YouTube TV – A Complete Review – December 2020
For those of you who’ve ever thought about cutting the cord, YouTube TV is a great alternative. You’ll get to watch both an endless slew of silly cat videos as well as your standard TV channels all from one convenient platform. Not sure it gets too much better than that.
YouTube TV offers up the popular network channels you know and love, a decent assortment of local channels depending on your area, and possibly the best cloud DVR feature provided by an online streaming service. Similar to services like Hulu with Live TV and DIRECTV NOW but on a platform that you’re likely more familiar.
YouTube TV has been around since February 2017 and has focused on the goal to “reimagine the television experience for the new generation.” It’s designed to give consumers TV content on the go, without the need for the standard large screen TV. The undertaking was a strategy built on two primary requirements:
- Before offering YouTube TV, they needed to acquire streaming rights in local stations.
- Would need to create a mobile app before pushing it to the public.
Unfortunately for YouTube in the earlier days of release, this approach proved to be a bit too slow. Hulu with Live TV launched only a month after YouTube TV to a larger audience. By the end of 2017, over fifty percent more subscribers were enjoying the live TV option offered by Hulu than they were with YouTube’s newest venture.
“So why should I choose YouTube TV over Hulu with Live TV?”
Great question and I’ll be going over YouTube TV versus the competition a bit later in the article. For now, I want to dive into what YouTube TV offers, how much it costs, and what you can expect from using it as your TV service of choice.
Plans & Pricing
Unlike your typical cable and satellite providers, YouTube doesn’t offer up a plethora of varying, and often confusing, plans at odd pricing points. Instead, it goes the simple route and provides you with a single, solitary option. Which, after looking at the multitude of tiered package and pricing options that its competitors offer, can seem a bit unusual.
Subscribing to YouTube TV will cost you only $40 per month. This package comes with a core lineup of nearly sixty networks, some of your local channels, as well as provides the option to choose from a handful of premium add-on subscriptions.
|YouTube TV||$65/mo.||85+||7-DAY TRIAL|
While the standard for the free trial is 7 days, the service often offers longer trial periods and even bonus promotions from time-to-time like a free Google Chromecast for signing up and making a payment. Keep an eye out for these bonus deals on the website.
The focus of YouTube TV was to acquire national broadcast network streaming rights. This gave YouTube TV access to a wide array of many network-owned channels.
These particular channels dominate the YouTube TV service. Channels such as the ABC-owned Freeform, NBC-owned Syfy, Fox-owned National Geographic, and CBS-owned The CW are only a handful of what can be expected. YouTube also secured a deal with media giant Time Warner in order to add channels like CNN, TBS, TNT, and the Cartoon Network.
Note: Channel lineup will vary depending on your zip code so be sure to check the website for the programs you need.
When signing up for the service, YouTube TV will detail exactly which channels are available to you within your local area. Not all of the networks mentioned are available everywhere. It’s worth mentioning that there are also several regional sports networks available, such as Fox Sports, NBC Sports, NESN, and more.
YouTube TV is especially welcoming to sports lovers. The lineup available is particularly strong with the likes of the CBS Sports Network, all of the ESPN channels, and NBC-owned sports channels like the Olympic Channel and the Golf Channel. YouTube continues to add new networks and channels to its standard package as well as its premium add-on options.
Speaking of which, you can subscribe to Showtime, Starz, or AMC Premiere for your premium movie needs or Shudder to scratch the horror itch. There is also the documentary-focused CuriosityStream or the indie film-focused Sundance Now if that’s what you’re into. Those who have the need to watch even more sports than already offered can add Fox Soccer Plus or the NBA League Pass.
A little insight into the available select premium channel add-ons:
- Showtime will run you $11 per month and provides you loads of movies, TV series, and documentaries.
- Starz, though slightly cheaper at $9 per month, shares similarities to Showtime in that movies, TV series, and documentaries are provided. The only real difference, of course, is that you get access to the vast Starz library and its original content.
- CuriosityStream is the cheapest option on the list at $3 a month. This affords you access to over 1,500 documentaries.
- Fox Soccer Plus gives you more of that European football that you love at only $15 per month.
- AMC Premiere is available for all The Walking Dead fans out there on top of many more AMC shows at just $5 per month.
- Shudder provides the much-needed horror element to anyone into horror movies, thrillers, and suspense flicks for a mere $5 per month.
- Sundance Now gives independent film lovers a treasure trove of content to view for a $7 a month price tag.
- NBA League Pass brings all of the on-court action directly to your supported device. Keep up with every NBA team as they make their way through 82+ games throughout the season. The price is a bit on the higher end at a costly $40 per month. The deal does provide video-on-demand for any games missed you’d like to watch and is void of any commercials and instead provides arena feeds during the breaks.
For a list of available channels in your area that you can expect from YouTube TV, head to this website.
At its launch, YouTube TV was only available through the use of Android and iOS apps, directly on the site itself using a computer, or through Google Chromecast. I believe that the myth of Millennials disregarding regular TV in favor of watching streams on their smartphones may have played a part in this decision. Unfortunately for YouTube, it took way too long before they realized this error.
Nowadays, the YouTube TV platform is available on quite a few different devices. There are apps available for Roku, Apple TV, Android TV, and Xbox One, as well as various supported Samsung, Hiseng, Sharp, and LG TVs. Of course, there’s always the option to continue watching the content directly on select iOS or Android smartphones and tablets.
Sadly, PlayStation consoles are not supported and if you plan on watching YouTube TV content from your computer, you’ll have to view it from the actual website using the Google Chrome browser.
YouTube TV’s device support may never match Hulu’s or Sling TV’s, not to mention the conflict between Google and Amazon will likely hold the possibility of a YouTube TV app for Fire TV in permanent hiatus.
In truth, the support for streaming devices remains one of YouTube TV’s primary weaknesses. Though they have bolstered the options recently, they still tend to lag behind their largest competitors. You can attribute this lack in advancement to the interference of Google’s corporate politics. Your streaming preferences will continue to take a back seat to the war of egos from the top corporations on the web.
Here is a short-list of YouTube TV–compatible devices:
- Apple TV
- Apple AirPlay
- Android TV
- Xbox One, Xbox One S, and Xbox One X
- iOS and Android smartphones/tablets
- Google Chrome web browser
- Select Samsung, Hiseng, Sharp, and LG smart TVs
Appearance, Features, & Functions
YouTube TV’s interface is separated into three primary sections – Home, Library, and Live. The cosmetics of the browser and mobile versions vary a bit from those of the Roku and Apple TV versions. The experience provided using the mobile apps or Chrome browser shares a similar look and feel to that of YouTube’s official site. All of the basic thumbnails appear on a white background (unless set to night mode) and current airing TV shows’ thumbnails are displayed using live video. For the Apple TV and Roku apps, images are displayed very statically on a dark grey background.
Regardless, the difference in appearance bears no contrast on YouTube TV’s layout as it is the same across all platforms.
When first logging into YouTube TV, you’re greeted with the Home screen. Immediately you’ll notice that the page displays live previews and currently airing show recommendations. Scrolling through the Home section, you’ll encounter live thumbnails, sports, and other on-demand programming.
You’ll find access to both the Live and Library sections from this page as well as a few others such as the “Trending on YouTube” section. Another section that can be found is YouTube Premium, formerly YouTube Red, which features all of YouTube’s original programming.
All of the channels on YouTube TV are divided into categories for easier access. These categories include, but are not limited to, Music, Food, Beauty, Comedy, Entertainment, News, Sports, Technology, Gaming, and Family.
Jumping over to the Live section will provide you with your local area channels as well as any other live shows currently available. There’s a column of the various networks you have access to which appears a traditional TV programming guide, displaying current and upcoming shows for each network.
Only select channels are placed at the top. These include all available local TV networks as well as TBS and TNT. All other channels are grouped into categories as mentioned in the Home Section.
Clicking on any of the networks’ icon will forward you to a dedicated screen for that network. Here you’ll find a twenty-four-hour timeline for the programs associated with that network. Depending on the network chosen, you may find additional information on the screen including a featured program as well as movie and TV show lists.
Click on one of the icons for a TV series and you’ll be whisked away to that show’s dedicated screen page. You can scroll through a list of on-demand episodes or take in the most recent one live.
Library & Cloud DVR
The Library is where you can find all of your cloud DVR recordings (more on this later) to watch, or re-watch, a specified program. Each recording is categorized by shows, movies, and sports. Recently recorded and ‘new episode’ lists are also available.
The best part about this feature is that there is no limit on storage space. Fill it up with as many shows as you wish to watch. Every recording is saved for up to nine months so long as you remain a YouTube TV member. This is true for every profile that is currently attached to your YouTUbe TV account.
One complication with the cloud DVR feature is that it does not let you adjust how it records TV shows. In order to get to record a specific episode of a TV series, you’ll have to record them all. Not such an issue for brand new shows but anything with multiple seasons will quickly add up. Good thing you have unlimited storage space, I guess.
Additionally, YouTube TV’s Search page can also be considered a section (making it technically four). It should come as no surprise to anyone that any search operation being handled by Google would be a real prize. The Search page consists of show categories, various channel buttons, and show suggestions all on a Netflix-inspired landscape.
Profiles & Streaming
YouTube TV gives your household up to six individual logins (and profiles) per subscription. This gives six people access to your account that won’t interfere with your show suggestions or library. Each individual’s profile can house their own favorites, viewing history, and recommendations. You’ll even receive notifications for your favorite shows when they go live. The cloud DVR feature is profile specific, so you won’t have to worry about finding something in which you have no interest mixed in with your saved shows. The only downside to having six profiles on one account is that only three streams can be played simultaneously.
If your bandwidth only provides 3Mbps or less, YouTube TV mentions that you’re likely to suffer slow loads and consistent buffering. Anything above should guarantee you with standard definition videos. 7Mbps provides a solitary HD video experience. If any other profile decides to watch a video at the same time, buffering issues will likely ensue.
YouTube TV considers 13Mbps as the preferred speed for reliable HD streaming on multiple devices on the same network. No, it’s still not optimal but it will suffice. More would definitely be better, especially depending on the quality expected.
For those with 4K HD TVs expecting 4K HD quality, the reality is that TV channels rarely offer anything more than 720p definition. Though there are some networks that provide full high definition video streams running at 1080p. The majority of Disney-owned channels, like ESPN and Freeform, for example, stream exclusively in 720p. The bright side of this is that Disney makes up for it by streaming at 60 frames per second. This provides a much smoother experience when watching fast-paced action in both movies and sports.
Skipping Commercials and Advertisements
YouTube TV’s Live TV comes with a pause feature and allows you to jump through the broadcast commercials with a click. The same can be said about live broadcast recordings. Unfortunately, with on-demand, YouTube TV does not offer the option to skip and instead forces you to sit through all commercial breaks. Depending on the network you’ve chosen, YouTube TV may replace a recorded broadcast with the on-demand version, which also results in forced commercial viewing.
Versus The Competition
YouTube TV is definitely a great platform for watching live TV and on-demand programs, but how does it stack up to the rest?
Vs. Sling TV
Being the oldest and cheapest option available, Sling TV delivers excellent quality for the cost. Sling also provides a cloud DVR, as do most of the platforms mentioned in this article. Yet, unlike YouTube TV’s unlimited storage that comes with its $40 price tag, Sling TV only allows 50 hours and costs an extra $5 per month.
That still only sees Sling TV at a $10 minimum and Sling also has cheaper package options while offering some channels that are missing from YouTube TV. YouTube TV still comes out on top with more channels overall and with the better DVR and more reliable service, YouTube wins this faceoff, hands down.
Vs. DirecTV NOW
Keeping on the subject of channels from the Sling TV bout, DirecTV NOW has the most channels of any live TV streaming service out there. This doesn’t necessarily mean that DirecTV NOW offers the better channels, mind you, but if more is what you’re looking for, you can’t go wrong with choosing this competitor. It’s likely the closest thing to the traditional cable you’re likely to find, aside from actual cable, so it all comes down to preferences with this one.
YouTube TV provides plenty of sports for the most diehard fans but DirecTV NOW actually blows YouTube out of the water. However, when it comes to quality TV, YouTube still wins the fight. Again, all about preferences in this match-up.
Vs. PlayStation Vue
Similar to DirecTV NOW, PlayStation Vue offers many more channels than YouTube TV. That is, of course, if you’re willing to pony up the $74.99 a month bill for the most expensive package that Vue offers. Personally, that amount just doesn’t seem worth it and this is especially true for those trying to cut the cord because of outrageous cable costs. YouTube TV still offers plenty of high-quality channels at almost half the cost.
The number of simultaneous streams is slightly better with PlayStation Vue as they allow five instead of the three limited by YouTube. This could be a better fit for a large family who just has to watch something different at the same time. Other than that, and the fact you can’t get YouTube TV on a Sony PlayStation, I don’t see any benefit of picking Vue over YouTube TV.
On the surface, choosing between Hulu With Live TV and YouTube TV is like choosing between red apples and green. It’s a taste thing. However, you’ll quickly realize that YouTube gives you sixteen more channels than Hulu, on top of featuring a far better user experience.
The real deciding factor going into this competition is whether you prefer Hulu’s original content to that of YouTube. Hulu has been kicking out better original programming for a bit longer than YouTube so it stands to reason that Hulu is likely more desirable in this category.
However, YouTube has recently shown promise with some of their own original content in the forms of Cobra Kai and the recently released Wayne. So again, it falls to personal taste. I will say that YouTube TV’s DVR trumps Hulu’s rather easily, as it does to pretty much all others, with its unlimited storage versus the measly 50 hours given by Hulu.
YouTube TV is definitely one to consider if you’re in the market for a cord-cutting solution. It started off a bit rocky but has since course-corrected and continues to get better with time. So long as new channels, networks, and features are being added at a commendable pace, I believe that YouTube TV has a shot at taking the undisputed Live TV title.