YouTube TV review: Multichannel live TV streaming for the jet set
Editors' note, May 4, 2021: Due to a dispute between Google and Roku, YouTube TV is currently unavailable to download on the Roku platform, but it will continue to work for existing installations.
You've probably heard the phrase "change is the only constant." Its author, Greek philosopher Heraclitus, was talking about life itself, but it applies to live TV streaming services too. For the first half of 2020 YouTube TV was our Editors' Choice in premium services, but then the company raised its price by 30%, from $50 to $65. As a result we started recommending Hulu Plus Live TV instead. Inevitably, however, Hulu has raised its price to $65 as well, matching YouTube TV. Now that they're the same price, YouTube TV is once again our favorite higher-end TV service for cord cutters, offering the most channels and best features.
Unlike Hulu, YouTube's price hike brought some extra channels such as Comedy Central, MTV and Nickelodeon. Google's service now offers 76 of the top 100 channels, handily beating Hulu and the rest of the premium-priced competition, namely AT&T TV Now and Fubo TV. Its channel selection includes numerous cable staples and all four local networks -- ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC -- in most markets nationwide. YouTube TV is also the only multichannel streaming service with local PBS stations. In short, you might not even miss cable.
Beyond channels, YouTube TV is easy to use, slick and fast on a variety of TV and mobile devices. Its cloud DVR is the best in the business, with unlimited storage and pretty much all the capabilities of a hardware DVR such as TiVo.
The big snag, of course, is the price. For people used to the myriad channels and easy DVR of cable or satellite, it could be worth the extra expense over an entry-level service. For cord cutters who want more savings, however, Sling TV Blue at $30 per month is still pretty great and is especially suited to people on tighter budgets.
What do you get?
YouTube TV is different from YouTube, the free video service with more than 2 billion users a month. YouTube TV offers an experience similar to cable TV, with live channels and on-demand content available on a variety of devices. It works with Apple TV, Roku, Android TV, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV along with numerous smart TVs, phones, tablets and web browsers.
The service operates in much the same way as competitors -- there's a program guide, a DVR and dozens of channels. But what really separates YouTube TV from other premium ($50-plus a month) services such as AT&T TV Now, Hulu with Live TV and FuboTV? Let's take a look.