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YouTube TV Recordings: How Fast-Forwarding (Skipping) Ads Works

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YouTube TV allows subscribers to fast-forward and skip ads when watching a recording, but the way the service works can prove unnecessarily confusing at times. This is due to YouTube TV’s tendency to list both available DVR recordings and on-demand versions at the same time. Still, with some additional care and attention, subscribers should always be able to make sure they are watching the right version, and able to skip the ads.

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One of the big selling points with YouTube TV is the cloud DVR. While some other live TV streaming services charge subscribers for access to a DVR or to increase the number of available recording hours, YouTube TV doesn’t. Not only is it an unlimited DVR, but each profile gets access to its own individual recording experience, making it easy for multiple people sharing the same subscription to record as much content as they want and only see their own recordings.

While good, the DVR experience is far from perfect. For example, as the unlimited nature of the DVR means subscribers don’t have to worry about deleting movies and shows to make room for new ones, YouTube TV doesn’t actually provide an option to manually delete recordings. Likewise, once a show is recorded, YouTube TV still offers subscribers the choice of watching either the DVR or the video on-demand (VOD) version. Why YouTube TV offers a VOD option when a recording is made remains to be seen, but there is a fundamental difference between the two versions: non-skippable ads.

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One of the reasons why a subscriber might see ads when watching a recording is the fact that they might not actually be watching a recording in the first place. Generally speaking, if the user clicks on the ‘Watch Now’ button for a video in their library, YouTube TV should automatically select the recorded version for playback. As long as that does happen, then the user should have no issues skipping through the commercials. Fast-forwarding is typically in 15-second intervals, so it will require a fair amount of clicks to skip through a long commercial break.

Check it’s a DVR recording

YouTube TV attempts to make the streaming experience seamless and as easy as possible for the end user. However, this emphasis on a lack of control can result in unwanted side effects. When a subscriber clicks on the ‘Add to library’ button to instruct YouTube TV to record a movie, episode or sports event, it will be recorded. In the meantime, it is automatically added to the library and if there’s already a VOD version available, the user is able to immediately watch the video. Although this might suggest that the recording was made, that might not be the case. The VOD version is one that’s offered by the channel owner and, in most cases, will include ads. To watch with the ability to skip the ads, the subscriber will need to wait until the scheduled title has actually been recorded.

Even when a recording is made, the VOD version will still be available to watch as well. With both versions of a video available at the same time, it is possible that a subscriber could be watching the VOD (with non-skippable ads) instead of the recorded (with skippable ads) version. An easy way to tell the difference is the ads themselves. With VOD versions, the ads are typically inserted into the video. During any of these ad breaks, a yellow “Ad” label appears in the upper-left corner of the screen on a TV (lower-left corner on mobile). In contrast, DVR versions record the ads as well, so there won’t be any indicator on the screen that it’s an ad.

Although YouTube TV should always play the recorded version of a video when the ‘Watch Now’ button is clicked, there is an easy way to make sure that the right version is played in advance. Instead of clicking on the ‘Watch Now’ button, simply click right (from the Watch Now button), click down and then on the ‘Choose a version’ button. YouTube TV will then display all of the available versions and the subscriber can click on any that show a ‘DVR’ label next to them. Again, if the label says ‘VOD’ then the version will most likely include commercials that can’t be skipped. Likewise, if none of the available versions show a ‘DVR’ label then it likely means that the video hasn’t actually been recorded yet.

For reference, the instructions above may differ slightly depending on the platform and device. For example, if accessing the YouTube TV mobile app, then the user would need to tap on any of the videos in their Library and then on the small down arrow that’s shown beside the thumbnail image. This will then show all of the available options, including all DVR recordings and VOD versions. On mobile, and right before the down arrow, YouTube TV typically states whether it is a DVR or VOD version. Again, YouTube TV should automatically display the DVR version first, and if it doesn’t, and no DVR option is listed in the drop-down, then it is likely that the video hasn’t been recorded yet.

YouTube TV recordings and ads summary

YouTube TV subscribers can fast-forward through the ads on any videos that have been recorded, with a single click skipping approximately 15 seconds. However, adding a video to the YouTube TV library will immediately make it available to watch if an on-demand version is available at the same time. If this version is watched before the actual recording has been made, the viewer will see ads that can’t be skipped. Even when a recording has been made, both recorded and on-demand versions will be available and the subscriber will need to make sure they are watching the right version if they wan to skip the commercials.

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YouTube TV does typically play the DVR version when one is available, but users can check which version is played by clicking on the ‘choose a version’ button when using a TV app, or tapping on the down arrow when using a mobile app. It is usually easy to tell which version is playing while watching a video as the ads shown during an on-demand version will show an ‘Ad’ label in the top left corner on a TV, or in the bottom left corner when using a mobile app.

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John Finn

By John Finn

John started Streaming Better to help consumers navigate the live TV streaming and subscription service landscape. John has been writing about technology and TV-related services and devices since 2014 and believes the best streaming approach is to bounce between services as needed. Contact John via email at john@streamingbetter.com or on Twitter

2 replies on “YouTube TV Recordings: How Fast-Forwarding (Skipping) Ads Works”

my tv just started today having ads on every dvr recordings so cannot fast forward thru the ads.I know when the ad shows up on old shows I may watch again. I’m watching The Tonight Show taped on Thursday night of this week. it did not give me the bar come down to pick dvr?? I understand all that but all the new season of my library shows have been with ads and no way to DVR or vod it. Never happened before,what is the problem and how do I fix it????

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