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Cloud DVR Comparison: Best Live TV Service for Recording?

Cloud DVR is just as important as channels and price when choosing a live TV service.

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When it comes to choosing the best live TV streaming service, cloud DVR support can be just as important as the price or the number of channels. For some households, it could end up the most important aspect, considering it is directly tied to the ability to watch a show or movie when the viewer wants. This guide offers a closer look at the cloud DVR offered by all of the major live TV streaming services. This includes how much space you get, whether there are any other limitations, and of course, whether you have to pay extra for cloud DVR.

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Knowing this information and factoring it into the cost equation will help to reveal the true cost of a live TV subscription. However, before delving into the specifics of each of the live TV streaming services, it’s important to properly understand what cloud DVR is and the general benefits and limitation. This is especially true for anyone new to streaming.

Many will already be familiar with DVR in general, as the option to record on a digital video recorder has been around for a long time. However, in an era where everything is moving to the “cloud,” so has DVR. In principle, cloud DVR is not any different to the DVR everyone is used to. Again, it’s digital video recording. Again, you can record your favorite TV shows and movies. That’s not to say there aren’t differences, as there are.

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Cloud DVR comparison summary

The table below includes a summary of how the main live TV services stack up against each other on DVR. This is followed by a closer look at the recording experience offered by each of the main live TV streaming services, including any limitations consumers should be aware of.

Cloud DVR comparison: Updated March, 2021

Live TV serviceFreeStorage
(Hours)
Keep for
(Days)
DevicesChannelsUpgrade
AT&T TV 2090No limitNo limit✔ ($10 for unlimited)
fuboTV250/1000IndefiniteNo limitNo limit✔ ($16.99 for 1000 hours)
Hulu Live TV50IndefiniteTVs outside homeNo limit✔ ($9.99 for 200 hours)
PhiloUnlimited30No limitNo limitX
Sling TV50No limitNo limitNo Disney✔ ($5 for 200 hours)
TVision1009 monthsNo limitNo limit✔ (Vibe: $5 for 100 hours)
VidgoNo DVRXXXXX
YouTube TVUnlimited9 monthsNo limitNo limitX

Cloud DVR explained

With a physical DVR device, there are physical limitations in place. The most obvious of these is the storage. Recordings are made to a physical hard drive and therefore, how much you can record comes down to the limits of the hard drive. With cloud DVR, all recordings are stored in the provider’s data center. Much like emails, or any other form of modern-day data, the recordings are stored elsewhere, and not locally. In theory, this means there’s no limit to how much an individual can record.

Another limitation of physical DVRs is the number of channels that can record at the same time. DVRs use tuners to record content and most devices usually advertise the number as a selling point. For example, with a dual-tuner DVR, the maximum number of channels that can record at the same time is two. Like with the storage, there’s no physical tuner in use with cloud DVR. Again, in theory, this means cloud DVRs can record an infinite number of channels at the same time.

Then there’s device support. Typically speaking, physical DVRs are designed for playback on one device and usually the device connected to the physical DVR. There are exceptions to this rule, but the general principle is playback on one device at a time. Cloud DVRs differ in this respect as users can watch recorded content on any device or platform compatible with the service. Once again, in theory, a video can be played back on an unlimited number of devices at the same time.

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To sum up, physical DVRs mainly differ to cloud DVRs in terms of how much video can be recorded, how many recordings can be made at the same time, and which devices can play back the recordings. While cloud DVRs have the potential to bypass all of these limitations, that’s all in theory. The reality is far more nuanced.

Every service decides whether they can, and will, offer cloud DVR. If they do, they then make the decision as to how much cloud space they’ll offer each subscriber, how many recordings each subscriber can make at the same time, the level of device support, and whether they’ll charge subscribers for any of this. As it is the companies making these decisions, the results inevitably vary.

AT&T TV cloud DVR

AT&T TV logo SC

Previously known as DirecTV Now and then AT&T TV Now, AT&T TV is just one of AT&T’s TV and video services. There are multiple AT&T TV plans to choose from with the cheapest costing $69.99 per month.

Besides the various name changes, the service has also frequently changed recording limits. The most recent change came in February 2021 resulting in all plans coming with 20 hours and the option to upgrade to an unlimited DVR experience for $10 per month.

AT&T TV recording limitations:

The first limitation to be aware of is that recordings only stay “recorded” for a maximum of ninety days. While this is less than some of the other services, it is improvement compared to the 30-day limitation that was previously in place. Once the ninety days have been reached, recordings are automatically deleted and irrespective of whether they have been viewed or not.

Another limitation to be aware of is series recordings. While subscribers can record an entire series, AT&T TV only allows a maximum of 30 episodes from the same series to be stored at one time. If more are scheduled to be recorded than the oldest of the 30 episodes will be automatically deleted.

AT&T TV cloud DVR summary:

  • Limited to 20 hours unless upgraded for $10 per month
  • Recordings are automatically deleted after 90 days
  • No limit on the devices you can record from or play recordings on
  • No limit on the number of recordings you can make at the same time
  • The same shows is limited to 30 recorded episodes

fuboTV cloud DVR

fuboTV Banner

In another life, fuboTV was a simple and straightforward sports-focused streaming service, costing just $7 per month. However, a lot has changed since then and now fuboTV is a fully-fledged live TV streaming service with plans starting at $64.99 per month. Along with that higher price is a channel lineup to compete with the best of them.

The same also goes for the additional features, including cloud DVR. For example, fuboTV does not place any limits on how long recordings last and it doesn’t automatically delete recordings either. Instead, they are only removed when actively deleted by the user. However, like the other services, fuboTV does come with some limitations.

fuboTV recording limitations:

The main limitation is the actual storage limts in general and these differe depending on the plan. fuboTV allows those on its Family plan to record up to 250 hours. If 250 hours is not enough then fuboTV does also offers the option to upgrade to 1000 hours for an additional $9.99 per month. Subscribers to the Elite plan automatically get the higher 1000-hour recording limit at no additional cost. However, there is no option to upgrade beyond the 1000 hours.

Another limitation is that fuboTV subscribers may find they are unable to record certain channels and on certain devices. For example, recordings of Disney, ESPN, FX and Nat Geo are currently unavailable on Samsung smart TVs and Microsoft Xbox One consoles.

fuboTV cloud DVR summary:

  • Family subscribers limited to 250 hours, but can upgrade. Elite subscribers limited to 1000 hours with no upgrade
  • Recordings are available indefinitely or until deleted by the user
  • No general limit on the devices you can record from or play recordings on, but some channels unavailable on some devices
  • No limit on the number of recordings that can be made at the same time

Hulu Live TV cloud DVR

Hulu Live TV Banner

In a short space of time, Hulu Live TV has risen from a new player to a major one. Technically, Hulu Live TV only offers one live TV subscription, priced at $64.99 per month, but there is the option to upgrade the plan to an ad-free version. Besides access to live TV, basic Hulu on-demand is included in the Hulu Live TV subscription at no additional cost.

In addition to the increased level of on demand content through basic Hulu, subscribers can also record content using the cloud DVR feature at no extra cost. However, there are some restrictions.

Hulu Live TV limitations:

Although Hulu Live TV includes cloud DVR in the price, it is limited to just 50 hours for all subscribers. While this is less than a number of other live TV streaming service, Hulu does offer the option to upgrade the recording limit. Hulu’s “Enhanced Cloud DVR” costs an additional $9.99 per month and increased the DVR limit to 200 hours.

Unlike some services, Hulu Live TV allows subscribers to keep recordings indefinitely, as long as the account maintains an active subscription. However, the service does automatically delete older recordings when the storage limit is reached to make way for newer ones.

Another limitation relates to living room devices. Hulu is a single-household service and this means it requires subscribers to select a home network. Once a network has been determined, the same Hulu account cannot be accessed on living room devices (including smart TVs) that are not connected to the same home network. This includes accessing recorded content.

A final limitation specifically applies to those with the 50-hour cloud DVR as these subscribers are unable to fast-forward through the ads. Those who opt to pay for the Enhanced Cloud DVR add-on not only get more storage space, but also the ability to skip the commercials.

Hulu Live TV cloud DVR summary:

  • Limited to 50 hours, but can be upgraded
  • Recordings remain available indefinitely
  • Hulu limits the number of living room devices outside the home, but not mobile devices
  • No limit on the number of recordings you can make at the same time
  • Only subscribers who have upgraded can fast-forward through ads.

Philo cloud DVR

Philo Banner

Because of its low price, Philo might be considered a budget live TV streaming service, but it’s not budget in all areas. Yes, Philo does not offer an as extensive channel lineup as the other services, but it is significantly cheaper than most, making it a good option for those looking to save.

Just as importantly, Philo does not cheap out on the features and this includes cloud DVR. In fact, Philo subscribers are able to record as much content as they like at no extra charge. That said, there are some restrictions.

Philo recording limitations:

Although Philo subscribers can record everything they want, they do have to watch it back within a set time-frame. Philo automatically deletes cloud DVR recordings after 30 days. This is less than many other services and makes it more similar to a catch-up feature than a real DVR.

Another limitation of sorts, is that Philo subscribers are unable to delete their own recordings. Philo explains that, as this is a truly unlimited cloud DVR, there’s no need for subscribers to worry about managing their own cloud DVR. As a result, subscribers who prefer to delete recordings once watched won’t be able to and will have to wait for the service to automatically remove them.

Philo cloud DVR summary:

  • Unlimited cloud DVR
  • Recordings are automatically deleted after 30 days.
  • Subscribers cannot manually delete recordings
  • No limit on the devices you can record from or play recordings on
  • No limit on the number of recordings you can make at the same time
  • Philo does not charge extra for cloud DVR, but there’s no option to upgrade

Sling TV cloud DVR

Sling TV Banner

Sling TV is one of the oldest, and most subscribed-to live TV streaming services around. It also happens to be one of the cheaper options with plans starting at just $35 per month. Sling TV is able to offer low prices as it doesn’t include quite as many channels as the others. Instead, Sling TV adopts an a la carte approach where users can add more channels if they want, and pay for them on top of the base subscription.

When it comes to cloud DVR, a similar approach was in effect previously with subscribers needing to add the ability to record at an additional monthly cost. However, that has changed now with Sling providing all subscribers with a free cloud DVR.

Sling TV recording limitations:

The main Sling TV cloud DVR limitation is the storage space. Similar to Hulu Live TV, subscribers only have access to 50 hours. However, there is still an option to upgrade. The Cloud DVR Plus add-on costs an additional $5 per month and boosts the recording limit to 200 hours.

Sling TV does not limit the length of time recordings can be kept for, but the service does automatically delete older episodes and movies to make way for newer ones. However, there is also a “protect” option available. Essentially, subscribers can mark certain recordings as protected and this will stop Sling TV from deleting them.

A final limitation to be aware of is that Sling TV’s DVR functionality is not available on all channels. For example, subscribers cannot record ACC Network Extra, ESPN 3, SEC Network+ and Local Now.

Sling TV cloud DVR summary:

  • Limited to 50 hours, but can upgrade
  • Recordings are available indefinitely or until the user deletes them
  • Older recordings are automatically deleted to make way for newer ones, but there is a “protect” feature available to ensure recordings stay recorded
  • No limit on the devices you can record from or play recordings on
  • No limit on the number of recordings at the same time, but not all channels can be recorded

Vidgo cloud DVR

Vidgo Banner

Vidgo is still a new streaming service and due to this, there are some features missing from the experience. One of those missing features is cloud DVR as Vidgo does not currently offer an option to record shows or movies.

Vidgo has previously stated that it plans to add cloud DVR in the future, but the company has not specified when that might happen, or whether there will be an additional charge on top of the existing cost of a Vidgo subscription plan. In the meantime, Vidgo does offer a 24 hour playback option for channels that allows subscribers to watch content that has recently been shown on live TV. In addition, Vidgo also provides access to a selection of show episodes and movies through its video on demand service.

YouTube TV cloud DVR

YouTube TV Banner

A YouTube TV subscription costs $64.99 per month, making it an expensive service compared to the others. However, YouTube TV not only offers a good channel lineup, but it also comes with an emphasis on the experience and additional features.

For example, YouTube TV has always been a very pro-cloud DVR service and actually offers one of the best cloud DVR experiences around. This includes a personalized DVR for each profile connected to the one paid YouTube TV master account. The Google service does not limit recording space in any way and so subscribers are free to record as much content as they like.

While YouTube TV is generous with its cloud DVR, that doesn’t mean it’s totally free of limitations.

YouTube TV recording limitations:

While there are no storage limitations in place, the one major restriction is how long recordings stay recorded for. At present, YouTube TV cloud DVR recordings can only be stored for up to 9 months.

Another important limitation to be aware of is subscribers are unable to manually delete recordings. Similar to Philo, with YouTube TV providing an unlimited DVR the service sees little value in offering the option to actually delete recordings. However, unlike Philo, YouTube TV allows recordings to remain available for a longer period. Therefore, some subscribers may find their DVR library is not quire as neat and tidy as they might like.

YouTube TV cloud DVR summary:

  • Unlimited cloud DVR
  • Recordings are automatically deleted after 9 months
  • No limit on the devices you can record from or play recordings on
  • No limit on the number of recordings you can make at the same time
  • Subscribers cannot manually delete recordings

Read more: Simultaneous streams comparison

Updated March, 2021

By John Finn

John started Streaming Clarity to help consumers navigate the live TV streaming and subscription service landscape. John has been writing about technology and TV-related services and devices since 2014 and believes the best streaming approach is to bounce between services as needed. Contact John via email at john@streamingclarity.com or on Twitter

3 replies on “Cloud DVR Comparison: Best Live TV Service for Recording?”

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I’ve been a go big subscriber since the service launched back in 2016. One thing missing from the guide above is Go Big subscribers are still on the 20 hours of dvr storage which is complete bs. There is not an add on option to pay for the 500 hours of dvr storage. I feel they want us to leave or switch to plus or max because to be honest there losing money with the go big subcribers. Im actually at my limit i need more dvr storage asap. 20 hours can be taken up if you record all the cbs abc and nbc late night shows that come on weekly.

One other important feature to consider if you update the DVR comparison is the ability to manage your DVR content. Two factors to consider: 1) the ability to record new episodes only and not re-runs. If a DVR can not distinguish between the two, then your DVR content becomes bogged down with rerun content that you need to weed thru. 2) the ability to delete individual episodes after you watch them or decide you don’t want to keep them. This is especially important if you can not block reruns from recording. Both of these factors are significant in keeping DVR content manageable. For instance, I enjoyed my free trial week for YouTube TV but the DVR experience was a deal breaker on both of the factors I listed above.

I just got Youtube tv hooked up. First time streaming. Why is it that it takes 24 hours before I can watch a baseball, basketball, etc. game on the DVR? If I watch it live and pause, so I can fast forward through ads, that works. But the whole point of recording to the DVR is so I can watch the games later in the day…..not the next day. Do any other streaming services have faster uploads so I can watch an hour or two later? I haven’t seen anything about this on line in ANY articles I have read.

Thanks,
Sheila

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