Editor's Note: Check out our full review of YouTube TV for an in-depth look at what makes the streaming service a contender.
It's affordable, includes all the major broadcast networks and comes from a brand that's already extremely well known. If you're interested in cutting the cord with a cable replacement service, YouTube TV looks pretty compelling.
Illustration: Tom's Guide
|YouTube TV||DirecTV NOW||PlayStation Vue||Sling TV|
|Starting Price (per month) ||$35||$35||$40 ($30 in certain markets) ||$20|
|Channels (in entry-level package)||40||More than 60||More than 45||More than 20|
|Device Support||Android, Chromecast & Chromecast-enabled TVs, Computers, iOS ||Amazon Fire, Android, Apple TV, Chromecast, Chromecast-enabled TVs, Computers, iOS||Amazon Fire, Android, Apple TV, Chromecast, Chromecast-enabled TVs, Computers, iOS, PS3, PS4, Roku||Amazon Fire, Android, Apple TV, Chromecast, Chromecast-enabled TVs, Computers, iOS, Roku|
|Simultaneous Streams||3||2||5||1 ($20 per month)|
3 ($25 per month)
4 ($40 per month)
Pricing and Availability
At $35 per month for 40 channels, YouTube TV is not expensive, but not the most affordable option. That title goes to Sling TV, which starts at $20 per month for more than 30 channels, while DirecTV Now (starting at $35 per month for more than 60 channels) and PS Vue (starting at $40 per month for more than 45) start at around the same price.
Those in certain markets can get PS Vue for even less, with the $30 and $35 Slim packages, but you need to sign up for a trial before you can see that pricing.
YouTube TV offers six login accounts, but only three concurrent streams so while you can share it with your whole family, you might need to ask who's using it. PS Vue offers five concurrent streams, the most, while Sling TV's entry level Orange package ($20 per month) offers one stream at a time, while its $25 Sling Blue includes three streams at once and its $40 Orange + Blue service allows four streams at once. DirecTV NOW offers up to 2 simultaneous streams.
Sling TV starts at a more affordable price.
YouTube TV is currently available in five major U.S. markets (Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco) and Google says it will "expand to cover more cities across the country." Conversely, Sling TV, DirecTV Now and PS Vue are each available in all 50 of the United States right now.
But if YouTube TV is available in your city, it's not exactly easy to get on your TV. It currently only streams to TVs via Google Chromecast (either attached or built-in). It can also be viewed on Android and iOS devices, as well as computers. DirecTV Now can stream to all of those devices, as well as to Apple TVs, and Amazon Fire TV devices. PS Vue and Sling TV run on all of those devices as well as Rokus, while PS Vue supports PS4, PS3 consoles and Sling TV is available on the Xbox One.
Verdict: YouTube TV offers OK pricing and multiple accounts, but it needs to support more devices.
One of YouTube TV's biggest features is live streams of the major broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and The CW). PS Vue is the competitor that stacks up the best here, offering all of those except for The CW (although the $30 and $35 Slim packages may include less networks and only as on-demand, not as live).
DirecTV is a mess compared to other services.
Sling TV's $25 per month package includes live streams of Fox and NBC, while DirecTV Now only guarantees video on demand content for ABC, FOX and NBC, with access to live streams differing by region.
YouTube TV includes Telemundo for Spanish-speaking audiences, which you also get with PS Vue. Sling TV instead offers Univision, which you can also get on DirecTV Now, which provides Video On-Demand access to Telemundo with live streams again varying by region.
It should be noted that you can get local stations by simply buying an HD antenna for your TV, though that won't provide DVR or on-demand options (more on those later) to save shows for later.
Verdict: YouTube TV looks great for cord cutters worried about losing network TV channels.
YouTube TV offers many of the same live sports channels you can find on its competitors, including ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN 3, ESPN News, ESPN U, SEC ESPN, Fox Sports, FS1, FS2, the Big Ten Network and the NBC Sports Network. You can pay an additional, to be announced, amount of money for FOX Soccer Plus. The one sports channel YouTube TV offers that nobody else does is CBS Sports.
YouTube TV offers plenty of live sports but not NFL Network.
As for what you're missing, the NFL network comes with Sling TV's $25 per month package (which you'll need for those Fox Sports channels) and DirecTV's $50 per month deal includes the MLB network; its $60 monthly package adds NBA TV and the NHL Network.
Over on PS Vue, the entry-level $40 per month package includes ESPN, ESPN2, FS1 and FS2, and Yankees fans will be happy to hear that the YES networks come with the $45 per month package.
Verdict: YouTube TV offers a fair amount of sports, but it's missing some premium sports channels.
The $35 per month you spend on YouTube TV gives you a particular portion of the cable TV landscape, and you're missing quite a bit, including TBS, Comedy Central and Food Network. But if USA, FX, FXX and FXM, E!, Bravo, Syfy, National Geographic, Oxygen and the Disney channels sound like enough for you, then you should be fine.The channel selection on YouTube TV is good but it's missing CNN and TBS.
Sling TV's $20 per month package gives you other channels such as Cartoon Network, Comedy Central, History, Food Network, TBS, IFC, the Travel Channel and A&E, as well as upstarts such as Viceland, El Rey and El Rey. DirecTV Now's entry-level $35 per month deal includes many of those, as well as MTV, MTV2, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr. and VH1.
In terms of cable news, YouTube TV includes CNBC, Fox News and MSNBC, but not CNN, a glaring omission. DirecTV Now and PS Vue offer all four of those networks while Sling TV gives you CNN, Newsy and Bloomberg.
Verdict: YouTube TV offers a competent array of programming, but it could be missing some essential channels, depending on your tastes.
DVR and On-Demand
YouTube TV includes a cloud-based DVR service with an unlimited amount of storage, a perk none of its competitors can touch. We found that the services "makes it trivially easy to record shows you want," and that the competition "could stand to learn a thing or two from YouTube TV in this regard."
Sling TV started a limited beta program for Cloud DVR in December 2016 that it made available on Android and Roku devices on April 10, though it's not accepting other new users at the moment and features a storage capacity of 100 hours.
Sling TV's DVR feature is in beta.
PS Vue's DVR capabilities are limited to adding programs to your My Shows list, which will save them for varying amounts of time, with a maximum of 28 days after they air. Not all programs on PS Vue can be DVR'd with some limited to On-Demand access where users choose from a list of episodes available after airing. YouTube TV offers no such On Demand access.
DirecTV Now currently offers no DVR functionality, only On Demand content that includes shows made available "within hours after a program airs." This includes "up to 10,000 shows and titles based on your subscription package." YouTube TV also offers On Demand content, though not for all shows.
Verdict: YouTube TV is the best for those who can plan ahead and record, and even offers content for catching up.
YouTube TV is a contender, but not the champ by any stretch. Its limited channel selection and device support mean that it's not for everyone, and that you better have a Chromecast hooked up to your TV. But if you need broadcast TV and live sports and want a super-simple Cloud DVR, it will certainly suffice. Otherwise, you're better off with the rich selection of PlayStation Vue or Sling TV.