YouTube TV is worth $65 per month, but that doesn’t mean everyone should sign up for a subscription. Google’s live TV service offers a lot for the money, and makes a strong argument for being the best option on the market right now. However, it is not the only good live TV streaming service around, and it’s certainly not the cheapest.
Originally only available in beta in select locations, it wasn’t until early in 2019 when YouTube TV officially became available nationwide. Since then, YouTube TV has quickly established itself as a major player in the industry. Today, and with more than 5 million subscribers, YouTube TV is currently the most popular live TV streaming service in the United States.
YouTube TV $64.99
YouTube TV is a hugely popular live TV streaming service and for good reason, it is a very good live TV service. Arguably, it is the best option and certainly will suit many households looking for access to entertainment, news and sports channels. The main downside is that YouTube TV is not exactly a cheap live TV service.
Good for families
Good for sports
Cheaper options available
RSNs might be an issue
Interface won’t suit everyone
DVR has some limitations
With the cheapest — and only — plan costing $64.99 per month, YouTube TV is far from being the most affordable option, raising the question of whether it is worth paying for? This review will look to provide some clarity on the pros and cons of a YouTube TV subscription, starting with the general user experience, before moving on to the channels, on-demand, cloud DVR, and finishing up by addressing the price-to-value ratio.
Experience and ease of use
Google has a habit of trying to make its products and services as user-friendly as possible, often through the use of AI and Google Assistant. However, YouTube TV is not quite as easy to use as it could be, especially for less tech-savvy users.
For those familiar with live TV streaming services, YouTube TV will feel more intuitive than other services. For example, YouTube TV is pretty good at surfacing videos that the viewer will likely want to watch, and especially live sports. This makes it quick and easy to access content after opening the app.
Speaking of launching the app, the main tabs on the home screen are Library (recordings, saved content, and so on), Home (where you start, recommendations, etc.), and Live (the live TV guide).
Background playback is also in effect, so whatever a user was watching will continue to play in the background while they navigate the live TV guide or any of the other sections of the app. For those less keen on background playback, this can be disabled through the settings menu. When it comes to experienced users, the interface and design works, and works well.
However, for those new to streaming, YouTube TV might feel overly complicated, and especially at first. This is mostly the result of the Home screen. YouTube TV tries to fit as many keywords/shortcuts as possible, making it easy to jump to even highly refined sections like “sports games” or “animated comedy.” Furthermore, clicking on a keyword often loads even more granular keywords, resulting in an interface that almost places more focus on keywords than actual content.
The problem is that this results in the Home screen also becoming a very busy place, potentially making one of YouTube TV’s best features also one of its worst for some users. While those who are more accustomed to the interface will likely benefit from the depth and granularity of tags and categories, those migrating from cable may find YouTube TV to be overly complicated.
To be fair, this isn’t exactly a massive complaint, but that’s the point. YouTube TV works great for those who are used to streaming and know what they are doing. For others, the design might prove to be a little overwhelming. In particular, younger and older viewers.
YouTube TV: channels and live TV
Finding the right service that offers access to all of the channels that a home wants has become increasingly harder in the age of streaming. Officially, YouTube TV provides access to more than 100 live TV channels. Although not to the level of traditional cable and satellite packages, the selection is likely to suit the needs of most homes. Many of the channels available through YouTube TV are networks that households will view as some of the most important. In this respect, YouTube TV offers a better overall channel lineup than most competing services right now.
For those that do find the channel selection to be lacking, there are options to improve the selection. For example, the Sports Plus add-on unlocks access to additional sports channels including NFL RedZone. Speaking of sports, YouTube TV has also introduced additional sports-related features in recent years, with key plays and in-game stats two good examples. For sports fans specifically, the channel selection and premium features makes YouTube TV a great solution for live TV.
As good as the channel selection is, it is far from complete, as existing YouTube TV subscribers will already know. YouTube TV currently doesn’t include any Sinclair-owned channels, such as Tennis Channel and some Fox RSNs. If access to local and regional sports networks is important, some homes may find that YouTube TV doesn’t fully fit their needs.
Another area of concern, and potentially for sports fans, is 4K. Technically, YouTube TV does offer the option to watch in 4K but this does require the bundling of the 4K Plus add-on. Priced at $19.99 per month ($15 for each of the first 12 months), watching YouTube TV in 4K does greatly increase the monthly cost of a subscription.
YouTube TV: additional on-demand content
One of the consistent key elements of YouTube TV is its emphasis on delivering a rich product, and that extends to the on-demand section as well. YouTube TV offers plenty of non-live content and the interface does an equally good job of making these videos accessible on the Home screen. Whether it’s individual episodes, entire seasons, or hit movies, there’s plenty to watch at any given time.
YouTube TV also comes with fairly decent TV Everywhere support, allowing subscribers to sign in to third-party network apps using their YouTube TV credentials. This option can be a great way to expand the level of on-demand content a home has access to, or circumvent issues with too many people watching at the same time.
As mentioned, YouTube TV does also provide an option to choose from a selection of premium networks, for those times when the on-demand and third-party app content is not enough. These premium services can be added to a subscription for an additional monthly cost and include HBO Max, Cinemax, Epix, NBA League Pass, Showtime, and Starz, among others. While it isn’t any cheaper than subscribing directly, there are benefits to adding a premium network, including a single interface for both services and no need to sign up in a different app.
Overall, YouTube TV is not short on content. Along with the varied selection of channels, subscribers have access to plenty of on-demand content, premium networks (if they’re willing to pay more each month), and access to third-party network apps through TV Everywhere.
Cloud DVR and recordings
YouTube TV’s cloud DVD is great, and one of the service’s main selling points. First off, it is unlimited, so subscribers are free to record as many videos as they like, and as often as they want. Those who want to record every NFL or Premier League game can. Just like, those who want to record every episode of all of their favorite TV shows can. What’s more, the cloud DVR isn’t just unlimited, it’s also personal.
YouTube TV allows an account holder to share a subscription with up to five other people and each of them gets their very own unlimited cloud-based DVR. This not only means that up to six people can record as much as they want, but none of them will need to worry about what the others have recorded or navigating through recordings they did not make. As each account is treated like its own subscription, the individual DVRs are likely to be highly appealing to larger and busier households.
That said, YouTube TV’s DVR is not without its issues. The major one being that recordings only stay recorded for a maximum of nine months. While subscribers are free to record as much as they want, unless they have the time to watch all those recordings, they may find that many of their saved episodes and movies are automatically deleted by YouTube TV.
The unlimited nature of the cloud DVR also comes with some annoying downsides. For example, as subscribers don’t have a need to delete recordings, YouTube TV doesn’t actually provide them with an option to manually delete any. With no way to clean up the recordings library, subscribers simply have to just wait until the time has elapsed and YouTube TV gets around to automatically removing watched videos.
To be clear, while there is a ‘remove from library‘ option, this simply stops any new recording of that program from being made. The videos that have already been recorded continue to remain available until their expiration date.
YouTube TV price and value
YouTube TV started life at just $35 per month. While the channel lineup has increased considerably since then, so has the price, with almost every new batch of channels directly linked to a prior price increase. At its current $65 per month rate, YouTube TV is almost twice as expensive as it was at launch.
In some ways, the increase in price can be justified through the new channel additions, as they do ensure the value of a subscription increases as well. Subscribers might be paying more than they did before, but they are also getting more these days. However, YouTube TV’s approach does raise the question of when will Google come to the conclusion that there are enough channels? For some subscribers, there’s always going to be the fear that the next YouTube TV price increase is just around the corner, even if it does result in additional channels becoming available at the same time.
While YouTube TV has expressed interest in launching a cheaper plan in the past, it still remains to be seen if one will arrive, or how skinny such a plan might end up being. In the meantime, and to put the current price into perspective, Sling TV currently costs $40 per month, making it a more suitable option for homes looking for an affordable way to stream live TV over the internet.
Even though Sling TV doesn’t offer quite as many channels or premium features, it does provide so many upgrade options that a subscriber can create a package that’s relatively similar to YouTube TV. Therein lies YouTube TV’s main value problem. As it currently stands, YouTube TV is worth the $65 per month, but without any options to lower the price, it is not going to be a viable live TV service for everyone.
For those that can afford, and are willing, to pay $65 per month for live TV, YouTube TV offers a solid product, a reliable experience, and features that genuinely do add value. For those that have abandoned cable for streaming, and want to save as much as possible, it might be worth considering some of the alternative options first.
YouTube TV review: summary
YouTube TV is a great option for live TV. It offers a wide selection of channels, a (mostly) great DVR, and an interface that’s almost purpose-built for streamers. However, it is not without its issues in the channels, DVR, and interface departments. How many of those issues matter, along with how much an individual is happy to pay, will likely determine whether this is the right service for them.
For those that just want access to specific channels then YouTube TV might not the best option. Sling TV and Philo are both considerably cheaper, and as long as their channel lineups match the needs of a home, either of them may prove to be a better option in terms of the monthly cost. That said, for anyone looking for a rich and robust alternative to cable or satellite, YouTube TV is arguably the best live TV streaming service around right now.
YouTube TV: additional info
For those new to streaming, there are some additional points to be aware of before signing up to YouTube TV. Many of these issues not only apply to YouTube TV, but live TV streaming in general. To ensure the best experience possible, consumers will want to make sure that the rest of their existing setup is able to support YouTube TV.
As this is a service that delivers live TV and on-demand content over the internet, the quality of the internet connection is important. Officially, YouTube TV suggests a 13 Mbps speed for the most reliable connection.
YouTube TV minimum internet speeds:
|What to expect
|standard definition (SD) video streaming
|HD video streaming on one device at a time
|HD video streaming on multiple devices at the same time
|4K video streaming (requires 4K Plus add-on)
In addition to the internet speed, consumers will want to make sure they have a device that’s compatible with YouTube TV. For many homes, this shouldn’t be too much of an issue considering YouTube TV’s wide list of supported devices. However, there still may be occasions when consumers find they are unable to watch YouTube TV on their preferred device(s).
Examples of currently supported platforms:
- Android phones and tablets
- Android TV/Google TV
- Apple TV
- Fire TV players and Edition smart TVs
- iPhones and iPads
- LG smart TVs
- Roku Players and TVs
- Samsung smart TVs
- Vizio SmartCast TVs
The channel selection, price, and general experience are all important aspects when choosing a live TV streaming service, but they are not the only points to consider. Below is a selection of additional resources that may help when deciding whether YouTube TV is the right live TV streaming service for you.
Read more YouTube TV:
- YouTube TV Local Channels: What’s Available & How to Check
- How Many Devices Can Stream at the Same Time
- YouTube TV Add-On Bundles: Entertainment, Sports & 4K Explained
- You Can Watch Away from Home (With Caveats)
- How to Cancel YouTube TV
Published: Jan. 2021, Updated: Dec. 2022