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YouTube TV vs DirecTV Stream: What’s The Difference & Which Is Best

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YouTube TV and DirecTV Stream are both live TV streaming services, but they are also very different in many important areas. By weighing up the differences in the price, selection of channels, recording space, and even device support, it is possible to decide which of these live TV services is best for an individual or household.

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YouTube TV first launched in 2017 and has already established itself as one of the more popular live TV services around. Reasons for its popularity include the selection of channels and the premium features. In recent times, it has become even more useful for fans of live sports. However, the service has encountered multiple prices increases over the years, making the standard YouTube TV subscription one of the more expensive options around.

DirecTV Stream has gone through a few revisions over the years. After first starting out as DirecTV Now, the service was rebranded as AT&T TV Now. Not long after, it became part of AT&T TV and was then eventually rebranded as DirecTV Stream. In addition to the various name changes, the channel lineup and the prices have also been adjusted multiple times over the years resulting in a service that’s very different from the DirecTV Now early days.

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YouTube TV is cheaper, but DirecTV Stream has more plans

One of the major differences between YouTube TV and DirecTV Stream is choice. YouTube TV only offers one plan, priced at $64.99 per month. Although there are some additional add-ons that can be used to slightly improve the channels or add more features, the channel lineup is mostly the same for all subscribers.

In contrast, DirecTV Stream offers multiple plans for consumers to choose from. The entry-level Entertainment plan is the one that’s most similar to YouTube TV’s plan. The difference is, DirecTV Stream subscribers can always upgrade to the Choice, Ultimate or Premier plans if they find the Entertainment plan to be too limiting and not quite what they are looking for. YouTube TV subscribers don’t really have this same luxury.

This leads to another major difference between the two – the price. While the $69.99 cost of the Entertainment plan is relatively in line with the $64.99 per month standard YouTube TV plan, the cost of DirecTV Stream can increase quickly. For example, the Choice plan costs a minimum of $89.99 per month, the Ultimate plan is a minimum of $104.99 per month, and the Premier plan is a minimum of $149.99 per month. While the Premier plan does come with significantly more channels than the standard YouTube TV plan, it costs over twice as much each month.

Then again, DirecTV Stream’s Entertainment plan does also include HBO Max, Showtime and Starz at no extra cost. This may offset some of the additional cost for homes that already subscribe to these streaming services.

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Channels compared

With DirecTV Stream offering multiple plans, the exact number of channels a subscriber gets will ultimately depend on which plan they sign up to. DirecTV Stream’s Entertainment plan comes with more than 65 channels while the Premier plan increases the number to over 140. In contrast, a standard YouTube TV subscription comes with over 85 channels, and with no other plans currently available, there’s little room for negotiation on the number or selection of channels.

For this comparison, we’ll be taking a closer look at how the channel lineup for the similarly-priced Entertainment plan compares to the standard YouTube TV plan.

YouTube TV vs DirecTV Stream Entertainment:

ChannelsYouTube TVDirecTV Stream
(Entertainment)
A&E
ABC
ABC News
ACCN
AccuWeather
Adult Swim
AMC
Animal Planet
AXS TV
BabyFirst
BBC America
BBC World News
BET
BET Her
Black News Channel
Bloomberg TV
Boomerang
Bravo
BTN
C-SPAN
C-SPAN2
Cartoon Network
CBS
CBS Sports
Cheddar
CMT
CNBC
CNN
CNNi
Comedy Central
Comet TV
CourtTV
Cozi TV
Dabl
Discovery
Disney
Disney Junior
Disney XD
Docurama
Dove
E!
ESPN
ESPN 2
ESPN U
ESPNEWS
Food Network
FOX
FOX Business
FOX News
FOX SOUL
FS1
FS2
Freeform
FX
FXM
FXX
Galavisión
getTV
Golf Channel
Game Show Network
Hallmark Channel
Hallmark Drama
Hallmark Movies & Mysteries
HGTV
History
HLN
HSN
IFC
ID
Jewelry Television
Jewish Life TV
LAFC
Law & Crime
Lifetime
LiveNOW from Fox
MLB Game of the week
MLB Network
Motortrend
MSNBC
MTV
MTV2
MTV Classic
MyNetworkTV
NBA TV
NBC
NBC News Now
NBC Universo
NBCLX
National Geographic
NatGeo Wild
Newsmax
NewsNation
NFL Network
Nickelodeon
Nick Jr
Nicktoons
Olympics Channel
One America News Network
Ovation
OWN
Oxygen
Paramount Network
PBS
PBS Kids
POP
QVC
QVC2
Reelz
REVOLT
RFD-TV
SEC Network
Shop LC
SNY
Smithsonian Channel
StartTV
SundanceTV
SyFy
TBS
TCM
TLC
TNT
TYT
Tastemade
TeenNick
Telemundo
The CW
Travel Channel
TruTV
TV Land
USA
UniMás
Universal Kids
Univision
Vice
VH1
WE TV
YouTube Originals

YouTube TV does come with more channels overall, making it the better option for those simply looking for the most channels possible. Of course, it should be kept in mind that DirecTV Stream offers more plans than Entertainment, and with as many as 140 channels included with the Premier plan, DirecTV Stream is ultimately the better service for channels. That’s as long as the consumer is willing to pay more each month.

If trying to stick to a budget of around $70 per month, then YouTube TV is the better choice, but that is with some caveats. Even though DirecTV Stream’s $70 plan is missing a lot of channels compared to YouTube TV, they can easily be added by upgrading to a more expensive plan. The opposite is not the case. For example, YouTube TV’s plan is notably missing A&E Networks which are available with the cheapest DirecTV Stream plan. If choice matters above all else, DirecTV Stream simply offers far more options to find the right plan.

Another area to note is local channels. Both services do provide some access to locals, but DirecTV Stream is likely to be the better solution overall. An additional caveat here is that while a number of RSNs are available through DirecTV Stream, they are not provided with the Entertainment plan. In other words, consumers will need to subscribe to the $89.99 per month Choice plan, at a minimum.

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Benefits and limitations compared

At these prices, both services position themselves as premium options. However, there are some areas where each service is a little weaker than the other. One clear weakness of DirecTV Stream is device support. DirecTV Stream is currently unavailable to download on Android TV/Google TV devices and this will automatically rule out many homes that rely on a smart TV or streaming player powered by Android or Google TV. As YouTube TV is widely available on Android/Google TV devices, as well as many other platforms, it is likely to be a better solution when it comes to device support.

Simultaneous streams is an area that often gets overlooked even though it directly affects how many people can watch at the same time on different devices. Technically, DirecTV Stream offers support for an unlimited number of streams, but this is dependent on those devices being connected to the home network. In contrast, YouTube TV limits the number of streams to three. YouTube TV does offer a 4K Plus upgrade which boosts the number of same-time streams to unlimited, but this add-on also adds to the monthly cost. Not to mention, YouTube TV’s interpretation of unlimited is also based on devices being connected to a home area. When away from home, both YouTube TV and DirecTV Stream limit the number of devices that can access the service at the same time to three.

Cloud DVR is another limitation difference to be aware of as YouTube TV provides subscribers with an unlimited recording experience. While YouTube TV’s cloud DVR is not prefect, it has few limitations other than recordings are automatically deleted after nine months. Technically, DirecTV Stream subscribers only get access to 20 hours of recording space and can upgrade to unlimited at an additional $10 per month. However, new customers that sign up online are currently being offered unlimited at no additional cost. Either way, DirecTV Stream recordings are automatically deleted after 90 days, and there are additional limitations as well, including how many episodes from the same show can be stored at the same time.

YouTube TV vs DirecTV Stream summary

YouTube TV and DirecTV Stream are very different services which should make choosing between the two a little easier. YouTube TV offers one main plan priced at $64.99 per month with more than 85 channels and the ability to make slight adjustments through the use of add-ons. DirecTV Stream offers four main plans with the price varying from $69.99 to $149.99 per month, and the channel selection ranging from around 65 channels to more than 140.

For those that want a straightforward subscription, a decent selection of channels, an unlimited cloud DVR, and more varied device support, YouTube TV is likely to be the best option. However, for those that want greater flexibility in the number of channels and don’t mind paying a higher monthly price, then DirecTV Stream will be worth checking out.

If neither of these options sound right, or the entry price for these two services is just too high, there are other live TV streaming services available. As to be expected, each one comes with its own selling points and limitations. However, one of them may prove to be a better match for an individual or household than YouTube TV or DirecTV Stream.

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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

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