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Everything you need to know about YouTube TV

BY Joe Supan | Fri Aug 23, 2019
Everything you need to know about YouTube TV

ProsConsVerdict
✔ Delightful interface and navigation
✔ Unlimited DVR storage
✔ Three simultaneous streams
✔ Solid option for sports fans
✘ Missing A&E, History, Comedy Central, Lifetime, Nick and NFL NetworkOther streaming services have better channel lineups, but YouTube TV closes the gap with its outstanding user experience.

YouTube TV Review: Channels, Price & Everything You Need to Know

  • Only one plan: $50/mo. with no long-term contracts or equipment
  • Requires at least 3 Mbps download speeds
  • Currently not available on Amazon Fire TV

YouTube TV channel selection

If you’re looking for a live TV streaming service that will replicate the breadth of a traditional cable or satellite package, YouTube TV has one of the largest and most well-rounded selections around.

It has around 90 channels in total, behind only fuboTV and PlayStation Vue’s top packages. 

LocalsABC
CBS
Fox
NBC
The CW
SportsESPN
ESPN 2
FS1
NBC Sports
MLB Network
Big Ten Network
SEC Network
Golf Channel
Tennis Channel
Motortrend
ComedyTBS
Cartoon Network
FXX
IFC
DramaFX
TNT
USA
SyFy
BBC America
MoviesAMC
TCM
Sundance TV
NewsCNN
Fox News
MSNBC
CNBC
BBC World News
Fox Business
HLN
FamilyDisney Channel
Freeform
Disney Jr.
Universal Kids
NatureDiscovery Channel
Animal Planet
National Geographic
Reality TVFood Network
TLC
HGTV
Bravo
E!
Travel Channel
We TV
True CrimeTruTV
Investigation Discovery
Oxygen

You can find a complete channel listing for your area by entering your ZIP code on YouTube TV’s home page

What channels is YouTube TV missing?

Unfortunately, YouTube TV is missing a number of popular channels.

Out of the top 25 channels that consumers said they wanted the most in a TV package, YouTube TV only has 17. That’s a fairly standard number for live TV streaming services — more on how it compares below — but chances are YouTube TV doesn’t have a few channels you’ll want.

Here are some of the most popular channels YouTube TV is missing:

  • A&E
  • BET
  • CMT
  • Comedy Central
  • Cooking Channel
  • Hallmark Channel
  • History
  • ION
  • Lifetime
  • MTV 
  • Music Choice
  • NFL Network
  • Nick
  • Nick Jr. 
  • Paramount Network
  • PBS (coming later this year)
  • Science
  • TV Land
  • VH1
  • Weather Channel

YouTube TV vs. other live TV streaming services

In terms of the number of sought-after channels it offers, YouTube TV is fairly middle of the road. It provides a slightly better value than PlayStation Vue and AT&T TV Now, but worse than Hulu + Live TV and fuboTV.

Pricing per month plus taxes for length of contract. Additional fees and terms may apply. Pricing varies by location and availability. All prices subject to change at any time. May or may not be available based on service address. As of 08/19/19.
*According to TiVo’s survey of 3,330 adults on which channels they’d want included in an à la carte pay-TV package.

 

Of course, it all depends on which channels are most important to you. Most of these streaming services share many of the same channels, with a few key differences. Would you rather have ESPN and Disney Channel or A&E and History? Do you need the local channels or do you have a TV antenna for those?

Here’s how some of the most popular channels compare across the major streaming services:

 YouTube TVHulu + Live TVSling Orange + BluePlayStation VueAT&T TV NOW (formerly DIRECTV NOW)fuboTV
Fox
NBC
FX
TNT
TBS
USA
SyFy
Cartoon Network
CNN
Nat Geo
ABC
CBS
Discovery
Food Network
TLC
HGTV
HBO
A&E
History
Lifetime
AMC
ESPN
Disney Channel
Freeform
Comedy Central
Animal Planet

Is YouTube TV good for sports?

For the most part, YouTube TV is a great option for U.S. sports fans. There are a couple notable exceptions — primarily the NFL Network and NHL Network — but it generally has more sports channels than most cable and satellite packages. Here are all the channels that air nationally televised games from each of the major leagues in the U.S.: 

LeagueWhat it hasWhat it’s missing
NFLESPN, Fox, NBC, CBSNFL Network
MLBESPN, ESPN2, Fox, FS1, TBS, MLB Network
NBAABC, ESPN, TNT, NBA TV
NHLNBC, NBC Sports, USA, CNBCNHL Network
NCAA FootballESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, Fox, ABC, CBS, ACC Network, Big Ten Network, SEC NetworkPac-12 Network

Of course, your local team’s games are a slightly different story, but YouTube TV excels here as well. MLB, NBA and NHL games air locally on regional sports networks (RSNs), and YouTube TV has more of them than any other service. It includes all of the RSNs for Fox Sports and NBC Sports, plus NESN for Boston fans and YES and SNY for New York. 

YouTube TV does not have Spectrum SportsNet, which covers the Los Angeles Lakers, but that channel’s not available on any live TV streaming service. It’s also missing the MSG Network, which airs games for the New York Knicks, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils and New York Red Bulls. If this is a must-have for you, AT&T TV NOW and fuboTV are currently the only services that carry MSG Network.

Plenty of available add-ons

Like most live TV streaming services, YouTube TV lets you customize your plan by adding on premium channels to its $50/mo. base plan: 

  • Showtime: $7/mo.
  • Starz: $9/mo.
  • Curiosity Stream: $3/mo.
  • Fox Soccer Plus: $15/mo.
  • AMC Premiere: $5/mo.
  • Shudder: $6/mo. 
  • Sundance Now: $7/mo.
  • EPIX: $6/mo. 
  • NBA League Pass: $40/mo. 

One of these actually represents a better price than you’ll find elsewhere. Showtime costs $11/mo. when you purchase it separately compared to only $7/mo. through YouTube TV. The rest are the same price you’d pay if you’d gone directly from the provider. 

Will YouTube TV actually save you money?

It depends. Unlike with Sling TV ($25/mo.) or Philo ($20/mo.), YouTube TV’s $50 monthly bill probably won’t shave much off of your TV spending. Because most cable providers offer a hefty discount when you bundle with internet service, you might actually pay more for a combination of internet and YouTube TV. Here’s how YouTube TV compares to a few common TV packages.

 YouTube TVSling OrangeXFINITY (Starter Pro Double Play)Spectrum (TV Select + Internet)AT&T Internet + DIRECTV
Monthly TV + internet cost$50 (TV) +
$60* (internet)
$25 (TV) +
$60* (internet)
$90$90$75 year one, $121 year two
Installation feeNoneNoneUp to $60Up to $200Up to $99
Equipment rental feeNoneNone$13/mo.$5/mo.None
Contract lengthOne monthOne monthOne yearOne yearTwo years
Number of channels9133140+125+155+
Estimated year one costs$1,320$1,020$1,296$1,340$999 ($1,452 year two)
Pricing per month plus taxes for length of contract. Additional fees and terms may apply. Pricing varies by location and availability. All prices subject to change at any time. May or may not be available based on service address. As of 08/19/19.
*Average price of broadband internet in U.S.

 

That’s not to say YouTube TV isn’t worth paying a little more for. It might have a better channel selection than your traditional TV provider, and it has a number of perks like unlimited DVR storage, three simultaneous streams and easy-to-use mobile apps that you won’t find through cable or satellite TV. But if you’re strictly looking to save money while hanging on to live TV, skinny bundles like Sling, Philo and AT&T Watch TV are all better bets for $15-$25/mo. 

Best-in-class interface and navigation

Where YouTube TV really shines is its delightful user interface. While most live TV streaming services seem to just copy-paste the look of cable and satellite TV and call it a day, YouTube TV actually takes advantage of the freedom afforded it by streaming. 

We tested it out on a Roku Streaming Stick and MacBook Pro. In both cases, YouTube TV was a joy to look at and use. While most streaming services opt for a dark background with light text, YouTube TV’s interface is refreshingly clean, with easy-to-read black lettering over a white background. 

Instead of simply showing a logo or still from the program, YouTube TV actually gives you a preview of what’s on at that exact moment. If you see that it’s halftime of the game you want to watch, for instance, you can skip it without actually clicking the channel to check. This sounds like a small detail, but as we used YouTube TV over the course of a week, we were surprised to find how much of a timesaver this actually was. 

YouTube TV also employs a traditional guide interface, but again, it makes some upgrades that significantly improved the experience. Like the homepage, it shows you a preview of what’s playing when you rest on a channel with your remote, and you can easily scroll to earlier or later time slots to see what else is on that channel.

We also loved YouTube TV’s search function, which worked better than any other service we tested — not surprising considering this company’s history with videos on the internet. The tags on the homepage were surprisingly useful. 

When we clicked “adventure,” it took us to a page with a relevant mix of live and on-demand videos. When we tried searching “adventure” on services like Sling TV and PlayStation Vue, the results were limited to shows and movies that contained the word in their titles, a much less helpful list. 

YouTube TV app

YouTube TV is as enjoyable to use as a mobile app as it is on a streaming device. It currently has a stellar 4.0 rating on 32K reviews on the App Store and an even more impressive 4.4 on 72K reviews from Google Play. 

This was largely the experience we had, too. The app was simple to sign in to and use, with the same clean interface we appreciated on the streaming device and desktop apps. The mobile app allows you to preview each channel in the same way, too.

Generous extras

On top of its unparalleled design and navigation, YouTube TV is also more generous with its perks than any of its competitors.

Unlimited DVR storage

There’s no limit to the amount of shows and movies you can keep in your YouTube TV DVR. The only other service that offers this is PlayStation Vue, and titles delete after 28 days on that service. With YouTube TV, you get a full nine months, so you don’t have to make any hard TV decisions any time soon. 

Three simultaneous streams

YouTube TV also lets you stream on three devices at the same time, a tremendous kindness for families with diverse viewing habits. If you need even more than that, PlayStation Vue includes five simultaneous streams in all of its plans, while Sling’s Orange + Blue package has four. 

YouTube TV FAQs

Which streaming devices work with YouTube TV?

YouTube TV is compatible with every major streaming device but one: Amazon’s Fire TV. That won’t last much longer — YouTube and Amazon recently agreed to a truce, and the YouTube app is already on Fire TV — but as of now YouTube TV still isn’t an option for Fire TV users.

Here’s the full list of devices, game consoles and smart TVs that YouTube TV works with: 

  • Roku
  • Google Chromecast
  • Apple TV
  • Xbox One
  • Android TVs
  • Samsung smart TVs (2016 and newer)
  • LG smart TVs (2016 and newer)
  • Vizio smart TVs (select models)
  • Hisense smart TVs (select models)
  • Sharp smart TVs (select models)

What internet speed do I need for YouTube TV?

YouTube TV recommends at least 3 Mbps download speeds, but that’s on the low side. Netflix, for instance, says you should have at least 5 Mbps for HD streaming. For more information, check out our guide to internet speeds. If you’re not sure what you’re currently getting, you can also use our speed test below. 

Powered by openspeedtest.com

 

Can you fast forward through commercials on YouTube TV?

Unfortunately, YouTube TV broadcasts the same live TV channels as a cable or satellite provider, and that means you can’t skip through commercials. However, if you pause a live show, you are able to fast forward through commercials to catch up to the live feed. On-demand content generally has short ads you have to sit through, too. That said, you are able to fast forward commercials on any programs you’ve recorded in your DVR.

The bottom line

Whether YouTube TV is worth it for you comes down to a few personal preferences. Would you rather have ESPN or HBO? How about A&E or ABC? There are a cluster of live TV streaming services around the $50/mo. range, and they all share about 90% of the same channels. 

If none of them really stand out to you, go with YouTube TV. It has the best user experience and mobile app by a mile, plus you’ll get unlimited DVR storage and three simultaneous streams — the most generous extra perks that any service offers. Best of all? If you decide you don’t like it, you’re only locked in to one month at a time.

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