Bottom line: You already know YouTube TV
YouTube is arguably the original internet streaming TV service, even though it’s never been officially classified as such. Until now.
YouTube TV is the video giant’s first toe into the cable-replacement waters, offering livestreaming TV channels in addition to its massive cache of user-generated clips. It might seem odd to get your CNN from the same place you get your cat videos, but livestreaming TV is a natural fit for YouTube.
YouTube TV’s biggest advantage over other streaming TV services is familiarity. It’s close to the same YouTube interface you’ve been using for years but with a few new twists and more popular channels than other livestreaming services. (It’s still the undisputed leader in cat videos, of course.)
YouTube TV plans
|Plan||Price||Live channels||Cloud DVR||Streams|
|YouTube TVView Plan||$49.99/mo.||70+||Unlimited (recordings kept for nine months)||3|
Data effective as of 12/18/2019. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
YouTube TV, depending on your area, offers between 50 and 75 livestreaming channels, including cable favorites, local channels, and its own YouTube Premium (formerly Red) on-demand originals. If you’ve been wondering where to find the Karate Kid sequel series Cobra Kai, it’s a YouTube Premium thing.
YouTube TV channels and shows
Live and on-demand shows and movies
YouTube TV’s mix of livestreaming entertainment, sports, and news channels doesn’t look much different than a basic cable package—until you notice the lack of filler.
There’s no cable-package bloat like music or shopping networks, just a lean list of popular channels like AMC, Cartoon Network, ESPN, Disney, FS1, FX, Syfy, TNT, USA, etc. YouTube TV trims the cable fat nicely.
But watch out, cord-cutters: YouTube TV’s channel lineup is impressive, but it’s also incomplete. Networks like Comedy Central, MTV, and Nickelodeon aren’t included, nor are Lifetime, A&E, or Viceland.
Live TV channels (partial list):
- Animal Planet
- BBC America
- Cartoon Network/Adult Swim
- Cheddar News
- Disney XD
- Food Network
- Fox News
Original shows and movies
Your YouTube TV subscription also includes YouTube Premium, an original programming channel that goes for $12 a month as a stand-alone service.
Premium’s in-house productions aren’t exactly setting the TV world on fire—there’s a steep critical drop-off after Cobra Kai. But Premium does have other perks, like ad-free video viewing across the board and access to YouTube Music Premium.
Original TV shows:
- Cobra Kai
- Weird City
- Liza on Demand
- Boy Band: The Lou Pearlman Story
- Viper Club
- Burn the Stage
- Stalking Vampire
- The Thinning
While it does carry live broadcast and cable football coverage, YouTube TV may disappoint gridiron fans with its lack of the NFL Network and NFL RedZone. The same goes for hockey buffs who won’t be able to get the NHL Network.
It’s not all bad news, though: you’ll get plenty of basketball (including NBA TV), baseball (including MLB Network), soccer, and college b-ball games. YouTube TV’s live sports experience is on par with most cable providers’ upper-tier packages—there’s little action you’d be missing out on.
Live sports channels:
- FOX Sports 1
- FOX Sports 2
- NBC Sports Network
- NBA TV
- MLB Network
- Big Ten Network
- CBS Sports
- Golf Channel
- Olympic Channel
- Tennis Channel
YouTube TV features as many local channels per region as Hulu + Live TV and far more than other services like Sling TV or fuboTV.
Depending on where you are, you’ll either receive local stations carrying ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, The CW, and Telemundo, or a combination of at least four of them. But not PBS—no livestreaming TV service carries PBS, though the network does have its own (paid) streaming app.
The CW is the least-available broadcast channel on YouTube TV, but all’s not lost in Riverdale. Any CW series can be called up on demand in most cases, and The CW also offers its programming for free through its own streaming app. Both work similarly; it just depends on how much app-jumping you want to do.
YouTube TV’s $49.99 a month plan can be fortified with several add-on packages from premium networks, like SHOWTIME and FOX Soccer Plus. HBO isn’t available through YouTube TV, but you can get your Watchmen streaming fix via HBO NOW or Amazon Prime Video, among other services.
YouTube TV add-ons:
- SHOWTIME ($7/mo.)
- STARZ ($9/mo.)
- AMC Premiere ($5/mo.)
- Sundance Now ($7/mo.)
- Shudder ($5/mo.)
- EPIX ($6/mo.)
- Curiosity Stream ($5/mo.)
- FOX Soccer Plus ($15/mo.)
- NBA League Pass ($40/mo.)
Unlike most other streaming TV outlets that give you seven days or more to test drive the service for free, YouTube TV allows only a five-day trial before kicking into billing mode. Be sure to make a note of the trial’s end date in your personal calendar, whether it’s Google-based or otherwise.
Combine YouTube TV with another streaming service
If YouTube TV doesn’t give you everything you want, try pairing it with another streaming service to fill in the blanks—you’ll probably still save money over a cable or satellite subscription.
YouTube TV specs and features
YouTube TV gives you unlimited—yes, unlimited—cloud DVR space. But not forever; YouTube will dump your saved recordings after nine months. Still, that’s a generous amount of space, and you’ll be able to stream your recorded programming from anywhere on your mobile device.
Fast-forwarding through commercials in recorded shows is quick and intuitive, but there’s no skipping ads with YouTube TV’s on-demand programming. Even in the brave new world of streaming TV, you still can’t escape Swiffer spots.
YouTube TV gives you three simultaneous streams across streaming TV devices, computers, tablets, and phones. Conveniently, this counts within the same home network and outside of it, even while traveling throughout the US.
Unfortunately, YouTube TV can’t be accessed internationally—you’ll just have to go enjoy the beach or the museum, instead. Sorry.
A useful feature of YouTube TV is the ability to set up individual Family Sharing profiles. In addition to the original profile (which is set up through a Google account), Family Sharing lets five more people establish their own customizable profiles through their own Google accounts. Viewing preferences, DVR, and watch history are unique, and visible only to each account.
Those five accounts will still have to share just three streams, though. Bummer.
Compatible streaming devices
Despite the universality of YouTube, YouTube TV isn’t available on some devices—namely, PlayStation and Nintendo.
But, there’s good news for Prime people: YouTube TV support for Amazon Fire devices will be coming back online in late 2019 after an extended absence.
YouTube TV is supported on these devices:
Video and audio quality
YouTube TV streams in 720p at 60 fps (frames per second), the same HD quality as cable/satellite providers and most of the other streaming TV services you’re accustomed to.
Unlike other services, YouTube TV doesn’t currently stream any content in 4K HD or HDR (high dynamic range) quality. Don’t worry; the cat videos we talked about earlier still look as cute as ever.
YouTube TV’s content streams with standard 2.0 stereo audio, but Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound (the audio quality you get with Blu-ray discs) isn’t yet available with the service.
Here’s a cool YouTube TV customization feature: You can arrange channels however you like. What? Brace yourselves, television traditionalists: YouTube TV, like other streaming TV services, doesn’t assign numbers to its channels. You can, however, bring order to this anarchy by stacking your preferred channels to the top of the grid for quick access.
YouTube TV also comes with killer search capabilities, thanks to its association with a plucky little startup called Google. You’ve probably heard of it.
Our final take: YouTube TV does TV (mostly) right
Despite a few shortcomings, YouTube TV is a serious contender in the streaming wars. It doesn’t carry several popular live channels, but the unlimited DVR, customizable features, and mid-level pricing could do right by first-time cord-cutters.
Plus, you already know how to use it—it may be live TV, but it’s also still YouTube.