Live TV streaming services have exploded in popularity in recent years. As more households cut the cord, providers like YouTube TV offer cable-like bundles of live channels without expensive hardware or contracts.
But with so many options to choose from, is YouTube TV really the best live TV streaming service? In this comprehensive review, we’ll analyze YouTube TV’s features, channels, pricing, pros and cons and how it stacks up against competitors to help you decide if it‘s the right pick for you.
Introduction to YouTube TV
Launched publicly in 2017 after being in testing for months, YouTube TV is a live TV streaming service owned and operated by Google and part of the larger YouTube ecosystem.
It offers live and on-demand programming from 85+ of the top cable TV channels spanning entertainment, news, sports and more. This includes major broadcast networks like ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox plus cable staples like ESPN, CNN, TNT, Disney and many others.
YouTube TV also provides access to original shows and movies via its large on-demand streaming library of YouTube content.
Some of the key features include:
- 85+ channels available in base package
- Unlimited cloud DVR storage with 9 months retention
- 3 simultaneous streams per account
- Single $64.99 per month price point
- Apps on phones, tablets, computers, streaming devices
YouTube TV has seen rapid growth since launch, now reporting over 5 million subscribers as of January 2022. However, some recent price hikes have slowed that growth as we’ll analyze later.
First, let’s take a deeper look into YouTube TV’s channel packages, add-ons, streaming quality and features.
YouTube TV Channels, Add-Ons and Local Network Availability
The YouTube TV base package includes 85+ channels spanning the following categories:
Entertainment – 27+ channels including AMC, Bravo, E!, FX, Syfy, TBS, TNT, USA
Sports – 17+ channels including ESPN, ESPN2, FS1, MLB Network, NBA TV, NBC Sports Network, NFL Network
News – 28+ channels including Bloomberg, CBS News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, NBC News, Newsy
Kids – 8 channels including Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD, Nickelodeon
Lifestyle – 9 channels including Food Network, HGTV, OWN, Tastemade
Plus local affiliate channels for ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC in most metro area markets.
While the base package covers most of the popular cable TV channels, YouTube TV does offer some additional add-on channel packages for increased fees:
- Sports Plus – NFL RedZone, Fox College Sports, MAVTV, TVG ($10.99/month)
- Entertainment Plus – Hallmark Channel, OWN, Discovery Family, Science ($7.99/month)
- AMC Premiere – Ad-free on demand AMC content ($4.99/month)
- Showtime – Showtime channels & on demand ($10.99/month)
- Starz – Starz & StarzEncore channels ($8.99/month)
- NBA League Pass – Out of market NBA games ($39.99/month)
In terms of local network availability, YouTube TV provides live local feeds from ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox in most metro areas. Just enter your zip code on their website to see which major affiliate stations are available in your region.
ABC, NBC and CBS affiliates are available in at least 90% of markets, while FOX local feeds are live in 80% of regions. Other local independents and sub-channels are also accessible based on geography.
Additionally, YouTube TV recently added PBS to their local channel lineup for a number of major cities like New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles and others. However, local PBS feeds are still limited compared to the Big 4 networks.
YouTube TV Local Channel Availability
Next let‘s examine YouTube TV‘s pricing and how costs add up.
YouTube TV Pricing and Package Breakdown
One of YouTube TV‘s biggest selling points is the simplicity of its pricing. There are no contracts, hidden fees or add-on equipment rentals to worry about.
The base YouTube TV package that includes 85+ channels is $64.99 per month. This covers an unlimited number of household members and devices.
YouTube TV allows each account to stream to up to 3 devices simultaneously. This makes it easy for families or roommates to share the base package.
Add-on channel packages range from $4.99 to $39.99 per month depending on the networks you want to add:
- Sports Plus – $10.99
- Entertainment Plus – $7.99
- AMC Premiere – $4.99
- Showtime – $10.99
- Starz – $8.99
- NBA League Pass – $39.99
There are also options to subscribe to streaming services like HBO Max directly through YouTube TV for their normal standalone pricing.
YouTube TV Pricing Breakdown
|YouTube TV (85+ channels)||$64.99/month|
|Sports Plus (add-on)||$10.99/month|
|Entertainment Plus (add-on)||$7.99/month|
|AMC Premiere (add-on)||$4.99/month|
|NBA League Pass (add-on)||$39.99/month|
While the simplicity is nice, YouTube TV has consistently raised prices over time:
- Launched at $35/month in 2017
- Raised to $40/month in 2018
- Raised to $50/month in 2019
- Raised to current $64.99/month in 2020
These price hikes have slowed subscriber growth over time. However, YouTube TV still represents a significant value compared to traditional cable bundles. For example, a Cox TV Essential bundle with 85 channels, 50 hours of DVR and 1 simultaneous stream costs $110+/month.
Next let‘s examine the streaming quality, features and overall user experience YouTube TV delivers.
YouTube TV Streaming Quality and Features
YouTube TV provides an excellent overall viewing experience across devices with smooth streaming and intuitive features.
The service dynamically adapts video quality based on your internet connection speed to optimize resolution and performance. This helps minimize buffering and lag by not overloading slow connections.
On fast home WiFi connections, YouTube TV will stream your favorite shows in crisp 1080p HD video quality at 60 frames per second. This provides excellent detail, color vibrancy and smooth motion for sports and action scenes.
Average bitrate across channels is 5Mbps+ for 720p feeds and 8Mbps+ for 1080p feeds based on third-party testing. This compares well to alternatives like Hulu Live at 3.5Mbps for 720p and 7Mbps for 1080p on average. Higher bitrates mean less compression artifacts and better picture.
Mobile streaming quality is throttled based on cellular bandwidth available. On the go you can expect 480p streams that still look decent on smaller screens. Performance is reliable even on congested networks.
One current downside is a lack of 4K or HDR streaming support on YouTube TV. Competitors like fuboTV do offer some live sports coverage in 4K for an enhanced viewing experience.
Interface and navigation match the clean YouTube aesthetic. Profiles allow personalization with saved shows and recommendations. Intuitive buttons control playback with 10-second rewind/forward skips available.
Other handy features include:
- Split screen – Watch 2 live shows simultaneously on 1 screen
- Multiple Homes – Link and access your subscription while traveling
- Offline Viewing – Download shows to phones/tablets to watch offline
- No rental equipment – Stream through apps vs. rented cable boxes
Now let‘s examine the industry-leading cloud DVR functionality.
YouTube TV DVR Storage and Features
One of YouTube TV‘s standout assets is its unlimited DVR storage. This provides a game-changing advantage over rivals that impose storage limits.
With YouTube TV, you can record an unlimited number of shows simultaneously with no caps. Just click the "+" icon to schedule any program to your cloud DVR library.
Your recordings are stored for 9 months before being automatically deleted to clear space. This means you never have to micromanage storage or delete shows to make room for new ones.
The 9 month retention period is extremely generous compared to alternatives. For example:
- Hulu Live TV – 50 hours storage, 9 month retention
- fuboTV – 250 hours storage, recordings deleted after 30 days
- SlingTV – 50 hours storage, recordings deleted after 30 days
- Philo – Unlimited storage, 30 day retention
For households that record lots of shows, unlimited DVR is a must-have feature. You‘ll never get a "storage full" notice and lose access to your recordings.
YouTube TV allows simultaneous recordings of as many shows as you want. Just add whatever programs you want into your library. There are no tuner or stream limits like old DVR hardware boxes.
The streamlined DVR management makes it easy to filter recordings by type or title. An intuitive timeline shows scheduled recordings too.
You can stream recordings on any device and even download them locally on mobile apps for offline playback.
Now let‘s see how YouTube TV stacks up to the competition across other key factors:
YouTube TV vs. Other Live TV Streaming Services
How does YouTube TV compare against alternatives like Hulu Live TV, Sling TV, fuboTV and Philo? Here‘s a head-to-head look across some key considerations:
|Feature||YouTube TV||Hulu Live||Sling TV||fuboTV||Philo|
|Local Channels||ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox||ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox||Fox, NBC (some markets)||CBS, Fox (some markets)||None|
|DVR Storage||Unlimited||50 hours||50 hours||250 hours||Unlimited, 30-day limit|
|Missing Channels||A&E, History, Lifetime||Discovery, A&E, History||ESPN, ABC, CBS||Hallmark, MTV||Food Network, TBS|
|Streaming Quality||1080p HD||1080p HD||720p HD||720p/1080p HD||720p HD|
Breaking this down:
- Price – Most services are in the $65 range, except Sling TV starting at $35 and Philo at $25
- Channels – YouTube TV and fuboTV offer the most at 80+
- Local Channels – Only YouTube TV, Hulu and Sling TV (select markets) offer ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox
- DVR Storage – YouTube TV‘s unlimited cloud storage is industry-leading
- Streams – Most allow 2 or 3 simultaneous streams
- Missing Channels – Each service lacks certain cable channels the others have
- Sports – YouTube TV and fuboTV are best for sports fans
- Streaming Quality – All provide 720p+ HD, only fuboTV offers 4K
Next let‘s run through the pros and cons of YouTube TV as a service.
YouTube TV Pros and Cons
YouTube TV has excellent strengths but isn‘t perfect. Here are the key pros and cons based on our analysis:
YouTube TV Pros
- Generous unlimited DVR cloud storage
- Smooth streaming quality up to 1080p HD
- Intuitive interface and ease of use
- Access to ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox locals in most regions
- No rental fees or hidden equipment costs
- Allows up to 3 simultaneous streams
- Contract-free, cancel anytime
YouTube TV Cons
- Missing some popular cable channels like A&E, History
- Recent price increases make it less competitive
- Lack of 4K or HDR streaming quality
- No parental controls or ratings limitations
- Live streaming reliability issues for major events
- Limited regional sports network availability
YouTube TV Review Roundup
Don‘t just take our word for it – here‘s what professional reviewers are saying about YouTube TV:
"YouTube TV offers the cable-style, live TV experience delivered over the internet, with unlimited storage DVR, six accounts per household and three concurrent streams." CNET
"YouTube TV is as close to the cable TV experience as you can get with a streaming service." Tom‘s Guide
"YouTube TV is a worthy cable TV replacement that delivers most of the channels you‘ll want, excellent DVR and features." TechRadar
The consensus is that while not perfect, YouTube TV provides a robust cable-like experience for cord cutters minus the contracts and equipment fees.
Verdict: Is YouTube TV the Best Live TV Streaming Service?
So what‘s the final verdict? Is YouTube TV the best live TV streaming service in 2022?
The answer depends on your needs and preferences as a viewer. But for many cord cutters, YouTube TV represents an excellent option with top industry advantages:
- Most popular cable channels included
- Smooth HD streaming up to 1080p
- Unlimited DVR storage for recordings
- Intuitive interface across devices
- Available on virtually any device
- No rental fees or equipment required
YouTube TV really shines for sports fans who want ESPN, regional sports networks and unlimited DVR for games. News junkies will appreciate the breadth of national and local news options. And movie buffs gain access to AMC, FX, TBS and other top entertainment channels.
Competitors like Hulu Live TV match YouTube TV in core areas like channel count, streaming quality and device support. And services like fuboTV offer more robust 4K support.
But unlimited DVR storage really is a game-changing feature exclusive to YouTube TV. And with support for pausing live TV and downloading recordings offline, the service provides the convenience of traditional DVRs without storage limits.
For households seeking a flexible cable TV replacement without annual contracts or hidden hardware fees, YouTube TV provides a compelling option. While more expensive than some bare-bones options, YouTube TV‘s unlimited DVR and breadth of content make it a top choice among live TV streamers.