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YouTube TV: Everything you need to know about the service

YouTube TV
(Image credit: YouTube)

YouTube TV is Google’s answer to a TV streaming service and it’s available to everyone who lives in the United States.

It’s one of a number of TV streaming services that have brought about a reckoning for mainstream cable providers. You know, the ones who charge equipment rental fees and HD service when those things should just be free of charge. 

For far too long now cable contracts have locked us into horribly long agreements that bundle things into the package that we often don't use (like home phones), as well as channels we don't watch, all so they can maintain their bottom line.

Well, bad news cable companies: Those days are now over.

There are many streaming services to choose from and YouTube TV is a cable replacement, full stop, offering live TV to your phone, tablet and streaming device without a costly subscription or never-ending contract.

  • Want something cheaper? Sling TV starts at just $35 per month
  • Unsure if YouTube TV is the streaming service for you? Compare it with the rest in our best TV streaming services guide

YouTube TV is a deal that feels too good to be true for anyone who always thought they’d need to keep cable alongside streaming services. So much so that it could one day put cable companies out of business.

Interestingly, while cable-cutters are definitely on YouTube's radar, it's the so-called cord-nevers out there – those of us who have never paid for cable, and likely never will – that YouTube TV is bound to appeal to. It's all the channels we've come to expect from our parent's house, but at a price that’s affordable.

Are you ready to cancel cable once and for all? Are you ready for dozens of channels streaming live wherever you are without the need for a cable box? If so, then pull up a seat and we'll tell you everything you need to know about YouTube’s streaming service.

Cut to the chase

  • What is YouTube TV? A live streaming service, like Sling TV
  • When is it coming out? It's available right now
  • How much will it cost? $64.99 per month, unless you get an add-on package
  • Where can you watch it? Almost anywhere in the US

Amazon Fire TV

You can watch YouTube TV on Amazon Fire TV. (Image credit: Amazon Fire)

How to watch YouTube TV on your TV

First thing's first, you'll need to sign up for a free trial of the service. Once that's done, you can either tune in on your browser (tv.youtube.com) or find the YouTube TV app on your iOS and Android phone or tablet. 

If you're looking for the old-school sit back experience, YouTube TV is available on Amazon Fire TV devices, Chromecast, Apple TV, Samsung and LG smart TVs, HiSense TVs, Xbox One, and many more. You can find a dedicated app for YouTube TV on their respective channel stores or check the full list of supported devices for more info.

Until recently, Roku TV or a Roku streaming stick would also have allowed you to watch YouTube TV, but it's no longer available on the Roku platform for new users. However, Google appears to be rolling out a solution.

In an official YouTube blog post on May 7, Google announced that the regular YouTube app would now contain a shortcut to the YouTube TV service, allowing it to still be accessible on the Roku OS.

It's also worth pointing out that to access YouTube TV, not only are you going to need a subscription to the service but also an internet service plan from one of your local ISPs (for most folks, that's AT&T, Spectrum, Verizon).

This is something most folks pay for already and therefore hasn't been figured into the cost of YouTube TV – but it's worth noting nonetheless if you're weighing up your options.

YouTube TV

(Image credit: YouTube)

Why YouTube TV is the right choice for you

Why is YouTube TV so big? It offers live TV without ever calling the cable company. People love it because they can watch and record live TV as it happens without paying for 1,000 channels they'll never watch. 

All that and it's way cheaper than cable. 

That said, while YouTube TV has capitalized on the cord-cutting zeitgeist, it wasn't the only streaming service in town: PlayStation Vue and Sling TV both arrived on the scene earlier, but stumbled in delivering an ideal experience. 

That's where YouTube TV has succeeded. It's delivered a better experience from the first day, and has amassed more than 3 million subscribers along the way.

OK, so YouTube TV is big, you get that. But why should you care?

So how is YouTube TV different?

YouTube TV is a US-exclusive live streaming service – think Netflix but instead of on-demand TV shows and movies you’ll see cable channels like ABC, NBC, FOX, ESPN and Disney among many, many more. 

It’s a lot like cable in the sense that everything is divided by channel and, yes, you’ll have to pay a monthly fee for it. But the difference here is that you’ll be able to take shows whenever and wherever you go. 

Loading up the service for the first time, we easily found enough content to keep us entertained for the time-being, plus will have plenty to watch next time we log-on thanks to YouTube TV's stellar Cloud DVR. 

Cloud DVR, if you've never heard that term before, allows you to record your favorite shows as they air and save them, well, to the cloud so that you can watch them later. It’s TiVo, but everything’s online. 

YouTube TV promises unlimited storage for shows for up to nine months – a serious advantage over the competition which usually only offer 28 days of storage. 

If you think you're going to just jump past the advertisements, though, think again. Like traditional cable, YouTube TV and its line-up of channels still need revenue beyond your month-to-month subscription fee – and advertisements, as much as we despise them, are YouTube's way of keeping the lights on.

YouTube TV on every device? We hope so.

YouTube TV on every device? We hope so.

But your monthly subscription isn't without its benefits – YouTube says that its service will allow up to five other people in the family to access the service and will allow up to three of them tune into the service simultaneously on the same account – a big advantage when you’re looking to replace cable and you have a big family.

The other thing you need to know about YouTube TV is its price: $64.99 a month. However, there are some different packages to choose from, as well as network add-ons (like HBO Max and Showtime) and sports add-ons.

What channels are available on YouTube TV?

At last count, YouTube TV offers more than 85 networks, including popular cable networks and on-demand programming available for viewing. 

That includes ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and more (which means every NFL game up to and including the Super Bowl, are yours to watch every Sunday) plus all the channels that fall under the umbrella of those companies – i.e. ESPN, CSN, FOX Sports, USA, FX, Disney, E!, Bravo, SyFy, FXX, National Geographic, MSNBC, FOX News, CNBC and more.  

How is it different than YouTube Premium?

Here’s where things can get confusing. YouTube Premium (which a long time ago was called YouTube Red) is an ad-free version of YouTube and it has a few fun features included, like ad-free listening, downloading videos for offline listening and the music streaming app YouTube Music Premium. 

What YouTube Premium won't allow you to do is watch live TV or cable TV content. For that you'll need YouTube TV. 

Is there some crossover potential here between these two services? Absolutely. Maybe a subscription to YouTube TV also nets you a free subscription to Premium or Google Play Music or Google Play Movies & TV. Unfortunately, none of those services link together right now, but that could change down the road.

Is YouTube TV a better deal than cable? 

That’s a good question. The answer here is ‘maybe’. This depends on how your cable service provider packages its internet and cable bundles. If you’re already paying for internet service, you can tack on an extra $40 for YouTube TV and maybe a $10-per-month subscription to Netflix and have just as much content as you’d have from a cable TV service that can cost upwards of $120 to $150 a month. 

That being said, if you’re paying for one of those bundles that allows you to package cable, internet and phone service together for a lower price, YouTube TV might not come out to be significantly less. 

Fire TV

This is what YouTube TV looks like on Amazon Fire TV. (Image credit: Fire TV)

There are many benefits to going for a streaming service over a cable service. There's  the ability to watch shows wherever you go, the potential to use Cloud DVR to save shows for later and the no-obligations contract that allows you to cancel your account without a termination fee. 

On top of everything else, you don’t need to rent a cable box from companies like Comcast, Spectrum or AT&T, because the streaming service comes in through whatever device you’re using. 

In short, YouTube TV can offer as many channels as basic cable does, without the need for a cable box and 12-month contract, which is why we consider it a win. It does all that and offers Cloud DVR, is available a plethora of apps for devices like Apple TV and the Xbox One family of consoles and does video-on-demand, making it one of the best streaming services on the planet. 

As it stands, this is probably one of the best TV streaming services in the US right now, and well-worth its monthly fee for the majority of folks out there.

How soon can you start watching it? Right now. Just head over to tv.youtube.com to start your free trial.

Nick Pino

Nick Pino is the senior home entertainment editor at TechRadar and covers TVs, headphones, speakers, video games, VR and streaming devices. He also has a degree in computer science he's not using if anyone wants it.