Cord cutters have never had it easier, thanks to an increasing number of live TV streaming services like YouTube TV. It is one of the most robust of the best cable TV alternatives, delivering over 100 channels including local broadcast networks (depending on your region).
Because of that breadth of content, it's priced at $72.99 ($8 more than before, thanks to the April 2023 YouTube TV price hike). Annoyingly, the MLB Network has recently been dropped by YouTube TV.
YouTube TV has an easy-to-use, intuitive interface and is available on every major platform, including iOS, Android, Xbox and select smart TVs. The YouTube TV iPhone app is about to leapfrog YouTube's app. What really sets it apart from competitors is unlimited DVR storage — there are no caps on simultaneous recordings and you can keep recordings for nine months. One competitor, though, is catching up on that.
The subscription also includes access to YouTube Originals, such as the Karate Kid series Cobra Kai, as well as the option to add premium channels, including Showtime. In that category, YouTube TV falls behind its biggest competitor, Hulu with Live TV, which comes with award-winning shows like The Handmaid's Tale and Ramy — and we've got a detailed breakdown of the two services in our YouTube TV vs Hulu + Live TV face-off.
But if all you're looking for is access to local channels and top cable networks, plus unlimited DVR storage, then YouTube TV is a great cable TV alternative.
YouTube TV pricing and availability
To sign up for YouTube TV, you need a Google account. The streaming service offers a free two-week trial. After that, YouTube TV costs $72.99 per month for access to up to 100-plus channels. That's the new price as of April 2023. It last changed on June 30, 2020, when it was previously $49.
That's in the ballpark of its main competitors. Hulu with Live TV costs $70, and Fubo's entry-level Pro Plan is $75. Sling TV starts at $40 per month for 31 to 41 channels, but to get all the broadcast networks, you need an antenna (which also comes with Air TV devices to integrate the channels into the Sling TV app). Philo TV is very low-cost live TV streaming service at $25 per month, but the channel lineup is somewhat lackluster.
Your exact channel line-up on YouTube TV will depend on where you live, so enter your ZIP code to see which local networks you get. YouTube TV also offers premium add-on channels and packages, which you can read more about below.
YouTube TV is available to stream to your TV with Chromecast devices (or on a Chromecast TV), via Apple AirPlay or Google Smart Display. You can also watch on a web browser on Mac and Windows computers.
Every subscription comes with up to six accounts and three simultaneous streams, so different family members can customize their libraries.
YouTube TV interface
YouTube TV's interface will be familiar to anyone who's ever used YouTube. The utilitarian design is simple, intuitive and extremely easy to use. It's not pretty (the Philo streaming service's interface is much slicker) but it does what it needs to do. Finding shows and movies is a breeze, as is navigating what's airing live at the moment.
The interface toggles between three screens: Home, Library and Live. At the top of Home is a top picks selection, essentially a mix of shows you've saved, shows you've watched and related shows based on your favorites. Below that is a section filled with recommendations to add to your library, serving as a helpful reminder of upcoming shows and movies you may want to record.
Further down the Home page are categories for sports, news and movies as well as YouTube Originals.
Library is the home for your DVR, displaying your saved shows, movies and other programming and upcoming recordings.
The Live screen is a cable-television-like grid on some devices (like web browsers, gaming stations and smart TVs). On smaller devices, such as phones, Live presents a list of what's airing on all the channels you get.
Every platform also has a Search tool in the navigation bar, which takes you to an intuitive search page. YouTube TV shines here — not surprising since it's owned by Google. You can search for a show or movie title, a person or even themes and genres (for example, "Oscar winning movies"). The search is lightning fast, and results begin populating as you type. They're broken down by live and upcoming airings, recordings from your library and what's on demand.
The show and movie profile pages are well-designed and extremely robust. A show profile page displays available and upcoming episodes, cast members and related videos from YouTube. In the case of Friends, those include clips of Jennifer Aniston on late-night programs. There's also a section touting similar shows.
YouTube TV content and channels
YouTube TV's channel lineup is great and on a par with what's available on competitors like Hulu with Live TV and Sling TV. YouTube TV recently added the Viacom family of cable channels, including BET, Comedy Central, MTV and Nickelodeon, as well as the premium network Showtime. And football fans will be happy that the service is adding NFL Network. The new additions have made YouTube TV's channel lineup one of the most complete among cable TV alternatives. Check out our YouTube TV vs. Sling TV face-off to see how those two services fare in head to head combat.
The cable networks include ESPN, CNN, AMC, HGTV, TBS, TNT, the Disney Channel and USA. But the lineup is missing Viacom networks like MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon. The only live TV services that have those networks are FuboTV and Philo.
YouTube TV offers local broadcasts of ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC, depending on your region. The service says it has complete local network coverage in over 98% of U.S. TV households.
There are a number of premium add-on channels you can include in your plan, too, each with a separate monthly fee. YouTube TV is also adding a new Sports Plus add-on with NFL RedZone, Fox College Sports, GOLTV, MAVTV, Stadium, and TVG. If you want more international sports, check out our Fubo TV review.
As noted, YouTube TV is losing the MLB Network, but it could come back if the two sides agree on a new deal.
Be warned that there are a lot of ads, though that isn't YouTube's fault since advertising is preprogrammed by the networks.
As far as content, it's nice to have access to YouTube Originals but the offerings are fairly meager. YouTube isn't trying to compete with the likes of Hulu or Netflix in original programming. Also, YouTube TV is cheaper than Hulu with Live TV, so you're paying less for less content.
YouTube TV DVR
YouTube TV's best feature is its unlimited DVR. You can save all the recordings you want for nine months. There's no cap on simultaneous recordings.
This used to be a relatively rare thing in the market. But then Hulu with Live TV finally stepped up to match. Now that service has unlimited DVR as well. Both services keep your recordings for nine months before deleting them. DirecTV Stream is also adding unlimited DVR, but it's only available to new customers right now, and they only hold onto recordings for 90 days.
That's better than Sling, which includes 50 hours by default. You can jump up to 200 hours for $5 more per month.
Saving shows and movies is extremely easy — just click the plus sign on a show page or next to the title when you're watching. YouTube TV will then record every episode on any channel (or just once for movies).
Since the DVR is unlimited, you can't delete a recording after you've watched it. This is fairly standard for streaming services; only Sling gives you the option to delete saved recordings.
YouTube TV video quality
YouTube TV supports up to 1080p, depending on the channel and program. Most of the content I watched played at 720p.
Still, by even offering some channels at 1080p, YouTube TV vaults over its competitors. Hulu with Live TV only just started streaming some channels at 1080p. Sling doesn't have detailed information about its streaming resolution, while Philo streams live TV at 720p and on-demand at 1080p.
Regarding how quickly programs achieved HD resolution, it was quick — usually around 5 seconds. That's standard for livestreaming services.
On a fast home connection, programs held steady after stabilizing, but on slower networks, there was some fluctuation in HD quality while playing.
YouTube TV is one of the best options for cord-cutters looking for a live TV streaming service to replace their cable television package. For $73 a month, you get quite a lot — a strong channel lineup, unlimited DVR and an easy-to-use app available on every major platform. The service doesn't have everything, but none of them do. You can get Sling for less than YouTube TV, but receive a smaller channel lineup. You can pay even less than that, just $20, for Philo, but you won't get local channels or top cable networks.
If you want live TV at a reasonable price, YouTube TV may be your best bet.
Next: You can read about how I can't live without the YouTube TV key plays feature.
I'm now two, almost three, months in as a subscriber and pretty happy. The ability to have six users (logins) on one account has worked well for us. My daughter and her family cancelled their FIOS TV service (they still have their Internet thru FIOS) and are on my account.
I like the user interface and my only complaint is that they don't support 4K.
I am stunned by the YTTV trick. Is this act condoned and endorsed by TCM? All in all it's a very disturbing situation.
On the Roku app, you get a matrix of channels but are limited to seeing not even the next 24 hours, but just the rest of the day! So if it's 9pm, you can only browse and record the programming of the next 3 hours. YTTV Guide Strike #1. So next what do you do? You go to your phone and hope to see the next few days of programming over there. What you get is still limited but a bit better - the next 24 hours - but there's a catch...you can't see more than one channel's listings at a time! That's YTTV Guide Strike #2.The last bastion of hope lies on the Youtube webapp, where new features seem to be tested first. And you'd be right to bet that the guide there gives you more options. The good news: A whopping 7 days of listings available, hurray! Is there a catch here? Unfortunately yes: It takes a dozen clicks of an arrow button to sloooowly scroll into the future, a few shows at a time just to get to the next 48 hours. So, multiply those clicks to get up to day 7...that is if you don't decide to give up before that. This is where PlaystationVue's date selector feature came in very handy. Come on Google, it's not that hard! YTTV Guide Strike #3.A final YTTV Guide strike is given to the fact that you can't go back in time to see programs you may or may not have recorded. Now you may say "so what if I can't go back in time? If it was recorded it will be tagged as recently recorded, or I can look up the show" (good luck if you just wanted to verify that a specific show did a rerun or not). That's true...you could fumble your way in YTTV's arbitrarily categorized "daytime, evening, etc." options for a given channel or try the Search, but what if the programming changed and the show isn't named the way you thought? Or what if an important event occurred in the news cycle and you want to see the show in which the news broke? You then have to do a small investigation just to figure out what shows were running at the time. Super annoying!Ok I know this was quite the tirade but I wanted to make a point about the inconsistency and lack of maturity of the YTTV guide experience, especially now that we've had a price hike that made this an even more expensive proposition than most cable cutting services out there. We should demand a much better experience than what we're getting.
Is my family the only one as upset about the guide? Or is it because we had gotten a taste of something much more intuitive to compare it to, while a majority of YTTV users may have not? I'd love to hear what others have to say about it.
You might want to update your article again. YTTV has 85+ channels, including Viacom, and an HBO MAX add-on is also available.
I signed up for like $52 or so after tax. I didn't need more channels. I didn't sign up for more channels. And the reason I signed up is no longer valid. I'm ditching YTTV. And it's really too bad, because it was pretty awesome for awhile.
Thank you for your review. A decent guide is fairly important to me. I've tried a couple of streaming services and dropped both in large part because their guides were pretty much worthless.