Editor's Note: This story has been updated with rumors of YouTube TV expanding its channel lineup.
If you've logged into YouTube recently, you've probably seen a notification asking you to sign up for YouTube TV. But what exactly is YouTube TV?
For starters, it's not a way to bring YouTube videos to your TV — the YouTube app has been able to do that for years. Instead, YouTube TV (starting at $35 per month, until March 13, 2018) is a mix of live TV, video-on-demand and DVR features.
So what channels can you watch, what devices support YouTube TV and how does it stack up to competing cable-replacement services? We’ll answer all of those questions and more in this comprehensive guide.
What is YouTube TV, and how does it work?
YouTube TV is a TV- and movie-streaming service that uses YouTube's clean and straightforward interface.
Available on smart TVs, streaming boxes, computers and mobile devices, it includes local network broadcast channels, basic cable networks and original web shows from YouTube Red.
How much does YouTube TV cost, and is there a contract?
Currently, YouTube TV costs $35 per month, after a seven-day free trial, and does not tie users into annual contracts, so you can cancel at any time. While new members will pay $40 per month if they sign up after March 12, existing members will keep their $35 per month pricing.
Adding on Showtime costs $11 per month, while Fox Soccer Plus costs $15 per month, Shudder costs $5 per month and Sundance Now is $7 per month. YouTube TV's also adding new optional add-ons, with NBA League Pass and MLB.TV coming soon at a to-be-determined price.
How many people does a subscription cover, and how many can stream at once?
Each YouTube TV subscription allows for up to six separate user accounts, so each viewer can create a unique profile for customized suggestions and private DVR libraries. Up to three accounts can stream content simultaneously.
Where is YouTube TV available?
YouTube TV is still rolling out around the U.S., and is currently limited to select cities.
These locations include major markets such as Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City, with a full list available here. On Feb. 14, YouTube TV announced it is now available in 85 percent of U.S. households, with new markets including Lexington, Dayton, Honolulu and Syracuse. If you don't see your city listed, begin the sign-up process to check availability.
Which streaming devices work with YouTube TV?
One of the biggest issues with YouTube TV was its limited number of supported streaming devices, a problem it is slowly remedying. On Feb. 1, YouTube TV apps landed on Apple TV boxes and Roku TVs and other Roku devices, including the Express, Ultra and Stick.
YouTube TV is still not on Amazon's Fire TV devices.
Can I get YouTube TV on my smart TV?
TV sets running the Android TV operating system, as well as Samsung and LG smart TVs from 2016 and 2017, can download a YouTube TV app. LG, Samsung and Sony smart TVs from 2014 and 2015 should be getting YouTube TV "soon," according to YouTube. For a full list of supported devices, click here.
What channels does YouTube TV offer?
After additions made on Feb. 14, YouTube TV now includes more than 50 channels, based on your region, plus content from the YouTube Originals channel. Your options will depend on your region, though, as New Yorkers get a directory of 56 networks, including local network affiliates.
YouTube TV's more popular channels include AMC, Bravo, FX and USA. It also offers a wide array of 24-hour news networks, including BBC World News, CNBC, Fox News and MSNBC. YouTube TV's latest channels include CNN, TNT, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, truTV and Turner Classic Movies.
To see what networks are available in your area, you'll need to pretend that you're signing up here. Before you enter your credit card information, the site will show you the channels specific to your region.
Existing subscribers, and those who sign up for YouTube TV prior to March 13, will get those channels for no additional cost, while new members will pay $40 a month. A banner on the YouTube TV signup page, promoting a Valentine's Day surprise, suggests that YouTube TV users will indeed get something special on Feb. 14. We reached out to YouTube TV for comment, and will update this if we receive a response.
Can you watch live TV on YouTube TV? How about local channels?
Yes. YouTube TV's major function is its ability to serve up livestreams of cable TV channels. In New York City, for example, YouTube TV offers a selection of local networks (ABC 7, CBS 2, FOX 5 and NBC 4), while excluding PBS.
YouTube TV's Home tab shows you live TV options, as well as suggests top picks based on your preferences. For complete listings, click on the Live tab to see what's streaming now, and what's up next. Hovering over a show or event shows you a preview of the content.
How can I DVR shows, and how many can I store?
One of YouTube TV's most prominent features is its ability to save programming to its DVR library. To record a show, click its "+" button. YouTube TV will begin recording if the show is live, or save the show later if it has yet to come on.
Even better: You can record as much programming as you like, as there's no storage size cap on what you save. The one limit you have to observe is that each program is deleted after nine months.
How good are the reviews of YouTube TV?
Tom's Guide editor Marshall Honorof gave YouTube TV a mixed review, applauding its interface and DVR capabilities, but criticizing its limited amount of channels and supported devices. Wired's Davey Alba agreed, noting that YouTube TV's channel selection may not feature enough content for everyone, and gave it the backhanded compliment of being "fun, because television is fun."
The YouTube TV mobile app drew praise from Ben Popper at The Verge, who also appreciated the unlimited amount of storage in its cloud-based DVR. Mashable's Raymond Wong lamented that the streaming service forces you to "give up go-to channels like CNN, Comedy Central, TBS and Adult Swim.".
How do I get a free trial of YouTube TV?
When you sign up for YouTube TV, you get a free seven-day trial, provided the Google account that you're using has never been used for the service before.
What sports does YouTube TV offer?
YouTube TV offers a fair lineup of sports networks, with four ESPN channels, The Big Ten Network, CBS Sports, NBC Sports, The Tennis Channel, the SEC Network, NESN and the Olympic channel.
Still, NBA diehards won't find NBA League Pass through this network, and football fanatics will notice the lack of NFL Red Zone.
The new channels added to YouTube TV on Feb. 14 also include a serious lineup of sports content, including March Madness, MLB Postseason games, nationally televised NBA games, the NBA All-Star weekend events, NBA Playoff games, the PGA Championship and UEFA soccer. Soon, the MLB Network and NBA TV channels will also land on the service.
What kind of on-demand content is there?
YouTube TV also offers on-demand content for recently broadcast shows and movies. For example, only the current season of The Walking Dead and Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are available. Half of Law & Order's sixth season is available to stream now, while the rest of it will be available once it re-airs on the Sundance TV channel. The same goes for films, such as Marvel Studios' Thor, which became available on-demand after it aired on the Syfy channel.
How is YouTube TV different than YouTube Red?
YouTube Red, the company's other paid service, is an upgrade for regular YouTube, which strips ads from its videos. The $9.99-per-month YouTube Red also allows you to download videos for offline playback, play videos in the background on your mobile device and access YouTube Originals. It also includes a subscription to Google Play Music (a Spotify competitor).
How does YouTube TV compare to Sling TV, PlayStation Vue and other cable replacement services?
YouTube TV's clean interface is one of the best around, and none of its competitors can touch its unlimited DVR cap. However, YouTube TV's channel list and pricing remain sore spots. Paying $35 per month for up to 50 channels isn't terribly expensive, but Sling TV (with 30 channels for $20, or more than 40 for $25) is cheaper, and DirecTV Now (more than 60 channels for $35) packs more content.
The $40 per month entry-level package from PlayStation Vue charges $5 more for its 48 channels, but its roster includes Time Warner-owned networks (CNN, TBS and Cartoon Network) that aren't in YouTube TV. DirecTV Now and Sling TV carry those networks, as well as Viacom-owned channels (Comedy Central, TBS and VH1) that also aren't in YouTube TV. In addition, Sling, PS Vue and DirecTV Now are all available on more devices than YouTube TV.
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