YouTube TV: A Live TV Streaming Service (Personal Review)
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.
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 $40 a month for YouTube TV, although it was $35 when I signed up and they locked early subscribers into that price.
The service includes additional features that I never expected for that price. 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
- 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 was 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 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.
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.
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
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 monthly fee.
Broadcast & Cable Networks Included with YouTube TV
Fox Sports 1+2
Nat Geo Wild
BBC World News
FX, FXX & FXM
All ESPN Channels
It also includes YouTube Red Originals at no extra cost, which normally would be another $10 a month if bought separately.
There are presently also four premium add-on networks that can be added for an extra fee as shown at the bottom of the image below.
The following are still missing: Comedy Central, Food Network, Nickelodeon, Spike, Starz, Cinemax, MTV, and HBO. However, Google is continually working on negotiating deals to add more networks.
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.
- 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 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
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 $5 more because Apple adds on this extra fee for handling your account. That’s another reason to apply direct through your Google account, and pay only $40 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.
Questions & Answers
Is there a reason why my YouTube TV app does not update the current channel programming? When I turned on my Chromecast connected TV this morning, the channel programming lineup was the same set of programs that were on the night before when I stopped casting. I had closed the app on my device, but it still didn't update the programming.
Are there any plans to add the Scripps Network channels? Do they include HGTV, Cooking Channel, Travel Channel, Food Network, DIY Network, and others? That is the only thing keeping me from going with YouTube TV. DirecTV has all of those channels, but is missing the locals.
Scripps Networks Interactive was formed in July of 2008 as a spin-off from their cable network. They have locations in many major cities. They did not announce any plans for a merger. However, Google is working hard on negotiating deals with other individual networks, so that YouTube TV is constantly adding more channels.
I would suggest that you keep an eye on it if you are interested. I received several announcements of additional channels already since I started subscribing to YouTube TV.
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.
Is there any way to jump ahead more than 15 seconds using YouTube TV on a Roku?
You can keep pressing the right arrow to move forward repeatedly, 15 seconds at a time.
Of course this only works with recorded episodes, or if you had previously paused a live broadcast. In some cases, you will not be able to forward past commercials.
I have a question about watching multiple devices simultaneously. I have a ROKU streaming stick in my kitchen, and a ROKU 2 in my living room. I want the same channel playing on both devices simultaneously. Will the content be synced (like it is with my four cable boxes), or does it come through at differing rates depending on the device I'm using?
It will not be synced. Each device receives its own data stream. I experimented with this in the past just to see what happens. It’s hard to start each one at the same time, so one would be a little behind the other. This depends on which one you pressed the play button last.
With a little playing around, I once managed to press the play button on both devices at the same time, and I got the two streams to play as if synced. But that was only because I started both simultaneously.
To explain this another way, if two people in your household want to watch the same movie, but on two different devices, there is no problem with that. If one happens to start watching five minutes after the other, their entire movie will be played, from start to finish, five minutes behind the other.
One last thing, even though one account can have up to six user profiles, only a maximum of three devices can stream channels simultaneously on one account. It’s not necessary to create user profiles unless each family member wants to keep their own saved DVR programs separate from other family members.
© 2018 Glenn Stok