YouTube TV offers a free preview that allows non-subscribers to watch live TV for a very short period of time before having to start paying for the service’s subscription. It remains unclear when the free preview first became available, or whether it is available to everyone. However, a Google account is required.
YouTube already provides consumers with ways to watch for free for a limited time. All those signing up to YouTube TV for the first time are eligible for a standard free trial that typically lasts seven days, although it can often stretch up to fourteen days depending on when signing up. The service also routinely partners with third-party streaming services to provide existing subscribers with free access for a limited time. For example, YouTube TV recently offered a 5-day HBO Max free preview.
Expanding on this preview approach, YouTube TV offers non-subscribers the option to watch live TV for up to 20 minutes before signing up to a paid subscription. The free preview only shows up once the user has logged in with their Google account and the act of signing in doesn’t commit to a subscription. Non-subscribers were already able to sign in and browse the catalog to see what YouTube TV has to offer without subscribing. The difference is the browsing option now also comes with the option to watch for free.
The preview doesn’t appear to be available through any of the apps so there’s no option to download YouTube TV on a phone or smart TV and watch for free without signing up for the free trial. However, if visiting the YouTube TV website and signing in with a Google account that isn’t already linked to a YouTube TV subscription, a “try a free preview first” pop-up message (shown above) appears along with the option to start the preview.
It currently remains unclear whether the free preview is available to those that have never used YouTube TV, or is only for those that have been a subscriber in the past. However, after testing with multiple Google accounts, the preference did seem to be for previous subscribers or those that have used up a free trial. What was interesting is that the length of the free preview also varies. Although 20 minutes was the most commonly offered length, a 5-minute free preview was also offered on one occasion.
For reference, the free preview length seems to be directly linked to the Google account. In other words, it is not affected by other factors such as when the YouTube TV website was visited or whether the user is returning after not taking up the offer the first time. It also didn’t appear possible to secure a free preview that lasted longer than 20 minutes.
Once the free preview has started, the user has pretty much unlimited access to YouTube TV including the ability to watch any of the live TV channels or any video from the on-demand library. A banner is present at the top of the page advising that the subscriber will need to sign up if they want to watch for longer than 20 minutes and a small countdown timer appears in the top right corner advising of how long remains. If actually watching any of the live channels, the timer moves to the bottom right corner and can only be viewed when the playback controls are visible on the screen.
During this time, the user is free to change between channels and on-demand videos as often as they like. When the preview does eventually come to an end, the live TV channel or video abruptly ends and the viewer is presented with another pop-up message suggesting they sign up to continue watching. For those that don’t plan on paying for a subscription, they can simply click on the ‘keep browsing’ link to return back to the normal interface and continue to browse YouTube TV as a non-subscriber.
Evidently, the preview in itself is not going to be anywhere near as effective as utilizing the standard free trial considering it is not long enough to watch an episode. However, it does seem like a good way to test out the picture quality, stability, and reliability in general. For anyone that’s unsure of whether their internet connection or their device can handle streaming YouTube TV, the free preview could be a good and quick way to find out.