YouTube TV: live streaming that easily replaces cable

youtube-tv

What is YouTube TV?

YouTube TV delivers a crisp picture, a slick user interface and a great channel selection at a reasonable price.

Networks like AMC and ESPN make up the 40+ channel lineup. Other perks like Cloud DVR make the $35 per month subscription an easy sell.

Once Google expands YouTube TV to more cities across the U.S., competitors might need to worry. Google’s debut in the live streaming TV market might also be a blow to Sony, which just changed some of its channel offerings and raised prices $10 per month for PlayStation Vue.

YouTube TV subscribers get 6 accounts for their household, unlimited Cloud DVR and the ability watch live TV at home or on the go from a smartphone.

How I tested YouTube TV

For this review, I used a NVIDIA Shield TV, which has a built-in Chromecast, and a Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone. I also watched YouTube TV on my PC and had two simultaneous streams going at once to see whether there would be any lag or interruptions. (There wasn’t.)

I tested out YouTube TV with a 14-day free trial offered to new customers. The trial period is twice as long as ones offered by competitors. And you won’t need nearly that much time to decide whether the service is right for you.

How do you live stream YouTube TV?

Streaming YouTube TV to a television is, at least for now, somewhat limited.

You need to cast the live TV feed from a smartphone or tablet using Chromecast, or Airplay on an Apple TV. But like I just said, I used a NVIDIA Shield TV and cast it from my smartphone. I was impressed with the picture quality and the user interface, which I will explain in more detail below.

According to Cnet, YouTube TV plans on expanding the number of compatible devices later in 2017. I expect to see devices like Roku and Amazon Fire TV get their own apps along with Android TV.

UPDATE [Feb. 6, 2018]: YouTube TV now has app support for Roku and Apple TV.

What channels does YouTube TV have?

Where I live in Boston, the 40+ channel bundle that’s advertised actually comes to 52 channels total. Channel lineups will vary some from city to city. But to give you an idea of what your channel selection might look like, here’s what I got.

YouTube TV Channels
CBSESPN News
ABCNBCSN
NBCUniverso
FOXOlympic Channel
CWFreeForm
CBSDisney
TelemundoDisney XD
CNSDisney Junior
FOX DeportesSprout
FS1NESN
FS2YES
FOX NewsFOX Business
AMCIFC
USAFXX
FXNational Geographic
ESPNNat Geo Wild
ESPN 2Sundance TV
ESPN UWE TV
Big Ten NetworkBBC America
SEC ESPNSyFy
CNBCChiller
BBC World NewsFXM
E!Golf Channel
BravoNewsy
OxygenTennis Channel
CBS Sports NetworkYouTube Red

Does YouTube TV have HGTV?

If you’re a fan of HGTV, Travel Channel, A&E or History Channel, you’re out of luck for now. Channels owned by Viacom like MTV and Spike are also not in the mix. These aren’t huge deal breakers for me personally, but their absence is worth noting. I expect more channels to be added once Google gains subscribers and broadens YouTube TV’s availability.

What local channels are on YouTubeTV?

I’ve never put much stock into the decision by streaming giants like PlayStation Vue or Sling TV to pursue local channels.

It always felt a little out of touch with cord cutters who use a TV antenna for locals, while unnecessarily driving up costs. But YouTube TV has been wise with choosing their local channels, particularly in the arena of sports.

Getting regional sports networks are a worthy investment. But getting a privately-owned sports network like New England Sports Network (NESN) really goes the extra mile. What’s happening in Boston might be a sign where YouTube hopes to make some headway among its competitors.

Here’s why.

Putting NESN together with Comcast SportsNet New England in the Boston channel lineup is a much-needed salve for those suffering overpriced cable bills.

The rates people pay just to get NESN alone have been a longstanding sore spot throughout the New England region, but particularly in Boston. That’s because Comcast has operated for years in the city proper with near monopoly-like proportions.

Under their rule, if you wanted to watch the Red Sox or Boston Bruins play at home, NESN was your only outlet.

And the price for many was on Comcast’s terms with little or no alternative. 

Verizon Fios, which has been slowly expanding into the city’s fringes this year, hasn’t exactly been a bargain, either.

One friend who lives nearby just dumped his Comcast subscription when it reached $200 per month. (He’s subscribing to PlayStation Vue now to get NESN.) Out of the half dozen live streaming platforms offered in my region, PlayStation Vue is the only other one that added NESN to its channel lineup.

In other words, Google has done its homework, and it’s become a lot clearer why big cable companies often gripe about the company.

I’m curious to see whether Google will be just as smart in other parts of the country with locals that they chose to buy rights for. What channels would you like to see?

Does YouTube TV have HBO?

No, not at the moment. You can currently add Showtime as an add-on for another $11 per month, or Fox Soccer Plus for $15 per month. You could always opt for a separate HBO Now account if you wanted to watch Game of Thrones or other popular shows.

There are less expensive routes to getting Showtime than going with YouTube TV. If you already subscribe to Amazon Prime, you can get Showtime for 9 bucks a month.  An Amazon Prime subscriptioncan also get you some older HBO shows like The Wire.

How does YouTube TV’s menu work?

The “Home” section of the menu has 11 categories showing popular live TV that’s currently on and customized suggestions for what to record or watch. You will find movies that are available on-demand that are provided through your channel bundle. Original programming from YouTube Red, and what’s trending on good old fashioned YouTube can be found here as well. YouTube Red is a separate subscription service, but some of its original content is on YouTube TV at no extra cost.

The Live TV menu runs vertically on your PC or smartphone screen. It feels a lot cleaner than the standard horizontally framed menus that I have used on other live streaming services. It left me with the impression that YouTube is taking a mobile-first approach to television.

I was impressed with the search function in the upper right hand corner of the screen. Search is where Google shines and YouTube TV users reap the benefits. You can find favorite shows, sports teams, movie and directors. Even more granular searches for a particular season or episode are possible.

The help section is pretty novel, especially when using YouTube TV in a browser because you can type in questions.

What’s the picture quality on YouTube TV?

At the moment, YouTube TV runs at 30 frames per second. That might be noticeable for sports fans, but I didn’t notice any issues with picture quality while watching a few Red Sox games. The action looked fluid and clear. Watching a show in-browser experience with Google Chrome appeared just as good.

YouTube TV vs PlayStation Vue vs Sling TV vs DirecTV Now

It’s worth mentioning again that YouTube TV only works on Chromecast and Airplay, so that will be a non-starter for some people. Putting that aside for a minute, here’s how YouTube TV stacks up against other live streaming services that I’ve tested.

 

  • PlayStation Vue has one of the best user experiences and channel lineups around. YouTube TV is a serious contender because its coming in at a lower cost and matches some PS Vue options like unlimited Cloud DVR storage. PS Vue lets you stream on five devices simultaneously, which is a value for a household with multiple TVs going at once.

 

  • Sling TV certainly provides a lot of value for $20 per month with the Orange channel bundle. But if you’re looking to get Cloud DVR, that’s going to cost another $5 per month for 50 hours of space. If you go for an add-on channel bundle for $5 per month, you may want to see if YouTube TV is a better value for you.

 

  • DirecTV Now has an impressive entry-level subscription that gives you 60+ channels for $35 per month. Cloud DVR is coming, but it’s unknown whether that will cost more. DirecTV Now, for now, has more apps that you can authenticate compared to YouTube TV.

 

  • fuboTV has Cloud DVR and some local CBS, NBC and FOX. They also have some general entertainment channels like HGTV, A&E, Travel Channel and Viceland, all channels that YouTube TV lacks. fuboTV is likely a better value for those who are focused on sports, but can live without ESPN.

How many devices can I simultaneously stream with YouTube TV?

You can stream on three devices simultaneously. Each account allows up to six users to earmark favorite shows and store content on Cloud DVR.

Does YouTube TV have on-demand shows and movies?

Yes. YouTube TV does a pretty good job with having a decent selection of on-demand content. You might not find a full season of your favorite show. But there’s enough to play catch up when you’re behind. While we’re on the topic, you might notice that YouTube will use on-demand content sometimes when you have marked a show to be recorded to Cloud DVR. The downside of that is you won’t be able to skip through commercials sandwiched into on-demand content.

Shows and movies that are saved on Cloud DVR remain there for 9 months before being erased.

Can YouTube TV authenticate apps?

A YouTube TV account can authenticate about 23 TV Everywhere apps for channels including AMC, Bravo, BBC America, FX Now and USA. These are apps that have been discovered by users, so there could be more. Right now, YouTube TV lets you sign in to slightly more apps than Sling TV or Hulu with Live TV. fuboTV supports about 31 apps for TV Everywhere. DirecTV gives you access to about 45 apps, and PlayStation Vue remains the king of app authentication at 67.

Is YouTube TV worth it?

The biggest downside about YouTube TV is that it’s only available in about half of the country right now. That won’t last for long. Like I said earlier, YouTube TV will likely be available on more common streaming devices like Roku in the near future. Any live streaming service that wants a dominate share of the market will have to roll out support for pretty much every way possible. YouTube has taken a different approach to starting out, and at the moment, it comes across as the smartest so far.



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Summary
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14 Comments on YouTube TV: live streaming that easily replaces cable

  1. I used the 30 day YouTube TV trial when it first appeared. I like the ease of use, plenty of channels and the DVR features. However, with 3 Roku streaming devices on the household, we are not interested in having to use Google Chromecast.

  2. One question is will 10M net give me a good quality picture? And my main question is how this works on a pc browser which I prefer as with my Pvue I can’t get stutter free sports on my pc when it does on my firestick. Also is the dvr really a dvr or is utube making commercials of some kind mandatory in the recordings? If I pay for content I should be able to delete commercials. In the late 70’s or early 80’s they told us you will now pay for tv but you won’t have commercials. BS. Within a few years cable tv was not only full of commercials but they doubled the amount over the 60’s and 70’s standard. We should have all revolted at that time. The companies are all working on ways to slip in more advertising and make it harder to avoid it. I think maybe soon there will be no dvr options and everything will be available on demand but those will be set up so you can’t avoid most or all of the commercials. It will be back to finding a way to record them on our own if we can. There is no end to the evil perpetrated by greedy people.

    • You will need at least 3Mbps for optimal streaming, according to YouTube TV. I was impressed with the interface on the PC while I was using Chrome. If you DVR a show, then you can fast forward through commercials. Sometimes on-demand content is used to substitute for what you want to DVR. In that case, then you’re stuck with commercials. Commercials are a pain for sure. I’ve been thinking about writing something on how I generally use commercial time. I always mute the volume, even if I’m leaving the room. Bathroom breaks, getting a drink, other menial tasks are generally performed if I can’t avoid a series of commercials.

      • Ok great. I had wondered if the requirement wasn’t as high as some others as regular you tube videos are fine even on a slow connection. I do think that maybe my pc problems with Vue is my video card, still testing on that all. Two things with commercials. So many of them are beyond obnoxious with the loudness, all of the flashing and the pure moron factor of them. And I have no problem with people making money but look at these big companies profits. It’s obscene what they are pulling in. How much do you need to make? Like I say evil. I think I will be going to UTubeTV in a month when my Vue goes up another $10. Thanks.

  3. I think this may have been explained in the articles, but I wanted to know about youtubetv and my ip address. I have an isp that seems to have to change my ip address every week or two and that messes up my access with Pvue. Gets to be a pain. If this happens when I go to youtubetv will I have a problem there also? Thanks.

    • I’m not sure how a changing IP address will play out, but I do believe you’ll have less trouble with YouTube TV than PS Vue.

      Here’s why: YouTube TV has approached their platform with a mobile-first approach so that you can watch more outside your home. Sony has been more strict with what can be watched outside of your home network — mostly due to rights deals the company secured.

      I’ll be curious to hear what you think of YouTube TV once you try it out.

      • With Pvue I can kind of deal with a lot of the idiosyncracies and glitches but playback is the worst problem. I do get slowdowns at times but usually get near 10M net. The firestick will play sports action clear down to about 7m, but every browser I have tried will not play without some stutter with motion even at full speed. My pc plays all kinds of other streams/media fine. I prefer to use my pc for viewing instead of any device that ties me to the tv screen. (which is also used as a pc monitor).

        I see on the youtubetv so maybe I will be better off there. I have this feeling youtubetv will be good for me, but then I sure have been disappointed time after time from various media sources. If cable or satellite would be reasonable I wouldn’t mess around with the last choice for content, the net. I will be on to youtubetv in early november and I will probably be talking about it good or bad. Thanks for your help.

  4. I live in the Nashville TN area. I am trying the 1 week trial. I am getting all four local networks here. I am middle aged and not tech savvy on TV. YouTube nailed it! The ease of finding a show or recording something is there. The video quality of the live tv is superb. Far better video quality of my local networks than on Comcast or att U-verse. Youtube tv is something I expected Apple to come out with. This is the nail in the coffin for $150 plus cable bills. All you need is internet service above 25 MB’s (more if you have kids). I am really impressed with the on demand movie selection as well.

  5. I’m a new cordcutter, and gave YouTubeTV a try.

    The good news:
    1) It has CBS (some Internet TV sources don’t)
    2) Infinite DVR, for 5 independent household members.

    The bad:
    1) Compulsory commercials even on “DVR” content. (Basically it is NOT a DVR! it is just access to the “on demand” offering that the channel provides.)
    2) I really WANTED to love my Chromecast, but after trying them side by side for months, FireTV — with a remote control and on-screen scrolling — just won me (and my wife) over, compared to Chromecast’s “have to do EVERYTHING through your smart phone.”

    I’m a total Google and Android fanboy… so it hurts me to say: sorry YouTubeTV; sorry Chromecast: the competition has you beat.

    • I don’t really have much doubt that all of the content providers are going to work more towards on demand and setting those up to where we are stuck with however it is set up. Pause may work, rewind may cause you to completely start over and likely no fast forward. Do you know if for now the reason you are getting the on demand type dvr’d recording as the shows you are dvr’ing are actually available on demand so that is what you get as the system default? I bet that is what it is although I wouldn’t put it past these control loving and greedy providers to tell us we have a dvr when in fact we don’t. I am already planning to find a true dvr system outside the provider that will interface for the future as they are going to deny us our true dvr down the road.

  6. Yeah but until UTubeTV fixes the IP for location problems I will be going somewhere else. From what they have told me and what I am finding in practice is they calculate your location for the local channels by your IP listed location. Right, I am a few miles from the portland oregon metro area. My IP address is almost always coming from in central western washington state, about 150 miles away. And also in locations that YTTV says they don’t service even though I bet the people that can smell my IP address get the seattle washington networks right off their rabbit ears.. Sorry if my ISP has their facilities there I am not there. YTTV needs to fix their contracts with the affiliates so I can get my local or some kind of major networks as I would be paying for them. PyouVue can do this. DirectTVNow has told me I will be ok so I am going to try them also.

  7. I currently have Sling — and couldn’t even get the MLB World Series because of no Fox in my area (Boston). My question is, I want to be able to watch New England Patriots on Sunday — will Youtube TV hit me with local blackouts?? I’m currently trying it for free — and loving the quality (not even a comparison to Sling). But concerned about blackouts.

    • Hey Brian,
      I have YouTube TV right now, and don’t have any blackouts. So you’ll be able to get the Patriots, no problem.

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