YouTube TV is a live TV streaming service. It has only one plan but it does provide most of the channels that you would expect in a cable package. But it also has a lot of competition. Read on to learn everything you need to know about YouTube’s channel lineup.
In a hurry? If you are looking for raw channels (especially sports-oriented ones), you are probably better off with FuboTV. For pure flexibility and low cost, Sling TV stands alone. And Hulu + Live TV offers a similar package to YouTube TV but with an outstanding on-demand library.
The following will help you decide if YouTube TV is right for you.
Table Of Contents
YouTube TV is a full cable replacement service. At $64.99/mo, it comes with local network stations across all of the US, some regional sports, almost all the national basic cable TV channels you’d expect, and a number of premium add-on services.
It also has fairly standard features like the ability to watch on up to three screens at the same time, cloud DVR, and an intuitive interface for choosing live or on-demand content. The devil is in the details, though — which channels does it carry, and possibly more importantly, what channels are missing? Let’s take a closer look.
First up, the Achilles heel of OTT streaming services, local networks. Pay TV channels — Discovery, Bravo, Lifetime, MTV, Disney, and so forth — are typically owned by a single media company. And they are distributed nationally (or internationally) through that company. But commercial broadcast networks — ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, and so on — are made up of dozens of local stations regulated by complex rules created and amended over nearly a century of TV.
If you want to carry Discovery, you talk to Discovery Communications and work out an agreement. Now you have Discovery for all your subscribers anywhere in the country. But if you want to carry ABC, you have to negotiate with Disney (parent company of ABC) and all the various ABC-affiliated stations throughout the country.
Some might not be interested at all, some might ask for too high a price. Some areas might not even have a local affiliate for a particular network (this is more common with the smaller networks like The CW and UniMás).
And all this individual contracting gets expensive. This is why, for example, bargain service Philo has no local networks in its lineup while big players like Hulu, Fubo, and DirecTV do.
Assuming that (a) there is a local affiliate for a given network in your area and (b) the affiliate is willing to be carried by YouTube TV, you can watch these networks:
It’s a pretty complete list; only FuboTV has close to the same scope of local networks. Coverage of Univision and The CW is spotty and UniMás isn’t carried by the others.
YouTube TV is the only streaming service to offer PBS. This isn’t a huge deal because you can get PBS free on its own, through its website or app.
Regional Sports Networks
YouTube TV has a handful of regional sports networks (RSNs), but not a lot;. not as many as FuboTV and nowhere close to DIRECTV STREAM. Basically, they have the NBC Sports regional networks, but are missing everything else — the Bally RSNs (formerly Fox Sports and now owned by Sinclair Broadcasting), AT&T SportsNet, and Spectrum Sports.
Hulu + Live TV offers the same RSNs as YouTube TV. FuboTV offers about twice as many. But if you are outside the coverage area of that support, you will need to upgrade to the DIRECTV STREAM Choice plan for $89.99/mo.
YouTube TV’s strength is its variety of channels. Its weakness is that nothing particularly stands out. Here’s a complete list of channels, subdivided by genre. As you can see, it’s a little heavy on the live sports and news, because for many people, those are the biggest reasons for getting a live TV provider in the first place. But those certainly aren’t all it has.
General Entertainment (24)
- Court TV
- Law & Crime
- Start TV
The breakdown is pretty typical. Note that two of these channels are Spanish-language: NBC Universo and Galavisión.
The Sports Plus add-on gives you 16 additional sports channels. The highlight here is NFL Redzone but there are other impressive channels:
- NFL RedZone
- Outside TV+
- Stadium College
Then there are all the various premium networks. These come a la carte and are priced individually. While most are under $10, they go as high as NBA League Pass for $39.99/mo.
Add-on Premium Networks:
- Acorn TV*
- Comedy Dynamics
- Fox Nation
- Hallmark Movies*
- HBO Max*
- IFC Films Unlimited*
- Law & Crime*
- NBA League Pass*
- Sundance Now*
- UPFaith & Family
- WE tv+.
Most of these are primarily on-demand services, many are available on their own. Some have live TV components, like HBO/HBO Max, Cinemax, Showtime, and Starz, which give you access to at least one (usually more) of their associated live channels.
You also have the odd option of subscribing to a number of the a la carte options through YouTube TV without a YouTube TV base package. The only real advantage to this is to have them all in the same place under the same UI instead of all their own little apps.
The channels that allow this are marked with an asterisk (*) in the table above. FYI, if you go without a base package, you can’t get or continue these add-ons:
- 4K Plus
- Sports Plus
- Entertainment Plus
There is a lot of competition in the live TV streaming business. Every service has advantages and disadvantages.
The industry has consolidated in many ways, however. One is in terms of streaming devices. Most of them support the main devices in use: Amazon Fire TV, Android, Apple TV, Chromecast, iOS, LG, Roku, Samsung, and Vizio smart TVs, Xbox gaming system.
- Hulu + Live TV: A fairly comparable service in terms of price (the same) and number of channels (roughly the same). Hulu’s Live TV is missing The CW from its local lineup, but its geographic coverage is slightly better. Also, you won’t find any AMC Networks channels (AMC, Sundance TV, IFC, Allblk, weTV), but Hulu has the A&E channels, better original programming, and a bigger library of on-demand content. See our Hulu + Live TV review for more details.
- FuboTV: Also a comparable service to both Hulu + Live TV and YouTube TV. Same price, more channels, but a higher percentage of those channels are sports networks. It has more RSNs. And since it was created to provide access to soccer matches that weren’t otherwise making it to the US, it shouldn’t be surprising that its international sports coverage is much better. For more information, see our FuboTV review.
- DIRECTV STREAM: Although more expensive with fewer channels, it has better geographical coverage of local channels, it has many advantages. In particular, it is the king of RSNs, provide access to every one except for NBC Sports Philadelphia. Our DIRECTV STREAM review has more information. It also offers great options.
- Sling TV: If you like the options, but don’t have the budget, Sling TV is nothing but options, starting at $35/mo. It doesn’t have ABC and CBS, but you can still get NBC and Fox, and you can watch all four if you’re willing set up a free antenna (with the purchase of two months). Read our Sling TV review.
- Vidgo: A cheaper streaming service ($59.95/mo) with great coverage of NCAA sports in its 100+ channel lineup and some local channels. Our Vidgo review has more.
- Philo: If you look at the bigger services like YouTube TV and wonder who on earth needs that many sports and news channels, then you should take a look at Philo. It offers little sports and BBC World News as its sole news channel. But it provides over 60 channels for just $25/mo. See our Philo review.
There are lots of ways for cord-cutters to get the channels they want. YouTube TV works best for large, busy, diverse households that need a service that’s a jack-of-all-trades with unlimited cloud DVR, 6 profiles, and 3 simultaneous streams. YouTube TV offers a free 7-day trial but they increase that length from time to time for promotions.
If you’re a serious sports fan, though, FuboTV is probably better suited to you. If you want those sweet, sweet Bally Sports RSNs, DIRECTV STREAM is your only option. And if you want something similar to YouTube TV but with different strengths, Hulu + Live TV is an excellent option.