When you think of streaming video, you think YouTube. And so YouTube TV — Google’s live TV streaming service — very much just makes sense for a lot of people. Designed for those who want to cut the cord and ditch their cable or satellite subscriptions (and known in the industry as a multichannel video programming distributor, or MPVD), YouTube TV competes in the same arena as other streaming television services like DirecTV Stream (formerly known as AT&T TV Now and DirecTV Now), Sling TV, FuboTV, and Hulu With Live TV.
And YouTube TV offers a unique mix of features that make it very appealing, so much so that it’s now the No. 1 service in the U.S. in terms of the number of paid subscribers, with some 5 million subscribers as of June 2022 — up some 2 million from the last time the service gave an update in October 2020. The popularity is due to several factors. YouTube TV is easy to use. It’s got a selection of channels that’s competitive with all its rivals. And the YouTube TV price is competitive, too. You’re able to watch YouTube TV on pretty much any modern device. And the fact that parent company Alphabet (aka Google) has been marketing the heck out of it the past few years certainly hasn’t hurt, either.
It’s also one of the only options if you want to stream any sort of live TV in 4K resolution. More on that in a minute.
And yes, YouTube TV now is home to NFL Sunday Ticket. That’s a big deal.
There’s a lot going on with YouTube TV, and it’s pretty much only gotten better over time.
What is YouTube TV?
In a nutshell, YouTube TV is a live TV streaming service that’s available in the United States. It’s a replacement for a cable or satellite service that’s streamed through the Internet, available on phones, tablets, TV, and web browsers, and it lets you watch TV pretty much as you always have, from anywhere you have an internet connection, at home or on the go.
YouTube TV was restricted to a relatively small number of locations in the United States when it launched in 2017. That changed in 2019 when a large expansion introduced support for all 210 markets. It has also greatly expanded its collection of channels over the years. YouTube TV now boasts more than 110 channels, including the four major national broadcasters — ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox. (Like all streaming services, what’s actually available where you live may vary a tad, so you’ll need to check your ZIP code.)
The line between YouTube TV and YouTube proper remains fairly distinct. You’ll see a bit of the same branding, which makes sense. And YouTube TV is a subdomain of YouTube itself. But you’re not yet seeing things like recommended YouTubers or YouTube Shorts living alongside the likes of ESPN and CNN.
You may, however, find recommendations for movies and shows available to rent or purchase through YouTube itself. Like we said, the lines are there, but blurring more all the time.
Its biggest competition comes in deciding between YouTube TV and Hulu With Live TV.
YouTube TV price and add-ons
Due to a price increase in March 2023, YouTube TV now costs $73 a month (plus tax, which takes things up closer to $77 a month).
That’s not to say that’s all you’ll ever pay for YouTube TV, however. It has a number of optional add-ons that give you more shows and movies and sports to watch — but of course, you’ll pay extra. A new big one is an ability to watch some shows and sports in 4K on YouTube TV.
And there’s now a separate Spanish-only plan (conveniently called the “Spanish Plan”) that’s available for $25 a month for the first six months, and $35 a month after that. It includes beIN ñ, beIN Xtra en Español, Antena 3, NTN 24, Nuestra Tele, TyC Sports, Discovery en Espanol, Discovery Familia, Baby TV Espanol, ESPN Deportes, Nat Geo Mundo, Estrella TV, Fox Deportes, Cine Latino, Pasiones, WAPA América, Cine Mexicano, Sony Cine, Tastemade, CNN Espanol, Bandamax, De Pelicula, De Pelicula Classico, FOROtv, Telehit, Telehit Urbano, and Tlnovelas.
Here are the optional add-ons available with YouTube TV:
- 4K Plus ($5 a month for the first 12 months; $10 after): First made available in June 2021, 4K Plus allows you to watch some content on YouTube TV in 4K resolution. Mostly that means shows and series in on-demand form — things like What We Do In The Shadows, Struggle Meals, American Titans, Snowfall, and more. But where it really starts to shine is with live sports from networks like ESPN, Fox Sports, and NBC Sports. Also, 4K Plus adds offline viewing of recorded shows, plus the ability to watch on as many devices as you want at once on your home network.
- Spanish Plus ($10 for first six months; $15 after): Additional Spanish-language channels, including Antena 3, Baby TV Español, Bandamax, beIN Sports Español, beIN XTRA en Español, Cine Latino, Cine Mexicano, CNNe, De Película, De Película Clásico, Discovery en Español, Discovery Familia, ESPN Deportes, EstrellaTV, FOROtv, Fox Deportes, Nat Geo Mundo, NTN 24, Nuestra Tele, Pasiones, SonyCine, Tastemade en Español, Telehit, Telehit Música, Tlnovelas, TyC Sports, Universo, and WAPA.
- HBO Max ($13 a month): New HBO Max Originals and included networks, plus all the legacy HBO content you know and love.
- HBO ($16 a month): HBO, minus all the Max stuff.
- NBA League Pass ($15 a month, or $50 a year): Comes with a seven-day free trial.
- Sports Plus ($11 a month, or $80 annually): Includes NFL RedZone, BeIN Sports, Fox Soccer Plus, VSiN, Outside TV+, PokerGO+, MAVTV, FanDuel TV, Stadium, Billiard TV, SportsGrid, PlayersTV, Fight Network, IMPACT Wrestling. Comes with a seven-day free trial.
- Entertainment Plus ($30 a month): Includes HBO Max, Showtime, and STARZ.
- Showtime ($11 a month): Premium movies and series. Comes with a seven-day free trial.
- Starz ($9 a month): Premium movies and series.
- Hallmark Movies Now ($6 a month): All the movies and series you love from Hallmark. Comes with a seven-day free trial.
- Cinemax ($10 a month): Premium movies and series. Comes with a seven-day free trial.
- MGM+ ($6 a month): All the best from the legendary studio.
- STARZ + MGM+ ($12 a month): A bundle of the two services.
- CuriosityStream ($3 a month): Science-type shows. Comes with a 14-day free trial.
- ViX+ ($7 a month): Spanish-language content from TelevisaUnivision.
- Pantaya ($6 a month): Spanish-language movies and series.
- Fox Nation ($6 a month): The streaming service from Fox News.
- ScreenPix ($3 a month): Classic movies from EPIX.
- AMC+ ($8 a month): Additional streaming-only content from AMC.
- Shudder ($6 a month): New and classic horror.
- Sundance Now ($7 a month): The streaming arm of Sundance Channel.
- Here TV ($8 a month): LGBTQ movies and series.
- Acorn TV ($7 a month): British hits.
- IFC Films Unlimited ($6 a month): The best of indie films.
- ALLBLK ($6 a month): Inclusively but unapologetically Black content.
- Docurama ($5 a month): All the documentaries you could want.
- CONtv ($5 a month): Movies, shows, and Comic-Con panels.
- Dove ($5 a month): Christian movies and shows.
- Law & Crime ($2 a month): Live trials and other courtroom news.
- UP Faith & Family ($6 a month): TV shows and movies that are safe for your family and affirm your faith.
- Fandor ($4 a month): The home for cinephiles.
- Screambox ($5 a month): Pure horror.
- Comedy Dynamics ($5 a month): Independent comedy from the Nacelle company.
- VSiN ($4 a month): Sports betting network.
- Outside TV Features ($5 a month): Full-length adventure sports films.
- The Great Courses ($8 a month): Learn all the things about all the things.
- MovieSphere ($5 a month): Lionsgate hits, cult classics and everything in-between.
- MyOutDoorTV ($10 a month): Exclusive series, live events, and more on all things hunting and fishing.
- Tastemade+ ($3 a month): Even more award-winning food, travel, home design, and more.
- PokerGO ($15 a month): Exclusive live poker tournaments.
- Dekkoo ($10 a month): Gay movies and series.
- Magellan TV ($6 a month): Documentaries worth watching.
- Magnolia Selects ($5 a month): Films and series from Magnolia Pictures.
- ATRESplayer ($5 a month): Spanish-language on-demand video from Atresmedia.
- Gaia ($12 a month): Conscious media, streaming yoga videos, and more.
- Topic ($6 a month): Criminally good TV and film from all over the world.
- MHz Choice ($8 a month): The best new international mysteries, dramas, and comedies.
- RCN Total ($5 a month): Premiere movies and more.
YouTube TV channels
Generally speaking, YouTube TV has as competitive a slate of channels — both linear and nonlinear (that is, something other than what you might find on traditional cable TV) — as any of the other comparable offerings. That mostly means Hulu With Live TV, which is the only other streaming service with approximately as many subscribers as YouTube TV.
The devil, as always, is in the details. If YouTube TV has the channel you want, great! If it doesn’t, you’re going to have to look elsewhere. And that’s OK — it’s how competition works.
Here are the channels you can watch as part of the main YouTube TV plan, as of February 2023:
ABC, ABC News Live, ACC Network, AMC, Animal Planet, BBC America, BBC World News, BET, BET Her, Bounce, Bravo, BTN, Cartoon Network, CBS, CBS Sports, Cheddar News, CMT, CNBC, CNN, Comedy Central, Comedy.TV, Comet TV, Court TV, Cozi, Dabl, Discovery Channel, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD, E!, ESPN, ESPN in 4K, ESPN2, ESPNews, ESPNU, Food Network, Fox, Fox Business, Fox News, Fox Soul, Fox Sports 4K, Fox Sports Plus 4K, Fox Weather, Freeform, FS1, FS2, FX, FXM, FXX, Galavision, Game Show Network, GetTV, Golf Channel, Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Drama, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, HGTV, HLN, HSN, ID, IFC, ION, JusticeCentral.TV, LiveNOW, Local Now, MotorTrend, MSNBC, MTV, MTV Classic, MTV2, Nat Ceo, Nat Geo Wild, NBA TV, NBA TV in 4K, NBC, NBC News Now, NBC Sports 4K, NBCLX, NewsNation, NFL Network ,Nick Jr., Nickelodeon, Nicktoons, OWN, Oxygen True Crime, Paramount, PBS, PBS Kids, Pop, QVC, Recipe.TV, Scripps News, SEC Network, Smithsonian Channel, Start TV, Sundance TV, SYFY, Tastemade, TBS, TeenNick, Telemundo, The Weather Channel, TLC, TNT, Travel Channel, truTV, TUDN, Turner Classic Movies, TV Land, TYT Network, UniMas, Universal Kids, Univision, USA, VH1, WE tv.
And one of the cooler features here is that you can hide a channel on YouTube TV if you want. That’ll help keep your guide free of channels you never watch.
YouTube TV and 4K
One of the coolest things about YouTube TV is that it’s one of the easiest streaming services to use. And it should be, given that it’s from the folks who also run the largest streaming video service on the face of the planet. (That’d be YouTube.)
You’ve got control over all sorts of things — including the streaming resolution. While 99% of the time you’re going to want to leave things on Auto, you also can downshift the streaming resolution if you want. That also makes it easy to see what’s streaming in 720p, or 1080p. A lot of the time it’s going to be the former, especially if it’s live sports at 60 frames per second. But we’re seeing more and more 1080p video, which is good.
You also can watch YouTube TV in 4K. Sometimes.
YouTube TV is one of the only first live streaming services in the United States to offer some live content in 4K resolution. (The other is FuboTV.) On the live end of things, you’ll find events from ESPN, Fox Sports, and NBC Sports. There’s also a little bit of on-demand fare available in 4K resolution, too. You’ll find 4K streams from Discovery, FX, Nat Geo, and Tastemade.
All in all, YouTube TV’s video is pretty comparable to other live services. You might get a lower resolution for a few seconds before the buffer fills out and hits max capacity. And it all depends on the strength of your home network, and the speed of your ISP, in addition to the way YouTube TV and its content providers are offering the show or movie or sport in the first place. There are a lot of moving parts here. It’s also important to note that 4K streaming isn’t available on every single piece of hardware. But to date, you’ll be able to get it on Chromecast with Google TV, 4K-capable Roku devices, the 2021 model of Apple TV 4K (the 2017 model will see improved resolution, but not the full 4K), Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K, NVIDIA Shield, and 4K Android TV smart TVs.
YouTube TV and NFL Sunday Ticket
Starting with the 2023-24 season, YouTube TV (as well as YouTube proper) will be home to NFL Sunday Ticket. It’s an optional subscription that gets you access to all out-of-market games, so you don’t have to resort to … other means … to watch.
While we don’t yet know what NFL Sunday Ticket will cost, we do know that it’ll get some sort of discount if you subscribe on YouTube TV, versus on YouTube Prime Channels. For context, a full season of NFL Sunday Ticket cost either $300 or $400 a season on DirecTV. It’s also possible that we’ll see some other subscription options, but we’ll just have to wait for more details on that.
NFL Red Zone — basically a live, in-game highlight channel for scoring opportunities — also will be available, but that will be an additional optional subscription, just like all the other add-ons. No word yet on what that will cost, either.
What can you watch YouTube TV on?
The short answer here is that if you’ve got a relatively modern phone, tablet, TV, or computer, there’s a better than even chance that you’ll be able to use it to watch YouTube TV.
Mobile is easy — YouTube TV is available on Android (so long as it’s got access to Google’s apps), as well as on iPhones. That extends to tablets, too.
As more and more smart televisions employ their own operating systems and apps, YouTube TV has kept up with its availability. Native apps are available on TVs from Samsung, LG, Vizio, Hisense, Sharp, and Sony. (And that includes anything that’s using Android TV as the operating system.)
Streaming media players are supported as well, and YouTube TV covers the gamut. It’s available on Roku and Amazon Fire TV, which takes care of the two most popular options in the world. YouTube TV also is available on Chromecast with Google TV and other legacy Android TV devices like NVIDIA Shield. Apple TV also is supported.
Game consoles get love from YouTube, with the service available on Xbox One through the newer Xbox Series X and Series S lines. You also can watch YouTube TV natively on PlayStation 4, PS4 Pro, and on the newer PS5.
You also can watch YouTube TV in a web browser — including Chrome, Firefox, and, finally, Safari.
And if you’re all about the connected home, it’s also easy to watch YouTube TV on the Google Nest Hub and Nest Hub Max.
YouTube TV and Roku
There was a bit of a flap between Roku and YouTube TV in 2021, which is sort of like David taking on Goliath. The short version is that there was a dispute over Roku being allowed to have channels for YouTube and YouTube TV that had something to do with search results on Roku, open-source video codecs (or the lack thereof) in the Roku operating system, and who knows what else. The whole thing kicked off in the spring and was resolved on December 8, 2021, with the two companies signing a multi-year agreement that keeps YouTube on Roku and returns the YouTube TV app to the Roku Channel Store.
The whole thing was a little ridiculous and unnecessary and, thankfully, is over.
YouTube TV features
The ability to watch the same TV channels you’ve always watched is the main feature of a streaming service like YouTube TV. But it’s hardly the only one. You’re also able to watch shows and movies on your own time. You’re able to have customized recommendations, which is a lot more fun than channel surfing. And that’s table stakes — YouTube TV is able to harness the power of Google Assistant and do some other crazy stuff.
Here’s a look at some of the best YouTube TV features you’ll definitely want to take advantage of.
Out of all the features baked into YouTube TV, “Cloud DVR” stands out. And not just because it exists — pretty much every service has the capability to “record” a show or movie and allow you to play it back whenever you want. But most of the other services charge an extra fee for their Cloud DVR service, or at least for additional storage.
Google, on the other hand, gives unlimited recordings, all for free. So long as you keep your subscription, you keep your recordings for up to nine months. That goes for shows, movies, live sports, and other events. And YouTube TV is smart about it. Most recordings extend one minute past their scheduled end time. Sporting events, by default, record an extra 30 minutes — and YouTube TV can even detect if things are going to run longer and extend things from there.
It’s also a true recording, meaning that ads are recorded as they were presented live — and that means you can fast-forward right past them if you want.
Multiple users and multiple devices
YouTube TV also is one of the most flexible options you’ll find. By default, you’re able to watch YouTube TV on up to three devices at the same time.
If you subscribe to the 4K Plus add-on, you’ll also get the benefit of unlimited streams while you’re using your home network.
YouTube TV also allows for up to six user profiles on a single account. That’s important because it affects show and movie recommendations. So you don’t have to see your kids’ recs, and they don’t have to see yours. YouTube TV is tied to your Google account, and the profiles will be available for up to five other family members as designated in your Google account.
Many of the channels included with a YouTube TV subscription let you watch their shows after they initially air, on-demand. It can be a handy way to catch up on older episodes or seasons that aired before you started to record them using the DVR function. The difference between this and DVR is that you won’t be able to skip the commercials.
YouTube TV has a cool feature if you own a Google Home speaker, like the Google Nest Mini, and use a Chromecast device to watch YouTube TV: You can use just your voice to control functions like selecting a TV channel to watch live, starting specific shows, recording a show, or using playback functions such as pause, resume, and rewind. Here’s how to set it up.
Picture-in-picture for mobile
One of the greatest things about mobile video apps is the ability to watch via picture-in-picture. If you’re using an Android or iOS device, you can continue to watch YouTube TV in a minimized window while working on something else in the foreground. It really is a game-changer.
Multiview for sports content
With the start of the March Madness NCAA games in 2023, YouTube TV is rolling out a new multiview feature that will let you select up to four sports channels and view them all simultaneously on one TV screen. The feature is currently only for TV-based viewing and should be fully available by fall 2023, in time for the NFL Sunday Ticket games to start.
This feature lets you jump to various segments within select news programs on YouTube TV. Similar to the key plays view for sports, on some programs, you’ll be able to jump to specific news clips within the complete recording. This feature is available on TV apps now and will come to mobile devices soon.
Desktop and mobile YouTube TV experiences can choose a darker theme to help with eye strain.
Mark as watched
Select Mark as Watched on desktop and mobile devices for any TV show you’ve already seen.
How to cancel YouTube TV
YouTube TV, like all other streaming services, is simple to cancel. All you have to do is go to your YouTube TV account on the web, at tv.youtube.com. Go to Settings, then Membership, then Manage, and click Cancel membership.
Your access to YouTube TV won’t be immediately shut off, though. You’ll still get access to YouTube TV on the web and all devices until the end of your billing period. Once you hit that point and the payment doesn’t renew, you’ll lose access to all live TV streaming.
After 21 days without payment on the account, you’ll lose all of your recorded programs as well.
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