What is YouTube TV? Here’s everything you need to know

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When you think of streaming video, you think of YouTube. And so it’s probably quite natural to expect YouTube TV — Google’s live TV streaming service. Designed for those who want to cut the cord and give up their cable or satellite subscription (and known in the industry as a multichannel video programming distributor, or MVPD), YouTube TV competes in the same arena. As does other streaming television services such as DirecTV Stream (formerly known as AT&T TV Now and DirecTV Now), Sling TV, FuboTV, and Hulu with Live TV.

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And YouTube TV offers a unique mix of features that make it so appealing—so much so that it’s easily among the top three live TV services in the United States in terms of number of paid subscribers. This is due to several factors. YouTube TV is easy to use. It has a selection of channels that are competitive with all others. And YouTube TV is also priced competitively. You can watch YouTube TV on almost any modern device. And the fact that parent company Alphabet (aka Google) has been marketing it for the past few years certainly doesn’t hurt.

There’s a lot going on with YouTube TV, and it just gets a lot better over time.

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YouTube TV is Roku TV
Phil Nickinson/Nerdshala

What is YouTube TV?

In short, YouTube TV is a live TV streaming service available in the United States. It is a replacement for a cable or satellite service that is streamed via the Internet, available on phones, tablets, TVs and web browsers, and it lets you watch TV as usual, from anywhere near you. Internet connection, at home or on the go.

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YouTube TV was limited to a relatively small number of locations in the United States when it launched in 2017. This changed in 2019 when a major expansion introduced support for all 210 markets. It has also greatly expanded its collection of channels over the years. YouTube TV now has over 85 channels, including four major national broadcasters – ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox. (Like all streaming services, what’s actually available where you live may vary slightly.)

Despite the name, YouTube TV is not part of YouTube; Google operates them as separate entities. However, there are some areas where the two cross each other, as is the case with YouTube Originals, which actually means you can watch some shows on both platforms. Nonetheless, YouTube TV is not YouTube, and you’ll need two apps on your streaming device if you want to access both.

YouTube TV price and add-ons

The current price for YouTube TV is $65 per month. (Plus tax, which moves things to closer to $72 per month.)

However, that doesn’t mean that’s all you’ll pay for YouTube TV. It has several optional add-ons to let you watch even more shows and movies and sports – but of course you’ll pay extra.

Here are the optional add-ons available with YouTube TV:

  • 4K Plus ($20 1 month after a one-month trial; $9.99 for the first year for early adopters): First made available in June 2021, 4K Plus allows you to watch certain content in 4K resolution on YouTube TV. Mostly this means shows and series in on-demand form – What We Do in the Shadows, Struggle Meal, American Titans, Snowfall, and more. But where it really starts to shine is with live sports from networks like ESPN and NBC. 4K Plus adds the ability to watch recorded shows offline as well as watch on as many devices as you want on your home network.
  • HBO Max ($15 per month): New HBO Max Originals and included networks, plus all the legacy HBO content you know and love.
  • NBA League Pass ($40 per month): Comes with a free seven-day trial.
  • Sports Plus ($11 per month): This includes NFL RedZone, beIN Sports, Fox Soccer Plus, Stadium College Sports, VSIN, Outside TV+, Pokergo+, MAVTV, TVG, Stadium, GOLTV, Billiard TV, Sports Grid and Players TV. Comes with a free seven-day trial.
  • Entertainment Plus ($30 per month): Includes HBO Max, Showtime and Starz.
  • MLB.TV ($27 per season): All out-of-market games are included.
  • Showtimes ($11 per month): Premium movies and series. Comes with 14 days free trial.
  • STARZ ($9 per month): Premium movies and series.
  • Hallmark Movies Now ($6 per month): All the Hallmark movies and series you love. Comes with a free seven-day trial.
  • Cinemax ($10 per month): Premium movies and series. Comes with a free seven-day trial.
  • EPIX ($6 per month): Premium movies and series. Comes with a free seven-day trial.
  • STARZ+EPIX ($12 per month): Both add-ons save you $3 per month.
  • CuriosityStream ($3 per month): Sci-type shows. Comes with 14 days free trial.
youtube tv channel listing

What can you watch YouTube TV on?

The short answer here is that if you have a relatively modern phone, tablet, TV, or computer, there’s an even better chance that you’ll be able to use it to watch YouTube TV.

Mobile is easy — YouTube TV is available on Android (as long as it has access to Google’s apps), as well as on iPhones. This extends to the tablet as well.

As more and more smart televisions use their own operating system and apps, YouTube TV has maintained its availability. Native apps from Samsung, LG, Vizio, Hisense, Sharp, and Sony are available on the TV. (And that includes anything that is using Android TV as the operating system.)

Streaming media players are also supported, and YouTube covers the TV gamut. It’s available on Roku and Amazon Fire TV, which takes care of the two most popular options in the world. YouTube TV is also available on Chromecast with Google TV and on other older Android TV devices like the NVIDIA Shield. Apple TV is also supported.

The game console gets the love from YouTube, with the service available on Xbox One through the new Xbox Series X and Series S lines. You can also watch YouTube TV natively on PlayStation 4, PS4 Pro, and the new PS5.

You can also watch YouTube TV in a web browser—as long as it’s not Safari. (YouTube TV works fine in Chrome, of course, as well as in Firefox.)

And if you’re all about the connected home, it’s also easy to watch YouTube TV on the Google Nest Hub and Nest Hub Max.

YouTube TV and Roku

There’s been a bit of a flap between Roku and YouTube TV, which is like David taking on Goliath. Although he/she said it, the gist of it is that both sides say that the other is being unfair about things that have nothing to do with actually being able to watch the shows you watch on Roku . And the result was that Roku removed the YouTube TV app from its platform. (Or YouTube TV pulled it, depending on who you ask.)

All is not lost, however. YouTube TV has resolved a bit that we’re honestly surprised Roku let stand. You can still watch YouTube TV on a Roku device—all you have to do is through the YouTube app.

Otherwise, it still works the same way.

YouTube TV Features

The ability to watch the same TV channels you’ve always watched is a core feature of a streaming service like YouTube TV. But it is hardly the only one. You can also watch shows and movies on your own time. You are able to get customized recommendations, which is a lot more fun than channel surfing. And that’s the table stake – YouTube TV is able to harness the power of Google Assistant and do some other crazy things.

Here’s a look at some of the best YouTube TV features that you’ll definitely want to take advantage of.

Unlimited Recordings

Of all the features baked into YouTube TV, “Cloud DVR” stands out. And not just because it exists – almost every service has the ability to “record” a show or movie and play it back whenever you want. But most other services charge extra for their cloud DVR service, or at least for additional storage.

Google, on the other hand, gives unlimited recordings, all for free. You can keep your recordings for 9 months as long as you keep your subscription. This goes for shows, movies and live sports and other events. And YouTube TV is smart about it. Most recordings exceed their scheduled end time by 1 minute. Sporting events, by default, record an additional 30 minutes – and YouTube TV can even detect if things are going to be longer and expand things from there.

It’s also a true recording, meaning commercials are recorded as they were presented live – and that means you can fast forward right past them if you want.

Multiple users and multiple devices

YouTube TV is also one of the most flexible options you can find. By default, you can watch YouTube TV on up to three devices at the same time.

If you subscribe to the 4K Plus add-on, you’ll also get the benefit of unlimited streams while using your home network.

YouTube TV also allows up to six user profiles on one account. This is important because it affects show and movie recommendations. So you don’t need to see your kids’ recs, nor do they need to see yours. YouTube TV is linked to your Google Account, and the profile will be available to up to five other family members As specified in your Google Account.

on demand

Many of the channels included with a YouTube TV subscription let you watch their shows on demand after they initially aired. This can be an easy way to catch up on old episodes or seasons that aired before you recorded them using the DVR function. The difference between this and a DVR is that you won’t be able to skip commercials.

voice control

If you have a Google Home speaker, such as the Google Nest Mini, and use a Chromecast device to watch YouTube TV, YouTube TV has a cool feature: You can select a TV channel to watch live, start specific features like You can only use your voice to control functions like shows, recording shows, or using playback functions such as pause, resume, …

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