Skip to main content

YouTube TV review: A reasonably priced cable TV alternative

YouTube TV is a simple and robust live TV streaming service for cord-cutters

YouTube TV
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

YouTube TV offers a robust channel lineup for a reasonable price.

For

  • Unlimited DVR
  • Local channels
  • Easy to use

Against

  • Lackluster originals
  • No Viacom channels
  • No HBO add-on

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 options, delivering over 70 channels including local broadcast networks (depending on your region). And this summer, it will make its lineup even more complete with the addition of Viacom channels like MTV and VH1. Because of that breadth of content, it's also one of the more expensive live TV services at $64.99 a month. 

YouTube TV has an easy-to-use, intuitive interface and is available on every major platform, including iOS, Android, Xbox, Playstation 4 and select smart TVs. 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. 

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. 

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

(Image credit: Future)

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 $64.99 per month for access to up to 70- plus channels. That's the new price as of June 30, 2020 (it was previously $49). 

In contrast, Hulu with Live TV costs a bit less — $54.99 per month for 60- plus channels. Sling TV is $45 per month for 53 channels, but to get all the broadcast networks, you need an antenna (they throw one in with the $99 Cord Cutter Bundle, 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 $20 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.

The YouTube TV app is available to download on:

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. 

YouTube TV

(Image credit: Future)

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. This summer, YouTube TV will add the Viacom family of cable channels, including BET, Comedy Central, MTV and Nickelodeon, as well as the premium network Showtime. That will make YouTube TV's channel lineup one of the most complete among cable TV alternatives.

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.

YouTube TV

(Image credit: Future)

There are a number of premium add-on channels you can include in your plan, too, each with a separate monthly fee. They are: 

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. Aside from Cobra Kai, there's an Ariana Grande tour diary, the comedy Liza on Demand and the sci-fi thriller Origin. But 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. 

That's better than Hulu with Live TV, which caps you at 50 hours of recordings unless you pay $15 more a month to get 200 hours with the Enhanced Cloud DVR add-on. Sling offers even less DVR storage, just 10 hours in the Cloud DVR with an option to get 50 hours for $5 more.

YouTube TV

(Image credit: Future)

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, all recordings are saved for nine months, so 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.

YouTube TV

(Image credit: Future)

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.

Bottom line

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 $49.99 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.

  • T2Jock
    The reviewer missed one of the most important features of YouTubeTV: Included in the price for many localities is the regional sports network. For example, my subscription (Massachusetts based) includes New England Sports Network, giving me the Red Sox games during the summer. To my knowledge this makes YouTube TV the first to offer these regional sports networks.
    Reply
  • SamTab
    I was very happy with the service except for the absolutely screaming commercials on some of the channels (Bravo, for example). Total deal breaker for us. Went back to Roku with Locast for local channels. Very disappointed in YoutubeTV and their customer service.
    Reply
  • T2Jock
    SamTab, what about the customer service was a problem?

    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.
    Reply
  • Mitchell Hayes
    Beware of YouTube TV's fake channels. One of the 'channels' listed in YTTV advertising is a perennial favorite, Turner Classic Movies. But what you get is not the TCM you love. TCM on YTTV is simply several collections of movies that have been recorded by YouTube 'stars' on home equipment and then uploaded as TCM presentations, complete with TCM logos and intros. Truth is, most of these movies are so grainy and blurry that they're simply not worth watching. So once again TCM becomes a pawn used to trick customers into subscribing, much like the monstrous act by Comcast who simply ripped the real TCM from legitimate subscriptions and made it part of a sports package available for an extra ten dollars a month.

    I am stunned by the YTTV trick. Is this act condoned and endorsed by TCM? All in all it's a very disturbing situation.
    Reply
  • CabWrx
    admin said:
    YouTube TV is easy to use, available on every platform and offers a strong channel lineup.

    YouTube TV review: A reasonably priced cable TV alternative : Read more
    Not Happy With YouTube TV anymore! I am very disappointed with Google and YouTube over another price increase. I have been a subscriber for over 2 years. Now the price has increased again. That's 62.5% increase in 2 years. YouTube TV has added more channels with low viewership and exchange we get a bloated bill. They are starting to feel a lot like Comcast. The price goes up every year. I guess when you have a strangle hold on search and video, your customers satisfaction isn't important anymore. Do no evil! I forgot that Google/YouTube already removed that from your corporate culture. I am looking for a better alternative.
    Reply
  • Souplos_ms
    My family has had YoutubeTV ever since Playstation Vue got shut down (a very sad day as Vue had set very high UX standards). While the current YTTV channel lineup and DVR capability are among the best, I'm surprised nobody has mentioned what a heap of garbage the YTTV guide experience is, no matter the app platform:
    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.
    Reply
  • SirStephenH
    AGAINSTLackluster originals
    No Viacom channels
    No HBO add-on

    You might want to update your article again. YTTV has 85+ channels, including Viacom, and an HBO MAX add-on is also available.
    Reply