YouTube TV is one of the services that many (including us) consider when cutting the cord and getting rid of cable TV. It's a popular option among the best cable TV alternatives thanks to an extensive lineup, unlimited DVR cap (which isn't that unique anymore) and streamlined design. YouTube TV lets you get out of that expensive cable contract but still watch live sports, news and entertainment.
Those looking to replace cable should be happy with the default set of YouTube TV channels. As our YouTube TV review notes, the lineup of channels is one of the service's strongest features. And when comparing Hulu Live vs. YouTube TV vs other competitors, it fares very well. That's why YouTube TV was a frontrunner in Tom's Guide senior editor Henry T. Casey's quest to cut the cord.
In fact, Tom's Guide global editor-in-chief Mark Spoonauer picked YouTube TV to cut the cord. And, not only is he saving a lot of money, but he's wondering why he didn't do this earlier.
So what channels can you watch, what devices support YouTube TV and how does it stack up to competing cable-replacement services? We've put together the master guide on YouTube TV, how its programming and price stack up, and what makes it special.
What is YouTube TV?
YouTube TV is a live TV service that uses YouTube's clean and straightforward interface. And while it's not the cheapest option, it's one of our favorite options.
We've ranked YouTube TV highly in our personal tests to try and figure out what services we want to use. We're currently testing it against Sling TV, to see which buffers the least often.
Available on smart TVs, streaming boxes, computers and mobile devices, it includes local network broadcast channels, basic cable networks and original web shows from YouTube Red.
YouTube TV just added improved integration with Android TV, so the content you stream on the app now appears in the Channels row on the home screen. This added integration feels like a long time coming, since Google owns YouTube and Android TV.
YouTube TV cost: What's the price?
YouTube TV normally costs $65 per month. That's on par with its main competitor, Hulu with Live TV, which offers fewer channels than YouTube TV (though Hulu has its own exclusive original shows).
There's a $19.99 per month upgrade, though, which adds on Dolby Digital support, 4K, offline downloads, and unlimited simultaneous streams.
But even YouTube TV and Hulu Live TV's price hikes are far from where cable prices currently sit. They are usually timed to content additions. When YouTube TV got Turner channels in 2018, it went up by $5, and the 2019 addition of local channels and Discovery channels saw a price jump of $10.
Could we see a more affordable tier in the future? YouTube TV, according to a YouTube.com blog post, could add other options (making it more similar to the customizable Sling TV), as the company notes, "We are working to build new flexible models for YouTube TV users."
You can try out YouTube TV for seven days before you're charged. And because there's no contract for the service, you can cancel at any time.
YouTube TV is customizable if you pay for premium extras. Adding on Showtime costs $11 per month currently, while Starz is $9 a month. Optional sports add-ons include NBA League Pass and MLB TV and are a bit pricier.
YouTube TV channels: What do you get?
The YouTube TV channels list includes more than 85 live TV channels, based on your region, plus content from the YouTube Originals channel. Your options will depend on your region, though, as New Yorkers get a directory of 59 networks, including local network affiliates.
In the end of September 2021, YouTube TV almost lost all of the NBCUniversal channels (14+ networks including NBC, USA and more), but the two managed to eke out a deal (after the original deadline was extended). Disney-owned networks, including ABC, ESPN, Freeform and FX left on December 18, when YouTube TV and Disney failed to re-negotiate a new contract. Those channels came back on Dec. 19.
YouTube TV used to have a huge gap — the channels from ViacomCBS. Fortunately, that changed last year with the addition of eight ViacomCBS channels (BET, CMT, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Network, TV Land and VH1). And more were added in March 2021, including MTV2, TeenNick and NickToons.
YouTube TV's more popular channels include AMC, Bravo, FX and USA. It also offers a wide array of 24-hour news networks, including BBC World News, CNBC, Fox News and MSNBC. YouTube TV's latest channels include CNN, TNT, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, truTV and Turner Classic Movies.
Along with YouTube TV's April 2019 price hike, the streaming service added 10 new channels including Discovery Channel, HGTV, Food Network, TLC, Investigation Discovery, Animal Planet, Travel Channel, and MotorTrend. Oprah Winfrey's OWN network is coming later this year.
Baseball fans will be able to add MLB.TV for games outside their market, but only the $29.99 per month or $129.99 for the full season options. Yes, YouTube TV won't have the $109 per season for a single team package.
To see what networks are available in your area, you'll need to pretend that you're signing up here. Before you enter your credit card information, the site will show you the channels specific to your region.
Here's the full list of YouTube TV channels, before factoring additional options and localization, updated to re-add the Disney-owned channels that disappeared when YouTube TV and Disney failed to resolve their contract renewal in time.
BBC World News
Cheddar Big News
FOX News Channel
MLB Game of the week
SEC ESPN Network
YouTube TV special features
Word has it that YouTube TV will also get a multi-view feature. Fubo TV has something similar, but just on the Apple TV.
YouTube TV in 4K is finally here
Right in time for those looking to watch the Tokyo Olympics online, YouTube TV has debuted multiple 4K streams for NBC, the Olympic Channel and the Golf Channel. This costs $19.99 per month extra, but YouTube TV will be discounting the first year of payments down to a half-off price of $9.99 per month.
YouTube TV accounts and simultaneous streams
Each YouTube TV subscription allows for up to six separate user accounts, so each viewer can create a unique profile for customized suggestions and private DVR libraries. Up to three accounts can stream content simultaneously.
YouTube TV: Where is it available?
While it took a while to roll out around the country, YouTube TV is now available in every television market in the U.S. This expansion completed with Glendive, Montana, according to a tweet from YouTube TV.
YouTube TV devices and app
The YouTube TV app is also available on Android, iOS, laptops and desktops, as well as Amazon's Fire TV devices. Plus, the YouTube TV iPhone app is about to leapfrog YouTube's app. YouTube TV apps have also been on on Apple TV boxes and Roku TVs and other Roku devices, including the Express, Ultra and Stick.
The big news right now is not good for Roku. Not only did a Roku update break YouTube TV, but an inter-company spat could make things a hell of a lot worse. You know how the YouTube TV app is not in the Roku Channel Store? There's a chance the YouTube Roku app may follow. The countdown is ticking away for Dec. 9, when the contract expires (the apps will stay on devices that have already downloaded it).
Can I get YouTube TV on my smart TV?
TV sets running the Android TV operating system can download a YouTube TV app. Select LG, Samsung, Vizio, Sharp, Hisense and Sony smart TVs from 2014 and 2015 should be getting YouTube TV "soon," according to YouTube. For a full list of supported devices, click here.
Can you watch live TV on YouTube TV? How about local channels?
Yes. YouTube TV's major function is its ability to serve up livestreams of cable TV channels. In New York City, for example, YouTube TV offers a selection of local networks (ABC 7, CBS 2, FOX 5 and NBC 4), while excluding PBS.
YouTube TV's Home tab shows you live TV options, as well as suggests top picks based on your preferences. For complete listings, click on the Live tab to see what's streaming now, and what's up next. Hovering over a show or event shows you a preview of the content.
What sports does YouTube TV offer?
YouTube TV offers a fair lineup of sports networks, with four ESPN channels, The Big Ten Network, CBS Sports, NBC Sports, The Tennis Channel, the SEC Network, NESN and the Olympic channel. YouTube TV also just added the NFL Network to the YouTube TV lineup on Sept. 3, in advance of the 2020 NFL season.
YouTube TV just announced its new Sports Plus add-on package. It costs $10.99 per month and includes NFL RedZone, Fox College Sports, GOLTV, Fox Soccer Plus, MAVTV, TVG for horse racing and the Stadium network as well.
As mentioned above, FOX Regional Sports Networks, and the YES Network, are leaving YouTube TV because of a contract negotiations dispute.
Rumor has it that YouTube TV will get the beIN Sports networks in the Sports Plus add-on. Users are, according to The Streamable, seeing these channels pop up — but not have the option to watch them. It's confusing, but could be a sign of something to come.
YouTube TV DVR
One of YouTube TV's most prominent features is its ability to save programming to its DVR library. To record a show, click its "+" button. YouTube TV will begin recording if the show is live, or save the show later if it has yet to come on.
This used to be one of the biggest ways that YouTube TV stood out. But then Hulu with Live TV copied this feature to the T. Both services keep your recordings for nine months, and then delete them. DirecTV Stream deletes recordings after 90 days.
Even better: You can record as much programming as you like, as there's no storage size cap on what you save. The one limit you have to observe is that each program is deleted after nine months.
YouTube TV reviews
Tom's Guide writer Kelly Woo gave YouTube TV a good review, giving the service credit for an unlimited DVR, local channels and its ease of use. Wired's Davey Alba agreed, but noted that YouTube TV's channel selection may not feature enough content for everyone, and gave it the backhanded compliment of being "fun, because television is fun."
The YouTube TV mobile app drew praise from Ben Popper at The Verge, who also appreciated the unlimited amount of storage in its cloud-based DVR. Mashable's Raymond Wong lamented that the streaming service forces you to "give up go-to channels like CNN, Comedy Central, TBS and Adult Swim."
YouTube TV free trial
When you sign up for YouTube TV, you get a free seven-day trial, provided the Google account that you're using has never been used for the service before.
How does YouTube TV compare to Sling TV and other cable replacement services?
YouTube TV's clean interface is one of the best around, but its unlimited DVR cap isn't as unique as it used to be. It's just Sling that can't touch that metric. And while we love YouTube TV's growing channel list, its pricing may now be a sore spot for many.
The new $65 a month price puts YouTubeTV right below the $70 Hulu With Live TV and Fubo TV. Hulu includes Disney Plus and ESPN Plus, while fuboTV has a ton of international sports channels that nobody else has.
Sling TV, with more than 30 channels for $35 per month, is a lot cheaper. For more details check out our big Hulu Live vs. YouTube TV vs. Sling vs. AT&T TV Now face-off, to see how these services fare against one another.