Cutting the cord is easier and more affordable than you think. Unlike cable, you can watch live streaming TV from almost any location. You’ll need a high-speed internet connection, a streaming device such as an Amazon Fire TV Stick or Roku and a streaming service. These services provide live broadcast and cable TV channels, on-demand titles and more.
AT&T TV NOW (formerly DIRECTV NOW) and YouTube TV are two popular live streaming services with serious name recognition. Both have plans for less than $70/mo. and provide local TV stations (ABC, CBS, NBC and others) without an annual contract. Our side-by-side comparison can help you determine which plan best fits your home and lifestyle.
Compare AT&T TV NOW and YouTube TV plans
At first glance, it seems YouTube TV is pretty straightforward. It provides more than 90 TV channels for $49.99/mo. — $5/mo. more if you sign up through iTunes. AT&T TV NOW, by comparison, has six TV streaming packages optimized for family, sports or entertainment choices. These packages range from $65/mo. for 45 channels to $135/mo. for up to 125 channels.
We’ve outlined a few of the most popular plans to help highlight the differences between the streaming giants.
|YouTube TV||AT&T TV NOW PLUS||AT&T TV NOW Max|
|Free trial||7 days||7 days||7 days|
|Number of channels||90+||50+||70+|
|Cloud DVR storage||Unlimited||500 hours||500 hours|
|Premium channels included||None||HBO||HBO, Cinemax|
YouTube TV vs. AT&T TV NOW overview
A streamlined channel selection helps keep costs down, but it could mean choosing between popular networks like AMC, ESPN or HBO. Identify the channels you can’t live without before deciding on a provider.
Here’s where AT&T TV NOW’s live TV packages come into play. Notable favorites such as AMC, HGTV and regional sports networks — the channels that air your local MLB, NBA and NHL games — aren’t included in the basic PLUS package. They require a subscription to the higher-priced MAX plan for $80/mo. YouTube TV simplifies the process. The all-in-one plan includes AMC, HGTV, regional sports networks and dozens of other options.
Both streaming services offer premium channels for an extra monthly fee. AT&T TV NOW has several premium channels, including Cinemax, Showtime and STARZ, available for an extra fee. Available YouTube TV add-ons include NBA League Pass, Showtime and STARZ. If you love Big Little Lies, Game of Thrones or True Detective, AT&T TV NOW includes HBO in all of its plans. That said, while HBO isn’t available with YouTube TV, a standalone subscription to HBO NOW will let you stream HBO programming for $15/mo.
YouTube TV ultimately gets the nod when it comes to content thanks to the superior quality and quantity of channels it offers.
Winner: YouTube TV
A clear leader emerges for those looking to pay less and get more. With YouTube TV, you’ll spend $15/mo. less and get nearly twice as many channels.
Currently, neither streaming service offers student, senior or military discounts. AT&T TV NOW ditched its bundling discounts, but new customers can get YouTube TV free for one month with specific Verizon plans.
AT&T TV NOW offers a seven-day trial for new customers if they sign up for the PLUS or MAX package. YouTube TV also has a seven-day trial new customers can utilize.
You get more channels for less with YouTube TV — making them the winner if you’re looking for the best value.
Winner: YouTube TV
Simultaneous streaming is like a cellphone company’s family share plan. In the video streaming world, it allows multiple people to watch TV on different devices at the same time using the same account. YouTube TV wins this round when it comes to user experience.
Three people can watch at once on both AT&T TV NOW and YouTube TV, but YouTube TV lets you make up to six profiles on a single account, so everyone in the house can see exactly the content they want to watch.
In terms of viewing quality, high-speed internet will give you the best results if you’re streaming live TV. Most services recommend around 5 – 10 Mbps of download speed for buffer-free HD streaming. If fast internet isn’t available in your area, AT&T TV NOW allows you to change the quality settings for smoother streams. On the other hand, YouTube TV’s video automatically adjusts to the available internet speed.
Users have reported some issues with the AT&T TV NOW app, most notably failure-to-load problems when using streaming devices. The mobile app has its fair share of issues as well — it only earned a 3 out of 5 rating on the Google Play store. YouTube TV’s app offers a smooth, clean interface and even allows you to preview what’s on various channels while you’re scrolling.
Do you hate sitting through commercials? The good news is you can avoid them on most streaming services when you record programs. Both of these video streaming services have cloud-based DVRs that give you the ability to fast-forward through ads on pre-recorded content.
Cloud storage is an important perk if you like to record movies and shows to watch later. AT&T TV NOW gives subscribers 500 hours of free cloud storage, while YouTube TV offers unlimited cloud storage and lets you keep your recordings for nine months.
An overall superior interface and free unlimited cloud storage give YouTube TV the edge when it comes to user experience.
Winner: YouTube TV
The bottom line
AT&T TV NOW’s top-end plan gives you the most channels, but it comes at a pretty steep price. If having all of your favorite networks is important, AT&T TV NOW offers the most channels (over 125, to be exact) with its most expensive package at $135/mo. But depending on your viewing preferences, even the high-end plan might leave you missing a few of your favorite channels. The service also lags behind when it comes to user experience, with glitchy apps and a more confusing interface.
YouTube TV’s sole plan provides more channels than AT&T TV NOW’s basic offering, and it costs $15/mo. less. It also lets you create several user profiles, provides unlimited DVR storage and delivers an overall superior user experience. For most people, YouTube TV will be the most practical and wallet-friendly option.