YouTube TV: A Live TV Streaming Service (Personal Review)
This article is my in-depth review of YouTube TV with details on how it works—updated with the latest pricing and additional channels as of August 2020.
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.
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 found that Hulu, Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, DirecTV, and others, provide alternatives to cable. After comparing all the options, the one I decided to use is YouTube TV. This service lets you watch live broadcasts 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, up to six people in your household can create their own profiles with individual DVRs. But this is not necessary if others in your house want to watch different channels at the same time. That's because up to three devices can stream channels simultaneously on one account.
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.
Google charges $64.99 a month for YouTube TV. When I canceled my cable TV and returned my cable box, keeping just the Internet and phone service with my cable company, I cut $80 off my monthly bill even though I lost their triple-play discount. So I'm still ahead with a savings of $15 a month.
The service includes additional features that I didn't have with my cable TV service. For example, if you need to leave the room while watching a live broadcast, you can pause a live broadcast and pick up from where you left off later. When you pause, it automatically starts recording.
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, some channels are 720p, but many are full HD at 1080p. 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.
It’s also 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
- I can pause a live broadcast. Imagine that! It starts recording automatically when I pause so I can continue anytime.
- 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 were watching a recorded show.
- The DVR, which is included, is unlimited. It records to the cloud, so no hardware is required. I’ll elaborate on that below.
- I like the fact that no cable box is needed. That means you have more access to multiple devices. Three streams can be watched simultaneously.
How to Watch YouTube TV
You can watch on your big-screen TV, on your desktop, or any remote device.
As I mentioned earlier, 2017 and later model Smart TVs from LG and Samsung already have YouTube TV built-in. And a free download is available for 2016 models.
You can downloaded an app 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.
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.
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 afterward.
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.
YouTube TV has a specialized app for the Roku. It lets you use Roku's 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 prefer this over using the Chromecast device that Google sent me free with the service. (I'm not sure they still offer that for free. But it has limited use anyway since there are so many other viewing options.)
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
DVR is included with unlimited recording that is saved for nine 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 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.
- There is 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 top 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 that 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 saved an awful lot of time that I used to waste watching through entire newscasts just to catch one 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 April 2019, they added many more. And in July 2020, eight more channels were added. The table below shows what they offer for the standard monthly fee.
Cable Networks Included With YouTube TV
Fox Sports 1+2
Nat Geo Wild
BBC World News
FX, FXX & FXM
All ESPN Channels
The Young Turks
It also includes YouTube Red Originals at no extra cost, which normally would be another $10 a month if bought separately.
Several premium networks that can be added for an extra fee, such as Starz and EPIX. The image below is not complete.
The following are still missing: Spike, Cinemax, and HBO. However, Google is continually working on negotiating deals to add more networks.
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.
- Create up to six user profiles for individual family members.
- Stream on up to three devices in your household simultaneously.
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 watch different 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
You can sign up directly with your Google account to purchase a subscription.
Just do a Google search for “YouTube TV,” and you’ll find the signup page. 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.
There's no contract. You can cancel anytime by logging into your Google account and selecting "Manage Your Google Account" under your avatar. Then click "Manage Subscriptions."
Enjoy your freedom from cable TV.
Questions & Answers
With YouTube TV, can you fast forward while recording a program? I want to time-shift and watch 30 minutes after it starts and skip commercials to catch up to live? I have read other competing solutions do not allow this. In my opinion, a true DVR would allow this, and it is important in sports time-shifting. (Nobody wants to wait until game/recording is over to be able to skip commercials.)
If you are recording a program and you start watching later than it started, you will get two options displayed on the screen to choose from:
1. Watch from the beginning.
2. Watch from live.
If you are behind "live," you can fast forward until you reach live.
As for skipping commercials, I have discovered both situations. With some programs, you can skip past commercials, but with others, you can't.
Weekly shows, for example, do not let you skip commercials. News programs do let you skip them. However, I've discovered some alternative situations. In some cases, older recorded shows allowed me to skip forward.
I never tried it with sports games, so I can't tell you how they handle it.Helpful 14
We are full-time RVers. We have been streaming live TV with Hulu using an AT&T hotspot. However, when the hotspot uses a different tower, Hulu thinks we are trying to use it from another home area and shuts us down. Will we have the same problem with YouTube TV?
In addition to the cable networks, local broadcast channels are included with most live streaming TV services. However, by law they are only allowed to stream the local broadcast channels in your area.
That doesn’t work well for people who travel in an RV. Once you are outside your local area, the system detects that you are no longer in your hometown, and it will shut down the streaming of the local broadcast channels. The cable networks are unaffected.
This issue is the same with all live streaming TV services, such as Hulu, Direct TV, Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, as well as YouTube TV.Helpful 9
If I add people using the Family Sharing feature on YouTubeTV, does each member share the same data usage limit of 1GB per month or does each member of YouTubeTV get their own 1GB per month? Does the 1 GB limit apply if the Family Member does not live in the same house?
YouTube TV does not limit data usage. You can add up to five additional people in your family (six total) to share usage, and up to three can stream at the same time. However, data usage is a limitation of your cable service provider. You need to review your Internet plan's limitations, if any, to answer your question.
Is there a premium service for a few dollars more to let me skip commercials for the ones I have recorded to the cloud DVR? Some shows won't let me skip the commercial on the recorded version.
In many cases, you can skip commercials. However, no premium service allows skipping "all" commercials. I never could put my finger on it, but most of the recorded shows I watched let me to skip forward over commercials. Every once in a while, I watch a movie that does not allow me to skip commercials.
I never figured out which is the case where commercials can't be skipped. It may be based on how old the recording is, or it may be based on it being a movie vs. a news program. If I ever find out for sure, I will add a section to my article about it.
Why do some of my "recorded " shows on Youtube TV have ads that cannot be skipped over?
I noticed that too. Some recorded programs do not allow you to skip over commercials. I never determined when this consistently occurs, but it seems to be related to the difference between recorded movies and recorded series.
Most movies do not let one skip past commercials. But as far as weekly shows and newscasts are concerned, I usually can fast forward over a commercial.
© 2018 Glenn Stok