YouTube TV: A Live TV Streaming Service (Personal Review)

Updated on February 20, 2018
Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok is skilled at researching and evaluating all kinds of products and has a knack for clearly explaining their features.

I discovered that YouTube TV completely replaces the TV portion of my cable service. I was able to cut the cord, keeping just my phone and Internet with my cable company, and saved money despite losing the triple-play discount.

This article is my in-depth review of YouTube TV with details on how it works.

With the cost of cable TV going higher every year with no added benefits, many people are cutting the cord. Several companies are entering the market and creating competition for the cable companies, providing other ways to watch television.

I’ve noticed that Hulu, Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, DirecTV, and others, provide alternatives to cable.

After comparing all the options, the one I decided to try is YouTube TV. This service lets you watch live broadcast of all the usual cable channels on your living room TV as well as on your smartphone, tablet, and desktop computer.

With one YouTube TV account you can allow up to five other people (6 total) in your household to have their own profiles with individual DVRs. But this is not necessary if others in your household simply want to watch different channels at the same time. Up to three devices can stream channels simultaneously on one account.

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I Trust Google for Quality Video Streaming

Google owns YouTube, so I can see why they chose to call the new service YouTube TV. In my opinion, they should have called it Google TV. I think that adds more credibility.

I was so delighted with it that I canceled my cable TV and returned my cable box. I kept the Internet and phone service with my cable company, but even though I lost the triple-play discount I still cut $80 off my monthly bill.

Google charges just $35 a month for YouTube TV, offering additional features I never even dreamed of. For example, if you need to leave the room while watching a live broadcast, you can pause the live action and pick up from where you left off later. When you pause, it automatically starts recording the broadcast.

Unlimited DVR is included at no additional cost! You can record multiple programs at once and save them for up to nine months (More on that later).

As for video quality, I noticed some channels are 720p, but many are full HD at 1080p. But personally, I don’t notice the difference.

What Devices Are Compatible?

Smart TVs are already on the market with YouTube TV built in. LG and Samsung 2017 and 2018 models already include YouTube TV, and it can even be downloaded free to their 2016 models.

In addition, it’s compatible with Apple iOS and Android phones and tablets, so you can take it with you wherever you are and watch any cable channel anywhere.

Why I Switched to YouTube TV

When did you check your cable bill last? Are you paying more than a year ago?

I was upset that my cable company raised my bill another $7 just a few months after I had complained about a prior $5 increase. They play games with slowly adding additional charges once or twice a year.

I guess they get away with it because people don’t notice the slight increases, but they add up. My bill was $20 higher than two years ago, and I had enough of that!

Here Are a Few Things I Love About It

  1. I can pause a live broadcast. Imagine that! It starts recording automatically when I pause so I can continue anytime.
  2. If I miss something in a live broadcast, I can replay the last 15 seconds with one click. Several clicks can continue backing up. I never could do that with cable unless I was watching a recorded show.
  3. The DVR, which is included, is unlimited. It records to the cloud so no hardware is required. I’ll elaborate on that below.
  4. I like the fact that no cable box is needed. That means you have more access from multiple devices. Six streams can be watched simultaneously.

How to Watch YouTube TV

You can watch on your big screen TV, on your desktop, or on any remote device.

As I mentioned earlier, 2017 and 2018 model Smart TVs from LG and Samsung already have YouTube TV built in. And a free download is available for 2016 models.

An app can be downloaded to watch on your smartphone or tablet.

You can also watch on an older HDTV by using Chromecast, a device (shown below) that plugs into any HDMI port on your TV. It’s currently being included free to new subscribers after they make their first month’s payment.

There’s no contract and the service can be canceled at any time, which is why I didn’t hesitate to give it a try. At the time of this writing, they are offering a free week trial. I can’t say if that will continue.

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You can also watch on a desktop computer. I found it works best with Google's Chrome browser. There’s no need to install any other software.

You can also use Apple TV, Roku, and Xbox One. To watch on the iPhone (and I’m sure it’s the same with an Android), I just installed the “YouTube TV” app from the App Store. I only needed to log into my Google account once, and it remembered that afterwards.

The app also makes the smartphone into an intelligent remote for your TV. You can preview each channel's live broadcast on the phone, and then tap the “ChromeCast” button to watch on your TV (See image below).

There's no need to use your smartphone as a remote if you have one of the smart TVs that have YouTube TV built in. It uses the TV’s remote.

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Roku Support

As of February, 2018, YouTube TV has a specialized app for the Roku that lets you use the Roku remote as your TVs remote to change channels, select your saved DVR library, pause, fast forward or replay, browse shows you’re interested in, and even search for programs, movies, or series.

I actually prefer this over using the Chromecast device that Google sent me free with the service. There is no need to use a smartphone as the remote when using the Roku.

Roku makes YouTube TV as user friendly as it is with the newer Smart TVs that have it built in, as I discussed earlier in this article.

If you have a Roku, you can install the YouTube TV app by going to the Roku Channel Store online and search for YouTube TV. I found I needed to reboot the Roku after installing the app, to improve performance, by unplugging it and plugging it back in.

Unlimited DVR Recording

Cloud DVR

DVR is included with unlimited recording that's saved for 9 months.

I found it so easy to use. All I have to do is specify what series I want to record. Then it automatically records EVERY program.

There's one problem. If I say record the Big Bang Series, for example, it will record every episode that is aired on any channel. So it captures the repeats as well as the new episodes. There’s no way to record only new episodes, but I can live with that. I just ignore the old stuff accumulating in my DVR library. It's unlimited anyway, so no harm.

How DVR Recording and Playback Works

  • Record shows with no limitation.
  • Record multiple shows even if they air at the same time.
  • Pause live shows and it automatically starts recording.
  • When watching recorded shows you can usually skip most commercials.
  • No need to schedule time and channels for individual shows. Just click the plus button (+) on any show of a series and it adds all the shows to your library as they are aired.

I noticed that when I watch a recorded episode, I could fast-forward past the commercials. Some recorded movies, however, don’t let you skip commercials. It shows a counter on the top of the screen indicating how many commercials, and how many minutes, until the program continues. Cable never did that!

Eliminate Frustration Over News Program Promises

I always got frustrated when a news program would mention an upcoming news item, and imply that it’s coming up next. Then a commercial comes on and when the program returns, the before-mentioned news item is not the first.

For that matter, another commercial comes on before they finally get to the promised item. By that time I’ve forgotten what it was I was looking forward to seeing.

Now, with YouTube TV, I can record all my favorite news programs and watch on my time. When they mention an important news item is coming up, I can fast forward until I find it. That saves an awful lot of time that used to be wasted watching through entire newscasts just to catch on important report.

What Channels Are Included?

The service includes all local broadcast networks and most cable networks. When I started using YouTube TV in January 2018, I counted 48 live channels. In February they added eight more. The table below shows what they offer for the standard $35 monthly fee.

Broadcast & Cable Networks Included with YouTube TV

 
 
 
 
CNBC
MSNBC
E!
Discovery
Fox News
Fox Business
Sports Network
CBS Sports
Fox Sports 1+2
NBC Sports
Nat Geo
Nat Geo Wild
BBC America
BBC World News
Newsy
CNN
Yes
Chiller
Free Form
AMC
Disney Channel
Disney Junior
BTN
Science
SyFy
Golf
Telemundo
Universo
Universal Kids
Oxygen
IFC
POP
We
USA
Smithsonian
Bravo
FX, FXX & FXM
All ESPN Channels
Olympic Channel
Tennis Channel
TBS
TruTV
HLN
TNT
Cartoon Network
Turner Classics
Sundance TV
Adult Swim

It also includes YouTube Red Originals, which normally would be another $10 a month, but it’s included in the $35 monthly fee.

There are also four premium add-on networks, presently, that can be added for an extra fee as shown below.

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What’s Missing?

The following are still missing: Comedy Central, Food Network, Nickelodeon, Spike, Starz, Cinemax, MTV, and HBO. However, they are continually working on negotiating deals.

What’s the Difference Between YouTube Red vs. YouTube TV?

I've included the following video to answer this question in case you're interested.

The last part of this video is out of date since things are changing so rapidly. Ignore the part where she says it can’t be used with regular TV’s. Google Chromecast takes care of that.

Review of Benefits

  • No contract required.
  • No need to rent a cable box.
  • You can watch shows wherever you go.
  • Unlimited Cloud DVR with extensive features.
  • Stream on up to six devices in your household simultaneously.

Bandwidth Considerations

Full HD requires approximately 5 Mbps download speed per stream. Video streaming at 4K resolution requires as much as 25 Mbps.

Therefore I recommend you have the latest up-to-date modem and Wi-Fi router, especially if you have other people in your household who may watch other channels at the same time on other devices.

Most cable companies are already providing DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modems that deliver over 300 Mbps downstream data speeds.

How to Sign Up

Google’s monthly fee for YouTube TV is $35. You can sign up direct with your Google account or you can purchase a subscription through iTunes. I recommend doing it direct since it’s easier to cancel if you ever wish to do so. iTunes also charges an extra fee, so why bother.

There is no contract, so you can cancel any time. If you apply via iTunes the monthly fee is $40 because Apple adds on an extra fee for handling your account. That’s another reason to apply direct through your Google account, and pay only $35 a month.

Just do a Google search for “YouTube TV” and you’ll find the signup page offering the free trial. If you have a gmail account then you already have a Google account, but it’s easy to sign up even if you don’t have one.

Enjoy your freedom from cable TV.

© 2018 Glenn Stok

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    • Glenn Stok profile image
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      Glenn Stok 3 weeks ago from Long Island, NY

      Brian Leekley - Your missing the point that Cable TV services have been raising their rates and not providing any added content or features to justify the increased cost.

      Switching to YouTube TV saves me $540 a year with the same channels I had before, plus added features.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 3 weeks ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      Years ago I had a cable TV service with over one hundred channels, and more often than not there was nothing on worth watching. What regular and special TV shows make paying the YouTube TV $420 per year cost worth it for you?

    • Glenn Stok profile image
      Author

      Glenn Stok 3 weeks ago from Long Island, NY

      Andrew, You’re right. I just made the correction. I had to update the article anyway to reflect the new support app for the Roku.

      I originally had tested four streams at once when I was first researching it, but I didn’t let it run long enough. I just tried it again tonight and let it run longer.

      After a while one of the devices cut off with a warning saying that my service was being used elsewhere. The error message could have been worded more correctly, but nevertheless it was clear that only three streams are possible.

      You can see the corrected text in the first section in this article. I appreciate your feedback to bring this to my attention.

    • profile image

      Andrew 3 weeks ago

      Thanks for the write-up, but one of your comments contradicts the Youtube TV FAQs. You state that "Six streams can be watched simultaneously". I have a family of 5 who would LOVE this, but according to the Youtube TV FAQ, you can have 6 separate accounts, but only 3 simultaneous streams. "YouTube TV membership comes with 6 accounts to share with roommates or family members in your household. (Ages 13 and up.) Everyone gets their own login and personal DVR library. Up to 3 simultaneous streams are allowed per membership."

      Did you actually test the concurrent streams, or did you just assume the simultaneous capability?

      Thanks again for the write-up, as I am close to cutting the cord just like you ... and retaining phone & internet only with my cable provider.

    • Eastward profile image

      Eastward 3 weeks ago from Phuket, Thailand

      Good to know. I appreciate the info!

    • Glenn Stok profile image
      Author

      Glenn Stok 3 weeks ago from Long Island, NY

      Eastward - Broadcast network laws do not allow delivering local stations out of area. For that reason YouTube TV uses your location to determine what broadcast stations can be serviced to you. Usage of a VPN will probably block you entirely.

    • Eastward profile image

      Eastward 3 weeks ago from Phuket, Thailand

      Thanks for the response Glenn! I was thinking of my U.S. residence services but would be interested to know more about YouTube TV in Thailand as well. Would a VPN make accessing local broadcast channels possible?

    • Glenn Stok profile image
      Author

      Glenn Stok 3 weeks ago from Long Island, NY

      Eastward - I see you’re in Thailand. Local broadcast channels on YouTube TV are only available in the United States.

    • Eastward profile image

      Eastward 3 weeks ago from Phuket, Thailand

      Nice write-up on cutting the cord. This is something I've been considering and all the detail you've provided here will help me make the move confidently.

    • Glenn Stok profile image
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      Glenn Stok 3 weeks ago from Long Island, NY

      Don, I use mine with my home WiFi since I have Google's Chromcast connected to my HDTV. I’ve also used it at a friend's house on their WiFi with my iPad.

      As I mentioned in this article you’ll need at least 5 Mbps download speed for streaming HD shows.

      The problem you may encounter is that public WiFi is shared with lots of people. You may not always enough bandwidth left for your own use.

    • Don Bobbitt profile image

      Don Bobbitt 3 weeks ago from Ruskin Florida

      Great Info, Glenn! I travel a lot in my RV so it looks like this will solve my problem with antiquated campground systems and their "FREE" snail-paced WIFI.

      I do have one question though? Do you know if this is available to work via a HOTSPOT? So often, I end up in parts of the country for a few days where decent (or for that matter, any) WIFI is available so i then depend on my HOTSPOT.

      DON

    • K S Lane profile image

      K S Lane 3 weeks ago from Melbourne, Australia

      Cable companies are being left in the dust with the development of services like YouTube TV. I don't really watch TV, but if I did I'd sign up for a similar service. Great Hub.

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