Review: Is YouTube TV the Best Choice for Cord-Cutters?

Access all of your favorite over-the-air channels and shows for $40 a month. But is it worth the cost?
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For many consumers, cable TV seems like something akin to land-line phones and dial-up internet: clunky, expensive and totally out of date. In fact, it's estimated that every minute, six people will cut the cord in the United States this year. And the trend isn't expected to slow down any time soon, with cable subscriptions declining steadily since 2012. As such, cord cutting is becoming big business. 

Platforms like Sling, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and Hulu with live TV all offer a variety of content, from original shows to movies and even sports. But if you happened to catch the Super Bowl this year, you also know that YouTube TV is becoming a big player in the live-TV arena. In fact, it was was a pre-game sponsor, and the platform is now available almost everywhere in the U.S.

But, is YouTube TV worth the switch from traditional cable? Read this hands-on review to find out.

What Is YouTube TV?

YouTube TV, which launched in 2017, allows you to watch more than 60 live television channels on your connected TV, computer, phone or tablet. It offers a mix of live television, on-demand content (both movies and television shows), and DVR features. If you are a YouTube Premium member, you can play YouTube videos on your television through YouTube TV, as well. 

How Much Does YouTube TV Cost and What Does It Include?

After a free seven-day trial, a YouTube TV subscription costs $40 per month. However, you can cancel at any time and there is no penalty since there is no contract. Your subscription includes a variety of channels, such as:

  • ABC
  • CBS
  • FOX
  • NBC
  • AMC
  • BBC America
  • BBC World News
  • Cheddar
  • Bravo
  • Cartoon Network
  • CNBC
  • CNN
  • Fox News
  • ESPN
  • NBC Sports
  • Telemundo
  • Golf Channel
  • USA
  • National Geographic
  • And others

You can find a complete list of channels here or browse by show here.

You can also add on certain channels (like Showtime, Starz or the Sundance Channel), for a fee that ranges anywhere from $3 to $40 per month. These add-on channel offerings vary by location, so if you’re looking for something specific, be sure to check the YouTube TV site before signing up.

YouTube TV also offers unlimited cloud-connected DVR space. Record as many shows as you like at the same time, and the system will keep those recordings for up to nine months. 

Additionally, you can share YouTube TV with up to six other accounts per household. Roommates, friends or family members can get their own logins on your account and manage their own recorded shows. You’ll never have to worry about your mom recording over your favorite Bachelorette episode (or running out of space on the DVR) again with YouTube TV. You cannot, however, upgrade beyond six users.

Can I Get YouTube TV in My Area?

As of January 2019, YouTube TV is offered in more than 98% of the markets across the U.S. To find out if it’s available for you, all you need to do is plug in your zip code at tv.youtube.com.

Check YouTube TV Availability

Does YouTube TV Include Ads?

Unfortunately, YouTube TV does include ads just like regular cable television. However, there are certain times when you can skip through them, like if you pause live TV or if you're watching a select show that you've DVR'ed (some DVR'ed shows still show unskippable ads). Additionally, YouTube Premium subscribers (this is separate from YouTube TV and costs $11.99 per month after a 1-month trial) won’t be served ads while watching regular YouTube videos.

What's the Full YouTube TV Experience Like?

No matter how you watch YouTube TV -- on a phone, computer, tablet or connected TV -- the basic experience is pretty much the same. Scroll through the channels to see live previews of what is currently airing in your area, along with recorded shows and other recommended shows, and then select a piece of content. From there, it will play on your device or you can choose to send it to another device, like your connected TV. Overall, the platform's search function is very easy to use and effective. (Note that it searches only YouTube TV and not the regular YouTube.) 

While YouTube has attempted to optimize the mobile experience, smartphone viewers will likely have the least pleasant experience, dealing with small images and hard to read graphics. It's far more preferable to use your smartphone like a remote to control YouTube TV on your television.

As with most streaming services, you'll need relatively fast internet service and a good connection to avoid buffering or stuttering problems. YouTube recommends a download speed of at least 3 Mbps for optimal viewing. If you're watching YouTube TV on your mobile network, be mindful that connection may be an issue, and also that streaming video eats a ton of data.

Things to Consider Before Getting YouTube TV

As with all streaming services, there are always some limitations. While you can access YouTube TV from any Internet-connected device, you will need to be in the U.S. for it to work — it is not available overseas. Additionally, some content will differ based on your specific region.

Also, remember those five other friends and family members you decided to share your account with? Well, just know that YouTube TV can only be streamed on up to three separate devices at the same time. Additionally, all group members will have to occasionally stream from your home location to maintain access — so your best friend who lives on the other side of the country will have to get his own account or visit you more frequently. (Of course, YouTube doesn't go into detail about how often this streaming has to occur at the home location, so it's up to you if you want to risk it.)

Another consideration is your streaming device. While YouTube TV is available on a number of devices, including the Roku, Chromecast, NVIDIA SHIELD TV and Apple TV, you can’t get it on Amazon Fire TV, PlayStation 4 or other Sony-made devices. 

Finally, note that YouTube TV doesn’t offer partial refunds if you cancel before the end of your month is up. In fact, the only way to get that $40 back is if the service didn't work or was defective in some way. 

Is YouTube TV Worth It?

The short answer is yes, YouTube TV is worth it for those who absolutely cannot live without live television. If you are a sports fan or a news junkie in particular, then it's a great way to get your favorite content at an affordable price.

I have personally dipped in and out of YouTube TV subscriptions a few times. I’m a huge fan of the Olympics and enjoy watching the Super Bowl, and the only way to watch both events without cable is to subscribe to YouTube TV. I also use it to watch current shows that you can't normally get without a cable login. After those events or shows were over though, I cancelled my subscription, mostly because there are just so many ads to sit through. 

YouTube TV’s cloud DVR is also a nice perk. I can catch up on all the shows I miss if I'm out of the house or traveling, plus I'm able to take my shows with me when I’m on the road.

For $40 a month, YouTube TV offers a lot of features that make it worth the investment.

Start Watching on YouTube TV

*****

Any product or service prices/offers that appear in this article are accurate at time of publish, and are subject to change without notice. Please verify the actual selling price and offer details on the merchant’s site before making a purchase.


Any product or service prices/offers that appear in this article are accurate at time of publish, and are subject to change without notice. Please verify the actual selling price and offer details on the merchant’s site before making a purchase.

About the Author
Abigail Bassett Contributor

Abigail Bassett is an Emmy-winning journalist and video producer who covers personal finance, wellness, tech, travel, autos and food. Abigail spent more than 10 years as a senior producer at CNN. She’s currently a freelance writer and yoga teacher based in Los Angeles.


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