YouTube has come a really long way: from being the place where you could see a couple of guys recreate the Las Vegas Bellagio fountains with Diet Coke and Mentos, to being able to replace your cable or satellite company as your TV provider.
In a hurry? YouTube TV is a solid live TV streaming service. People looking for an overall entertainment package may find Hulu + Live TV a better option. International sports fans should go with FuboTV. Local MLB, NBA, and NHL fans will be best served with DIRECTV STREAM. And if cost is a factor, Sling TV is an excellent choice.
Table Of Contents
YouTube was late to the live TV streaming party. Launched nationwide in 2019, YouTube TV features a full line of basic cable channels, options for premium channel add-ons, on-demand shows and movies, and a cloud DVR system. It costs $64.99/mo.
YouTube TV is currently the second-most popular live TV streaming service in the US, after Hulu + Live TV. Let’s break it down by pros and cons.
YouTube TV Overview
|✔ Good channel lineup||❌ Small on-demand library|
|✔ Unlimited cloud DVR||❌ Expensive 4K add-on|
|✔ 6 users and 3 screen||❌ Limited RSN availability|
YouTube TV has one base plan with over 85 channels, including all local network affiliates. As is standard with internet streaming TV, there is no contract; you can cancel anytime you want. Note that if you cancel within your free trial, your subscription ends immediately (so you can’t sign up and then cancel immediately to make sure you don’t accidentally miss the end of the trial).
There are also several add-ons you can use to customize the base plan. Some of these are individual premium networks like Showtime or Starz while others are bundles of channels, such as Sports Plus or Entertainment Plus. There are even a couple sports passes, such as the NBA League Pass and MLB.TV.
YouTube TV gives you a standard 3 screens watchable at a time and a 6 profiles per account. Cloud DVR is included and unlimited (9-month time limit). Several features are upgradable by purchasing the 4K Plus upgrade, which we discuss below.
YouTube TV offers a free trial. By default, it is one week. But it longer trials are offered from time to time. It also offers deals like low-cost months to start.
YouTube TV has only one base plan. There are many additions you can make to it.
Live TV Channels
YouTube TV does a good job of making sure it has a wide variety of channels. There are sports, news, reality, movies, nature, family and kids, comedy, drama, finance, and Spanish-language channels. It also provides all the local channels in most areas.
The only major media company missing is A&E Networks, which, besides A&E, owns Vice, FYI, Crime + Investigation, Lifetime, and History. So, sorry fans of Ancient Aliens, but you’ll have to look elsewhere.
Also of note is the solid selection of sports channels, with the notable and unfortunate exception of most regional sports networks (RSNs).
YouTube’s on-demand content can be found right on the “Home” tab. It features a large library of movies plus a selection of TV shows from all the different channels available to you. If you subscribe to any premium channels, then its shows are added to your on-demand options.
You can also go to the “Live” tab and click on any channel to see on-demand selections from that channel. On-demand shows from live channels typically contain ads. There is no way to remove or skip them.
Back-seasons of shows, where available, will usually only include the last few seasons of a show. Some shows only have the last few episodes. YouTube TV can keep you updated on your favorite shows, but it’s not a great way to catch up on past seasons for most series.
Popular TV shows include:
- We’re Here
- CMA Country Christmas
- I Am Jazz
- Shipping Wars
- The Sinner
- Trafficked With Mariana van Zeller.
Performance and Experience
YouTube TV streams at 60 fps and 1080p HD wherever available. You can stream on up to 3 devices at a time, which is pretty standard these days. Your DVR storage is unlimited — you can save as many programs as you want. Note, however, that they expire after 9 months. This is still pretty generous since only one other service (Philo) offers unlimited DVR.
Like most modern streaming services, YouTube TV supports most of the streaming devices in use today (with one notable exception):
- Amazon Fire TV
- Android mobile
- Android TV devices
- Apple TV
- Google Smart Displays
- HiSense TVs
- iOS mobile devices (iPhone, iPad)
- LG smart TVs
- Samsung smart TVs
- Sharpe smart TVs
- Sony TVs
- Vizio SmartCast TVs
- Web browsers: Chrome, Firefox, and Safari
- Xbox One
- Xbox Series S/X.
YouTube TV’s interface somewhat resembles the regular YouTube interface. It’s intuitive and easy to use and mostly consistent across platforms.
It’s centered around three main tabs: Home (suggestions based on where you left off, what you watch, and featured content), Library (your DVRs), and Live (your typical grid-style schedule of what’s playing now by channel).
YouTube TV Add-ons
YouTube TV offers a number of add-ons, mostly focused on channels but one that is technology-based.
Like the base channel lineup, there’s a really wide variety. These range from British TV to movies to even some religious/inspirational programming. Prices on these vary a good deal but generally are between $5 and $20/mo.
- Acorn TV
- Comedy Dynamics
- Fox Nation
- Hallmark Movies Now
- HBO Max
- IFC Films Unlimited
- Law & Crime
- NBA League Pass
- Sundance Now
- UPFaith & Family
- WE tv+.
Entertainment Plus is a premium channel bundle of HBO Max, Starz, and Showtime, for $29.99/mo. These are all available separately, as well, but bundling them together saves you $5/mo over subscribing to them individually.
If you subscribe to the Sports Plus package, you also get access to:
- beIN SPORTS
- Billiard TV
- Fox Soccer Plus
- NFL RedZone
- Outside TV
- Stadium College Sports
4K Plus is a $19.99 upgrade that gives you three important benefits.
- 4K Video: You can watch in 4K Ultra HD where available. These programs programs are searchable, and have a 4K icon on them. 4K content is available on the following channels: Discovery, ESPN, FOX Sports, FX, Nat Geo, NBC Sports, and Tastemade. Watching in 4K also requires a device and a broadband network capable of streaming in 4K.
- Unlimited Screens: You get an unlimited number of streams on your home network in addition to the 3 simultaneous streams you get when away from. In other words, you can watch on any number of screens in your home, plus, in addition to that, three users can be watching on other devices (presumably mobile ones) while out and about.
- DVR Download: You are able to download your DVR programs to your mobile device. Not all programs are available for download. You can only download a video to one device at a time, and that video cannot be watched on any other device until it is deleted.
These are great benefits, but $19.99/mo is a little steep, especially when other services offer 4K included in the base package price.
YouTube TV Alternatives
YouTube TV originally launched in five major US media markets in April 2017, the same year Fubo tried out expanding beyond sports and Hulu, beyond on-demand. Sling TV had been out for two years at that time. And AT&T and DirecTV (under various names) were experimenting with different structures and prices.
Over the last several years, all of these services have added channels and raised prices — some more than others.
When it comes to YouTube TV alternatives, Hulu + Live TV is the closest. It doesn’t offer quite as many channels but it does include the outstanding Hulu on-demand library.
Soccer fans especially will probably want to go with FuboTV. And fans of their local MLB, NBA, and NHL teams will probably be better served by DIRECTV STREAM unless they live in the handful of areas YouTube TV provides.
And Sling TV offers two inexpensive plans for those who want some live TV but don’t need a full slate of channels.
Here’s a side-by-side comparison:
|YouTube TV||$64.99||7 days||85+||3||Unlimited|
|Hulu + Live TV||$64.99||7 days||85+||2||50 hrs|
|FuboTV||$64.99||7 days||105+||3||250 hrs|
|Sling Blue*||$35.00||None||40+||3||50 hrs|
|Sling Orange*||$35.00||None||30+||1||50 hrs|
|DIRECTV STREAM**||$69.99||None||75+||20||20 hrs|
Another option is to stick with a collection of on-demand streaming services. Hulu on-demand, Amazon Prime Video, and Netflix will take you a long way. If you want live sports, you could combine it with ESPN+ and maybe Paramount+ or Peacock. There are lots of ways for cord-cutters to get what they want.
YouTube TV works best for families that have divergent TV interests and watching habits. The unlimited DVR means anyone in the household can save as much as they want, six profiles helps keep everyone’s viewing stuff separate, and the sheer variety of channels means all ages and tastes will be able to find at least something to watch.
Overall, its $64.99 price tag is high but fair for what it offers
What are some YouTube Originals
YouTube Originals are shows and movies produced by or for YouTube and can be found exclusively on YouTube Premium and YouTube TV. YouTube TV subscribers have access to YouTube Originals but can subscribe to YouTube Premium to be able to play YouTube Originals and other YouTube videos ad-free.
Some YouTube Original titles:
- Cobra Kai
- Rhett and Link’s Buddy System
- Step Up: High Water
- The Thinning
- The Thinning: New World Order
- Ryan Hanson Solves Crimes on Television
- The Keys of Christmas
What is the difference between YouTube TV and YouTube Premium?
YouTube TV is YouTube’s live TV streaming service. It’s a full cable TV replacement system with 85+ channels. YouTube Premium, formerly YouTube Red, is basically an upgraded regular YouTube account. Benefits include:
- Removal of ads on all YouTube videos and YouTube Music
- Ability to download videos and listen to YouTube Music offline
- Ability to play videos or music in the background, when another app is open or device is locked.
YouTube Premium is $11.99/mo.
Is YouTube TV better than Hulu + Live TV?
Whether YouTube TV or Hulu + Live TV is better depends on your viewing preferences. For example, Hulu + Live TV has A&E, Lifetime, and History — but is missing all the AMC Networks channels (AMC, IFC, Sundance, weTV, BBC America). Hulu probably wins out overall due to its better on-demand library and original content, but it comes down to whatever works best for you and your household.