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|
|FOX News||FOX Business|
|ESPN||Nat Geo Wild|
|ESPN 2||Sundance TV|
|ESPN U||WE TV|
|Big Ten Network||BBC America|
|BBC World News||FXM|
|CBS Sports Network||YouTube 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.
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.
Founder and Editor of The Cord Cutting Report. Before launching the site in 2016, he worked for more than two decades as a staff writer or correspondent for a number of daily newspapers, including The Boston Globe. His enthusiasm for tech began with the Atari 2600. Follow @james_kimble