YouTube TV Review

YouTube TV is an excellent alternative to traditional cable—and it will probably get even better over time.
YouTube TV logo
YouTube TV is an excellent alternative to traditional cable—and it will probably get even better over time.
Overall Rating 3.5 out of 5
Channels:
73+
Price:
$40/mo
Contract Terms:
None

OVERVIEW:

YouTube TV wants you to ditch your traditional cable/satellite TV service and watch both your late-night Vine compilation videos and your respectable regular TV channels through a single platform. And we must say, it’s a pretty tempting proposition.

Similar to DIRECTV NOW and other live TV streaming services like Hulu with Live TV, YouTube TV gives you popular network channels, a handful of local channels, and a cloud DVR, through a streaming platform you’re already familiar with.

We think YouTube TV is a decent streaming service as it is, but it definitely has room to improve. Right now, it doesn’t offer some key channels (Food Network! For real?), and we’d like to see it add a few more local channels, too.

PackagePriceChannelsDetails
YouTube TV$40/mo. 73+7-day Trial

YouTube TV–compatible devices:

  • Apple TV
  • Apple AirPlay
  • Android TV
  • Roku
  • Chromecast
  • Xbox One, Xbox One S, and Xbox One X
  • iOS and Android smartphones/tablets
  • Web browsers
  • Select Samsung and LG smart TVs

YouTube TV plans and pricing

YouTube TV keeps things simple with one plan and one price.

Contrary to cable and satellite providers, which often have conflicting plans and confusing pricing, YouTube TV makes it very simple to choose which package you want: it has only one. That’s a bit unusual when you compare YouTube to competitors like Sling TV, DIRECTV NOW, and PlayStation Vue—all of which offer tiered package and pricing options.

PackagePriceChannelsDetails
YouTube TV$40/mo. 73+7-day Trial

Good for sports but missing some lifestyle channels

YouTube is still adding networks and channels, but it already has a couple of decent options for sports lovers. You get ESPN and some regional options such as Fox Sports with your YouTube TV plan.

That said, YouTube is missing some obvious popular channels, such as HGTV. And we’re not willing to accept the lack of Food Network. We need our Chopped!

YouTube has already added dozens of new channels since it first came out in the spring of 2017, so it does look like the channel list is catching up quickly. In the meantime, though, think hard about whether you want to spend $40 per month for YouTube TV or opt for a more comprehensive plan for a similar price from a competitor like DIRECTV NOW or Sling.

Info Box icon

Add-on channel info

If you want to spice up your show options, YouTube TV offers a bunch of channel add-ons for an extra monthly cost:

  • Starz – $9/mo.
  • Showtime – $11/mo.
  • AMC Premiere – $5/mo.
  • CuriosityStream – $3/mo.
  • Fox Soccer Plus – $15/mo.
  • Shudder – $5/mo.
  • Sundance Now – $7/mo.

Check YouTube’s channel listing and make sure it has your favorite networks.

Location check: YouTube TV is available in most major markets, but it’s not everywhere quite yet. Until it officially goes nationwide, check here to make sure your city is covered before you try to sign up.

First impression

YouTube TV built a relatively bug-free service, and we love the interface.

When you first log into YouTube TV from either the mobile app on your phone/tablet or from your internet browser, you’ll see a home screen. Immediately you’ll notice YouTube plays previews of its live channels. We like how this looks; it’s reminiscent of channel surfing without having to press any actual buttons. You can get a feel for the available shows before you commit to anything with a click.

youtube tv interface

The interface

YouTube separates its main interface into three sections (four, if you count Search). Along with Home, there’s Library, where you’ll find your cloud DVR recordings, and Live, where you can find your live local channels along with all the other channels playing now. This neatly separates which channels you can watch in real time vs. YouTube’s on-demand offerings.

youtube tv interface

The real prize, though, is YouTube TV’s search page, which is no surprise considering YouTube is owned by Google, the one search engine to rule them all. In the Search page, YouTube houses show categories, channel buttons, and show suggestions, similar to what you see on Netflix’s home page.

The search page

The real prize, though, is YouTube TV’s search page, which is no surprise considering YouTube is owned by Google, the one search engine to rule them all. In the Search page, YouTube houses show categories, channel buttons, and show suggestions, similar to what you see on Netflix’s home page.

youtube tv search
Megaphone icon

Sharing tip

YouTube TV gives you up to six individual logins per subscription. That means six people can share your account without messing up your show suggestions or library. Remember though, you get only three simultaneous streams.

Our verdict

What we like best about YouTube TV are the interface, channel previews, smooth operation, and general lack of bugginess. Everything worked pretty smoothly for us on mobile, browser, and TV versions of the service. Even when we streamed three shows at once on three different screens from the same account, YouTube TV didn’t skip a beat.

We haven’t seen too many complaints from other users, either. Both ours and other users’ complaints generally focus on specific features (or lack thereof), so thus far, it seems YouTube has done a good job of building a service that does what it’s supposed to. We just don’t always like what it’s “supposed” to do. (Like with its cloud DVR.)

YouTube TV and Cloud DVR

We love YouTube TV’s unlimited DVR storage and its easy interface, but be warned: there might be ads.

YouTube TV has the best DVR deal in the industry: you get unlimited storage and YouTube will hold onto your recordings for nine months. We love that we don’t have to worry about what’s going to get deleted every time we add a new show to our queue.

YouTube TV recordings screen

That said, the whole reason you get a DVR is so you can fast-forward through commercials when you go to watch your recordings later. But YouTube’s cloud DVR doesn’t always let you do that.

Due to agreements with network providers, YouTube plays on-demand versions of some shows, even after you’ve “recorded” them on your DVR. This means you’ll watch a streaming version, not a recorded one, and the ads are there to stay.

Info Box icon

Travel tip

Just like “regular” TV, you can watch live local channels only in your “home area.” If you plan on leaving town, your usual local channels may not be available to watch live. But you can view recordings of shows from local channels in your cloud DVR after the show has finished airing live.

If you want to avoid as many ads as possible, we recommend always clicking Recent Recordings to see if you can watch your chosen show that way. If it’s not there, sorry, but you might be stuck with the ads.

YouTube TV vs. other streaming services

While it offers an appealing interface, YouTube TV isn’t always our first choice for live streaming.

YouTube TV shows promise, especially with how quickly it’s added new cities and channels since its 2017 launch. We also love its unlimited cloud DVR and its easy-to-use interface. But if you want a few more popular channels, or if you want to pay a little less each month, there are some other streaming options out there you might like better.

ServiceChannelsPriceMax # of simultaneous streamsLearn more
YouTube TV73+$40/mo.37-day trial
Hulu Live TV57+$39.99/mo.27-day trial
Sling TV30–50+$25–$40/mo.47-day trial
DIRECTV NOW60–120+$40–$75/mo.37-day trial
fuboTV71+$44.99–$49.99/mo.37-day trial
PlayStation Vue49–90+$44.99–$74.99/mo.55-day trial

YouTube TV vs. Sling TV

Sling TV is the oldest and the cheapest of the live TV streaming services. Sling gives you a cloud DVR, like YouTube TV, but it has only 50 hours of storage and costs an extra $5 per month, whereas YouTube TV’s DVR is included and has unlimited storage.

That said, Sling has cheaper package options and offers some channels that are notably missing from YouTube TV’s offering, even in Sling’s lowest-priced package.

We have to give Sling TV props for its low price and better coverage of the most popular channels. But we give YouTube TV the win for having more channels overall, a better DVR, and more reliable service. (We’ve seen Sling’s app glitch and lag sometimes.)

Overall winner
YouTube TV logo

YouTube TV vs. DIRECTV Now

DIRECTV NOW has the most channels of any live TV streaming service. Quantity isn’t necessarily quality, but if you’re looking for the most channels for your money, DIRECTV NOW wins.

We do prefer YouTube TV’s intuitive user experience over DIRECTV NOW’s somewhat clunky app. But if you want the closest thing you can get to traditional cable, including sports channels, then DIRECTV NOW wins the game.

Overall winnerWinner for sports
YouTube TV logo

YouTube TV vs. PlayStation Vue

You can get more channels with PlayStation Vue’s highest-priced package than you can with YouTube TV but, frankly, we don’t think the $74.99-per-month price tag is worth it. YouTube TV will still give you loads of decent channels for almost half the cost.

PlayStation Vue does offer more simultaneous streams than YouTube TV (five instead of three), so if you have a big family who all like to watch TV on separate devices, then PlayStation Vue might be a good choice. But overall, YouTube TV takes the win.

Overall winnerWinner for families
YouTube TV logoPlayStation Vue logo

YouTube TV vs. Hulu with Live TV

YouTube TV and Hulu Live cost the same, but YouTube gives you at least 16 more channels than Hulu, plus a way better interface. Hulu’s frustrating user experience can’t compete.

We will say, Hulu has better original content than YouTube TV. But if you don’t particularly care about that, then YouTube TV is an easy pick. Especially considering YouTube TV gives you an unlimited DVR whereas Hulu Live gives you only 50 hours.

Overall winner
YouTube TV logo

Conclusion

YouTube TV is a pretty good option for cord-cutters, and it will probably get even better with time.

Considering how quickly YouTube TV is adding channels, networks, and new features, we’re confident it will conquer the streaming service sphere in the next few years. And in the meantime, it’s still a decent streaming option with a good number of channels and an easy-to-use interface.