Cable TV appears to be close to land-line phones and dial-up internet for many customers: clunky, pricey and completely out of date. Currently, it's predicted that six U.S. people will cut the cord this year every minute. And the trend is not expected to slow down any time soon; since 2012, cable subscriptions have been decreasing steadily. As such, cord cutting is becoming a massive enterprise.
From original shows to movies and even sports, channels such as Sling, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and Hulu with live TV provide a range of content. But if you happened to witness this year's Super Bowl, you should already know that YouTube TV is becoming a major player in the arena of live TV. The website was a sponsor for the pre-game, and it is now available almost anywhere in the United States.
But, is YouTube TV worth the typical cable switch? To go beyond the free trial and to find out, read our hands-on analysis.
Launched in 2017, YouTube TV enables you to watch more than 70 live TV channels on your connected TV, device, phone or tablet. It provides a mixture of live TV, video on demand (both movies and TV shows) and DVR features. You can also play YouTube videos on your television via YouTube TV if you are a YouTube Premium member.
A YouTube TV subscription costs $64.99 per month, following a free five-day trial. You may, however, cancel at any time and, as there is no deal, there is no penalty. A number of platforms are part of your subscription, such as:
For an additional charge that varies from $3 to $40 a month, you can also subscribe to premium channels (like Showtime, Starz or the Sundance Channel). Add-on channel options differ by venue, so be sure to check the YouTube TV website before signing up if you're looking for anything unique.
The regular subscription plan allows you to share YouTube TV per household with up to five individuals. You can get customized logins to your account from roommates, friends or family members and handle their own recorded shows. This means that with YouTube TV, you will never have to worry about your mom recording your favorite Bachelorette episode (or running out of room on the DVR) again. You will not upgrade to include other users, though, and you can stream only three accounts simultaneously.
YouTube TV provides infinite space for cloud-connected DVRs. Record as many shows as you want at the same time and all your recordings will be kept by the system for up to nine months.
Since comparable services such as Sling TV charge extra for DVR functionality and have a hard limit on how much you are allowed to record at once, the DVR feature of YouTube TV makes it stand out from the crowd. If you plan to record several shows and hold them for more than a few weeks, YouTube TV is the best service for you, hands-down.
YouTube TV is available in more than 98% of the markets in the U.S. as of January 2019. All you need to do is type in your zip code at tv.youtube.com to find out if it's available for you.
Anyone with a Google account will enjoy a free trial of YouTube TV just by registering. After you have filled in all your account information, you will receive a free five-day trial that comes complete with all the basic YouTube TV channels.
Although you are free to cancel your subscription at any time, be mindful of the automatic auto-renewal of YouTube TV accounts, so if you do not plan to commit, make sure that you cancel before the end of the five-day period, otherwise you can sign up at $64.99 for another month.
Unfortunately, much like normal cable television, YouTube TV does contain advertisements. There are sometimes, though, that you can skip through them, such as if you pause live TV or if you watch a select DVR show (some DVR shows also show ads that cannot be skipped). In addition, YouTube Premium subscribers (this is different from YouTube TV and after a 1-month trial costs $ 11.99 per month) will not be served commercials when viewing daily YouTube videos.
The basic experience is pretty much the same, regardless of how you watch YouTube TV on a phone, computer, tablet or connected TV. Along with recorded shows and other suggested programs, scroll through the channels to see live previews of what is currently airing in your region. You may opt to submit it to another device, such as your connected TV, once you have chosen a piece of content that it plays on your device. Overall, the search feature of the platform is very simple to use and efficient. (Note: YouTube TV only scans, so daily YouTube videos will not appear in the results.)
Although YouTube has tried to optimize mobile viewing, viewers of smartphones will probably have the least friendly experience, as they will be dealing with small images and graphics that are difficult to read. Using your mobile as a remote to power YouTube TV on your television is much preferable.
As with most streaming services, in order to prevent buffering or stuttering issues, you will need reasonably quick internet access and a decent link. For optimum streaming, YouTube recommends a download speed of at least 3 Mbps. Be aware the link may be a problem if you're watching YouTube TV on your mobile network, and that streaming video eats a lot of data as well.
There are still certain drawbacks, as in all subscription services. Although you can access YouTube TV from any Internet-connected computer, for it to function, you will need to be in the U.S. It is not available abroad. Additionally, depending on your particular area, certain content can vary.
The stated limitations on family accounts are also worth noting. As mentioned before, YouTube TV can only be streamed on three devices at the same time (per account). And while you can share your plan with five family members, in order to retain connectivity, everyone in your party will have to stream occasionally from your home place, so your best friend who lives on the other side of the world will have to get their own account or visit you more often. (YouTube does not go into depth on how much this streaming needs to take place at home, of course, so if you want to chance it, it's up to you.)
Your streaming system is another factor. You can't get it on Amazon Fire TV, PlayStation 4 or other Sony-made devices, though YouTube TV is available on a variety of devices, including Roku, Chromecast, NVIDIA SHIELD TV and Apple TV.
Finally, if you cancel before the end of your month is over, you should know that YouTube TV doesn't offer partial refunds. You just get back your $65 if the service was in any way faulty.
The short response is yes, it's worth YouTube TV for someone who is completely unable to survive without live TV. It's a perfect way to get your favorite content at an affordable rate whether you are a sports fan or a news junkie.
A few times, I have personally dipped in and out of YouTube TV subscriptions. I'm a big Olympics fan and love watching the Super Bowl, and subscribing to YouTube TV is a convenient way to watch all events without cable. I also use it to watch current shows that you would not usually get without a cable login. However, I generally cancel my subscription after certain activities or shows are done, mainly because there are just too many commercials to sit through.
The cloud DVR on YouTube TV is also a good perk. If I'm out of the house or travelling, I can catch up on all the shows that I miss, plus I can take my shows with me while I'm on the road.
YouTube TV provides a lot of features for $65 a month that make it worth the investment.
John is a writer and columnist for many national and international news sites, blogs and is an exceptional activist and traveler.
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