limit, you can keep your faves stored indefinitely.
If the Enhanced DVR option seems like a better fit for your home, you can also bundle that feature with the Unlimited Screens add-on for a combined $14.98 monthly fee.
Supported Devices: Android, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Echo Show, Fire OS, iOS, LG, PlayStation, Roku, Samsung, Switch, Vizio, Web, Xbox, Xfinity Flex, Xfinity X1
Fubo offers different DVR options depending on the plan you choose. If you’re on the cheapest option, Fubo Standard, you get 30 hours of storage included for free. You can upgrade that to 500 hours via the Cloud DVR Plus add on that runs for $9.99 per month.
That more robust Cloud DVR Plus is also included in several of the service’s pricier plans. Regardless of which one you choose, recordings stay on indefinitely, or until you opt to get rid of them.
Supported Devices: Android, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, iOS, Roku, Samsung, Web
You get unlimited DVR storage as standard when you sign up for Philo and there’s no upgrade option to speak of. That DVR function also comes with the ability to skip ads. Even if you don’t specify a show to record, the service offers a 72-hour Rewind feature that means you can replay most content that’s aired within the past three days.
While the unlimited storage is certainly a nice plus, it’s worth noting you have a 30-day window to view that content before it’s deleted. That ranks as the shortest viewing window among the services we’re comparing here.
Supported Devices: Android, Android TV, Apple TV, Fire TV, iOS, Roku, Web
Like a few other entries on this list, Sling TV offers a couple of DVR options. At the standard level, you get Cloud DVR that includes 10 hours of storage time. You can increase that to 50 hours per month with the Cloud DVR Plus upgrade for $5 per month. There’s no expiration date on those recordings as long as you maintain your account. Even if you stop your account, those recordings will stay on file for the next 30 days in case you decide to come back.
One other perk for the Cloud DVR Plus upgrade: You can “protect” recordings so they won’t be deleted when you run out of space. Lastly, there are a handful of channels within Sling TV’s lineup that don’t support the DVR feature: SEC Network +, Local Now, ACC Network Extra, and ESPN3.
Supported Devices: AirTV, Android, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, iOS, LG, Oculus, Roku, Samsung, Web, Xbox One
AT&T TV Now
Earlier this year, AT&T TV Now upgraded its Cloud DVR service significantly, jumping from 20 hours of storage up to 500 hours. It’s currently available on all of TV Now’s streaming packages, including Plus, Max, and Optimo Más.
There’s no upgrade available beyond the standard Cloud DVR, but your recordings won’t expire for 90 days and you can record on up to three streams simultaneously.
Supported Devices: Android, Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, iOS, Roku, Samsung, Web
Choosing the Right Fit
Overall, YouTube TV’s robust DVR makes it a compelling option on top of the competitively priced monthly charge — although there are signs a price increase could be on the horizon. Elsewhere, Sling TV and Philo both offer solid DVR features in potentially more affordable plans.
In the end, the best cloud-based DVR depends a lot on your viewing habits and which service offers more of the channels and content you want to watch. While an unlimited DVR might seem like the default winner at first, don’t forget to factor in the overall monthly cost, how many recorded shows you truly want to hold onto, and whether the associated service actually offers the channels you’re after.
After all, what good is unlimited DVR time if you don’t have access to the channels you want? Conversely, a DVR with a seemingly meager capacity might actually be all you need if you just want to catch up on a handful of shows.
For most people, cloud DVRs are likely just one aspect to keep in mind when considering a live TV streaming service. You’ll also want to weigh channel lineups, device support, and overall costs, including any add-ons you think you’ll need.
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