First take: Is YouTube TV good?
Whether you’re a newbie cord-cutter or a seasoned veteran of streaming TV, Google’s YouTube TV has something for you. Its blend of live TV (including tons of sports), on-demand shows and movies, premium add-ons, and unlimited cloud DVR storage provide countless hours of quality couch time. But watch out for its higher price tag when compared to other streaming service plans (like Sling TV Orange) and some issues with fast-forwarding through commercials.
YouTube TV deals and promotions
Currently, YouTube TV offers a free, five-day trial. We’ve seen mention of a 14-day trial online, but none that are currently active.
Some device manufacturers, Internet Service Providers, and mobile phone carriers have offered promos. Earlier this year, Roku offered a free one-month YouTube TV subscription with the purchase of a new box. Currently, Verizon 5G Home Internet customers can get their first month free.
$49.99/mo after, unless you cancel. Terms apply. Offer not available in all markets.
YouTube TV prices and packages
How much is YouTube TV vs. the competition?
|YouTube TV||77||$49.99/mo. ($0.65 per channel)|
|Hulu + Live TV||67||$44.99/mo. ($0.67 per channel)|
|PlayStation Vue||77||$54.99/mo. ($0.70 per channel)|
|Sling TV (Orange & Blue)||45||$40/mo. ($0.89 per channel)|
With YouTube TV, it’s simple: one plan, one price. This makes the decision-making process easier, since the only other options are premium add-ons. At launch (April 2017), the price was $39.99 per month. As of April 2019, however, Google announced a $10 price increase to $49.99. The price is on the steeper end, but ultimately in line with services that offer comparable programming. Note: If you choose to pay for YouTube TV through Apple, it’ll set you back $54.99. That’s the cost of seeming hip.
Cord-cutting savings? Depends on how you look at it.
It’s comparable to premium cable plans, but feels like a more-focused plan—with more of the content that you actually want. Students note: you can get Prime for $59 per year, making the idea of a YouTube TV bundle even more attractive.
|Missing channels||Popular channels|
|SEE FULL CHANNEL LINEUP||SEE FULL CHANNEL LINEUP|
Part of cord-cutting is negotiation—with yourself. Which networks can you live without? Does the live TV streaming service offer new channels that make their loss easier to swallow?
At first blush, you might feel like YouTube TV’s lack of Viacom content like BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon and VH1 is a total bummer (although not unexpected, given Viacom’s history of holding its content hostage). Likewise, PBS and NFL channels are nowhere to be seen. And it’d sure be nice to have Robert Rodriguez’s killer El Rey network. And what, no History Channel? Well, there’s some loss mitigation at play, here.
So what’s to like on YouTube TV? Comet TV programs cult sci-fi films (The Killer Shrews, Highway to Hell) and series (The Outer Limits, Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot). With SundanceTV, we get new original series like the Cold War-era German-American thriller Deutschland 86 and the Chris O’Dowd/Rosamund Pike relationship comedy The State of the Union—plus classic television like All in the Family and M*A*S*H.
COZI TV takes iconic TV deeper with Dragnet and The Office. IFC provides a slew of excellent comedy series such as Portlandia and Brockmire, as well as the storied ‛80s late-night popular culture series Night Flight.
There’s also great content from the foodie network Tastemade, plenty of kids’ programming—including Disney, and news from all major cable news networks. So even if you’re losing some shows and movies, you’re going to be happy with YouTube TV’s offerings.
What sports networks are on YouTube TV?
|Sports channel||Main package||Select Areas||Premium Add-on|
|CBS Sports Network||✓||✗||✗|
|FOX Soccer Plus||✗||✗||✓|
|FOX Sports 1||✓||✗||✗|
|FOX Sports 2||✓||✗||✗|
|Los Angeles Football Club||✗||✓||✗|
|NBA League Pass||✗||✗||✓|
|Orlando City SC||✗||✓||✗|
|Seattle Sounders FC||✗||✓||✗|
Blast your air horns and wave your wacky foam fingers, cord-cutters! YouTube TV has a smorgasbord of live sports networks. Thirty-two, to be exact. Only five of these are premium add-ons (FOX Soccer Plus and NBA League Pass) or area-limited (Los Angeles Football Club, Orlando City SC, and Seattle Sounders FC).
That leaves nearly two-and-a-half dozen channels, covering virtually every sport. There are two glaring omissions, though: NFL Network and NFL RedZone. Unfortunately for gridiron geeks, those two networks will require separate subscriptions.
One downside to cord-cutting is the loss of local channels. You wouldn’t think you’d miss your hometown talking heads and the news they deliver, not when there’s 24-hour cable and online news. But familiarity is a sweet spoonful of sugar when swallowing current headlines, right?
And how about syndicated reruns? Sure, you can binge-watch Seinfeld and The Simpsons on Hulu. But there’s something about happening to catch your favorite episode of one of these programs already in progress. It’s like when your favorite song comes on the radio, or seeing an old friend on the street.
We found that YouTube TV’s roster includes all of our local network affiliates for ABC, CBS, The CW, Fox, NBC and Telemundo. All you gotta do is enter your ZIP code at the link above to see which of your local channels are included.
Want more local channels?
What premium add-ons does YouTube TV have?
|FOX Soccer Plus||$15/mo.|
|NBA League Pass||$40/mo.|
The ability to add or drop á la carte premium channels is one of streaming’s greatest advantages. At the time of this review, YouTube TV offers nine such extra toppings. You wanna check out the new Kevin Bacon series City on a Hill? Add SHOWTIME for a month, then cancel it.
During October, why not add Shudder and have all-night horror festivals every weekend? Or if you just gotta have every available second of live slamma-jamma action—pony up for the NBA League Pass. Then cancel it in the off season and enjoy four months of your wallet being 40 bucks fatter.
One caveat regarding AMC Premiere, if you’re hoping to watch Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. Even at the premium level, the network keeps those two properties on lockdown. (The add-on does, however, offer several amusing clips from Saul.) No doubt fans of both of these series will find this upsetting, although each program is available on Netflix.
YouTube TV original shows and movies
Does YouTube TV have original content?
|Popular original shows||Popular original movies|
Original shows and movies on streaming services have been a boon for filmed entertainment. On virtually any service, there’s an incredible series or film that may not have been produced in the days before streaming TV.
YouTube made a splash when they revived The Karate Kid story with the acclaimed series Cobra Kai. Since then, they’ve debuted more noteworthy series like the gritty drama Wayne and the adorably awkward comedy Overthinking with Kat & June.
In addition, YouTube TV is expanding its bread-and-butter content with series featuring YouTubers like PewDiePie and Markiplier.
YouTube TV specs and features
In addition to its healthy amount of live TV and original shows and movies, YouTube offers a few noteworthy features. These include cloud DVR storage, up to three simultaneous streams, and the ability to watch on a variety of devices. It’s also a pleasure on the user experience end, with a clean interface and good video quality. You can also manage and monitor technical settings, including video quality, in the settings menu under “Stats for Nerds.”
YouTube TV cloud DVR vs. the competition
|Service||Cloud DVR hrs.||Price|
|Hulu + Live TV||50 hrs.||Included|
|Sling TV||50 hrs.||$5.00/mo.|
Cloud DVR is another area where YouTube TV stands out, chiefly due to it being free, with unlimited cloud-based storage. That, and the fact that the service allows up to six separate profiles so you don’t have to sift through someone else’s recordings to find your own. It’s also super easy to use. Simply add a series to you library and YouTube TV will record every upcoming episode. No muss, no fuss. There is a time limit, though. Your recordings will self-destruct in nine months.
YouTube TV simultaneous streams vs. the competition
|Hulu + Live TV||2 (option to pay more for unlimited)|
|Sling TV||1–3 (depending on plan)|
Have you ever been stream-blocked by family members using up the two-screen limit on your Netflix account? YouTube gives you one more for a total of three simultaneous viewing sessions. That’ll reduce TV-related conflicts in your home by a whopping 50%! That said, you could do nearly twice as well with PlayStation Vue.
What devices are compatible with YouTube TV?
|Amazon Fire TV (coming late 2019)||✓|
|Amazon Fire tablet (coming late 2019)||✓|
|Amazon Fire Stick (coming late 2019)||✓|
|Android mobile devices||✓|
|Apple TV (4th generation and 4K)||✓|
|Hisense Smart TVs (select models)||✓|
|iOS mobile devices (iOS 10 or later)||✓|
|LG Smart TVs (select models)||✓|
|Samsung Smart TVs (select models)||✓|
|Sharp Smart TVs (select models)||✓|
|VIZIO SmartCast TV (select models)||✓|
|Windows 10 phones||✓|
We tested YouTube TV on an LG Smart TV, Xbox One, PC, and Samsung Galaxy S8. The user experience is fairly consistent with these devices, with a clean interface and no performance issues. In fact, during an episode of Wayne, interruptions necessitated viewing a single episode seamlessly on all three devices. We’d have tried the Amazon Fire Stick, but that’s not possible until late 2019. Or is it?
It’s interesting to note, however, that Xbox gaming consoles are the only ones compatible with YouTube TV. PlayStation makes sense, since they offer a competing service. But what’s up, Nintendo?
Best streaming devices
Does YouTube TV stream in HD and 4K?
|YouTube TV||1080p/30 fps or 720p/60 fps|
|Hulu + Live TV||720p/60 fps|
|PlayStation Vue||720p/60 fps|
|Sling TV||720p (some shows 30 fps, some 60 fps)|
So how’s the picture? YouTube TV supports up to 1080p at 30 frames per second (fps) and even does 60 fps at 720p. The latter frame rate is always ideal with fast action—such as on all those sports networks. That is, unless you enjoy seeing some motion blur when LeBron James takes it to the hole. Don’t forget that “Stats for Nerds” is where you’d control these settings.
Having issues with your stream?
You won’t have to Google too hard to find plenty of users raving about the YouTube TV interface, and the channel guide in particular. At first, it doesn’t seem much different than your old cable guide. Or any other guide, for that matter. There’s just not too much room for innovation here. The best you can hope for is something easy-to-read and navigate. The YouTube TV live TV guide is both.
YouTube TV channel guide viewed in Firefox on a desktop computer.
Instead of text-only, spreadsheet-like grids like cable, YouTube TV shows us the network icon, a program thumbnail, and minimal text. Titles are in bold, and while date/time/synopsis in text as plain as what you’re reading now.
Seeing two columns, or two hours, of upcoming content at a time makes it even simpler to scan. (You may scroll ahead, of course.) But, compared with Hulu + Live TV and PlayStation Vue, which adhere to the old grid style, this is much easier on the eyes.
Just the facts, ma’am: Customized news-only YouTube TV guide.
The guide is also customizable for every profile, which is nice for weeding out the channels that just don’t float your boat. You want nothin’ but sports? Just do it. All sci-fi, all the time? Make it so. Age-appropriate? Mom knows best.
Finally, for those of use who like to watch in the dark, YouTube TV offers a dark mode to reduce screen glare (and side-eye from others in the room).
Nostalgic for commercial breaks? We’ve been spoiled since the advent of the glorious DVR, a device meant to ensure that we’d never again have to endure pop stars singing about fast food and insurance. Well, networks need to make money on their own content, so many of them demand at least a few ad breaks.
Allow us to bright side this for you: In the past, when commercials were compulsory, we toughed ’em out. Or we declared our independence by doing something else with the time, like hitting the bathroom or fridge. Today, we might play a game on our phones until the sponsors are done hollering about their doohickies and widgets.
If you’re just plain done with commercials, YouTube TV might rub you the wrong way. YouTube TV says it’s possible to pause live TV, then skip through commercials, and to do likewise with DVR recordings. However, the service replaces your DVR recordings with on-demand versions if they’re available–and many are.
In our tests, we were able to skip ads only in live programs. That meant sitting through a bunch of pre-roll and random commercials. Ultimately, the break-taking strategy only went so far. You may realize that you’d prefer to get your nostalgia fix from the actual programming.
Final take: Is YouTube TV worth it?
With streaming services popping up everywhere, it’s easy to be stymied by variety. Thankfully, YouTube TV is a good first bet as well as a solid addition to your self-curated stable of entertainment apps. It’s competitive with other live streaming TV services thanks to its ease of use (even with the commercial fast-forwarding problems), licensed and original content, and wide range of devices. Our opinion? Go for it.
YouTube TV FAQ
How does YouTube TV work?
YouTube TV is a subscription-based live TV streaming service. You access it through an app downloaded to a compatible device.
How do you record on YouTube TV?
Simply add a show or movie to your library. YouTube TV will record it when it airs, along with future episodes of series.
Where is YouTube TV available?
To find out if YouTube TV is in your area, visit this link and enter your ZIP code. This will also let you know which channels are streamed in your neck of the woods.