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 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 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 have up to six people in your household create 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.
Google charges $49.99 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 $30 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 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 later 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.
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.
YouTube TV has a specialized app for the Roku that 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 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. They make YouTube TV as user friendly as it is with the newer Smart TVs that have it built in.
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 April 2019 they added many 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
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: Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Spike, Cinemax, MTV, 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 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 $49.99 a month.
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.
Enjoy your freedom from cable TV.
Questions & Answers
Can I watch YouTube TV on multiple 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 may 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.Helpful 2
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 chose 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.
I never tried it with sports games, so I can't tell you how they handle it.Helpful 13
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 broadcast channels that are local in your area.
This 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 home town and it will shut down the streaming of the local broadcast channels. The cable networks are unaffected though.
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 8
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, there is no premium service that allows skipping all commercials. I never could put my finger on it exactly, but most of the recorded shows I watch allow me to skip. Every once in a while I watch a movie that does not let me 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.Helpful 6
How do I access closed captioning on my YouTube TV service so that it shows the text of the speech on the screen?
Closed Captioning can be turned on or off under the "more" option. You need to click the three dots (...) which is the “more” option on the screen, then select CC.
It will give you these choices: Off, CC1, CC2, CC3. Not all options may be available to you, but they control where on the screen the text will appear. Try each one to find the one that works well for you. You can always turn it off again by selecting the "off" option.Helpful 5
© 2018 Glenn Stok