What is YouTube TV? Here’s everything you need to know

YouTube TV is Google’s answer to AT&T TV Now and Hulu + Live TV, offering access to a myriad of live programming for $50 per month at the most basic level. That may seem a little steep, but Big G has done an awful lot to set its live TV streaming service aside from the competition, with the most notable being its cloud-based DVR. Wondering whether it’s worth your hard-earned cash? Here’s the low-down.

What is YouTube TV?

Launched in 2017, YouTube TV was restricted to a small number of locations in the United States up until 2019 when a large expansion introduced support for all 210 markets in the region. Despite that, the selection of channels has remained somewhat limited, compared to the likes of AT&T TV Now and Sling TV. But don’t let that deter you — it is brimming with features that make up for what it is lacking in selection.

There are some things you’re going to want to keep in mind, though. First, YouTube TV is a standalone service; while Hulu blends live programing into its standard on-demand streaming service, Google houses it on a server outside of the standard YouTube circle. What does that mean for you? Well, you’re going to need to install separate YouTube and YouTube TV applications on your streaming devices.

Second, the number of devices YouTube TV is available on is somewhat limited. Most 4K TVs, for example, don’t support it out of the box, meaning you’ll have to hook up a set-top box with streaming abilities or a dedicated streaming stick. Famously, Sony doesn’t offer PlayStation 4 owners the option to use any live TV streaming service other than PlayStation Vue, so you can also rule out tuning in from a PS4.

Supported devices

While the list of supported devices isn’t quite extensive as, say, that of Sling TV, chances are you have a device nearby that can run YouTube TV. It’s available on Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, Roku OS, and Xbox One. It also works with smart televisions from market leaders LG and Samsung manufactured in 2016 and onward, all Vizio SmartCast TVs, all models of the Xbox One, and Android and iOS.

Want to see if your device is on the list? Head over to Google’s website.

Features

Out of all the various features baked into YouTube TV, one stands out from the crowd: Cloud DVR. Granted, that’s a tool that most live TV streaming services offer these days, but Google has hit the nail on the head offering a more natural experience — letting you record as much content as you want, which can be stored for up to nine months at an end, putting an end to the storage limits that most competitors impose.

If you’ve been searching around and stumbled upon another article before winding up here, chances are it explained one rather frustrating issue with the DVR that resulted in it substituting your recorded content for the on-demand version, if Google had recorded it itself. Usually, that wouldn’t be an issue, except you couldn’t skip commercials on the on-demand recordings. Fortunately, that’s now (almost) an issue of the past.

We lightly use the word almost because out of oodles of networks listed on YouTube TV, there are a handful that have refrained from agreeing to let users skip the advertisements. So, if you sign up, there’s a chance you’ll run into the issues, but it’s nowhere near as prevalent as it used to be. Just put it this way, if you’re using the light version of Hulu, you’re going to be seeing a lot more ads than you would on YouTube TV.

Like most streaming services, YouTube TV also offers its customers the option to watch tune into the content on multiple screens at once. To be specific, you’ll have the option to create up to six sub-accounts for family members, of which three can watch at the same time. There is no option to upgrade to a higher plan, either — so that’s a firm cap at three streams at the same time, but that should be more than enough for most families.

Channels and pricing

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In terms of content selection, YouTube TV is home to most of the same channels as AT&T TV Now and Sling TV. Where it lags behind, though, is in the pricing department — because it’s a lot more simple to use, Google commands a $50 per month for the privilege. There are a few optional channels on offer, which will set you back more per month, but you won’t find pre-made packages as you do on the others.

Below, you’ll find a list of the channels available on the service as of July 2019. In addition to these channels, PBS has announced its main PBS channel and PBS Kids will be joining YouTube TV later in 2019, with its entire roster of shows available on-demand, as well as live streaming. As is the case with any streaming service, the local channels available to you depend on the deals YouTube TV has secured for your area.

Broadcast and cable networks

  • ABC
  • AMC
  • Animal Planet
  • BBC America
  • BBC World News
  • Big News
  • Big Ten Network
  • Bravo
  • BTN
  • Cartoon Network
  • CBS
  • CBS Sports Network
  • Cheddar
  • Chiller
  • CNBC
  • CNN
  • Comcast RSN (regional)
  • Comet
  • Decades
  • Discovery
  • Disney Channel
  • Disney Junior
  • Disney XD
  • E!
  • ESPN
  • ESPN2
  • ESPNews
  • ESPNU
  • Fox
  • Fox Business
  • Fox News
  • Fox RSN (regional)
  • Freeform
  • FS1
  • FS2
  • FX
  • FXM
  • FXX
  • Golf Channel
  • HLN
  • IFC
  • LA Football Club
  • MLB Network
  • MotorTrend
  • MSNBC
  • MyNetworkTV
  • Nat Geo
  • Nat Geo Wild
  • NBATV
  • NBC
  • NBCSN
  • NECN
  • NESN
  • Newsy
  • Olympic Channel
  • Orlando City Soccer Club
  • Oxygen
  • Pop
  • Seattle Sounders FC
  • SEC Network
  • Smithsonian Channel
  • SNY
  • SundanceTV
  • SyFy
  • Tastemade
  • TBS
  • TCM
  • Telemundo
  • Tennis Channel
  • TLC
  • Travel Channel
  • The CW
  • TruTV
  • TYT
  • Universal HD
  • Universal Kids
  • Universo
  • USA
  • WE tv
  • YES Network
  • YouTube Red Originals

Add-ons

  • AMC Premiere, $5 per month
  • CuriosityStream, $3 per month
  • Fox Soccer Plus, $15 per month
  • NBA League Pass, $40 per month
  • Showtime, $7 per month
  • Shudder, $5 per month
  • Starz, $9 per month
  • Sundance Now, $7 per month

Viewing experience

When it comes to the viewing experience, YouTube TV takes the biscuit. It’s fluid, with the interface remaining consistent across console, desktop, mobile device, and television. Sure, there are some minor changes here and there to account for software limitations (title previewers are network logos on Apple TV, rather than the live video that’s present on desktop and mobile, for example), but that’s to be expected.

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During our testing, video was clear and crisp, though we did occasionally notice a Netflix-esque ramp-up in resolution, where a channel would start streaming and would look degraded, with the quality gradually increasing over the course of a few seconds. But again, that’s to be expected from every streaming service — it all depends on your internet connection at that precise moment in time, as explained here.

Our take

Right off the bat, it’s clear that YouTube TV is absolutely a great choice for YouTube fans, thanks to its inclusion of YouTube Originals. This isn’t going to be a big deal for a lot of people, but if you’re a fan of a creator who is doing content for YouTube Originals, it could be. The consistent viewing experience across the board, even on mobile, also makes it a must-have for anyone who does most of their viewing on the go.

For everyone else, it all comes down to channel count. There’s a lot here, but there’s also a significant amount missing. You’ll need to comb through the full list of supported channels available in your area to ultimately decide whether it’s right for you. If your favorite network is missing from the list and isn’t available as an add-on, you’re going to want to turn your attention towards AT&T TV Now, Hulu, or PlayStation Vue.

Obviously, the best way to see if it’s right for you is to put it through its paces. You don’t have to hand over $50 to do that, though — Google offers all prospective customers a one-week free trial. To take advantage of it, though, you’re going to want to register on a desktop using a web browser. For some strange reason, signing up on an iPad or iPhone — and in some cases, even an Android device — skips the trial offer.

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