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Last updated: October 10, 2022

Starts at $64.99/mo
Starts at $54.99/mo

Skinny bundles have been launching an all-out attack (figuratively) on traditional cable TV, claiming victory to customers who decide to cut the cord. Among the big names are YouTube TV and DIRECTV STREAM, though which one reigns supreme is ultimately up to preference. YouTube TV has an impressive and complete channel lineup, while DIRECTV STREAM is the go-to for sports networks and large bundles. So then, how do you decide which one’s right for your live TV palate? Our in-depth comparison of YouTube TV and DIRECTV STREAM will show you the way to your final decision.

YouTube TV and DIRECTV STREAM Side by Side

We get it – not everyone has the time to pore over every detail, which is why we’ve put together all the numbers you need to know for both streaming services in the table below.

Base package price $64.99 per month $69.99 per month
Free trial Yes (7 days) Yes (5 days)
Number of live TV channels 85+ 65+
Premium channels HBO Max, SHOWTIME, EPIX HBO Max, SHOWTIME, STARZ, Cinemax, EPIX
Local channels Yes Yes
On-demand titles 2,000+ 40,000+
Simultaneous device streams 3 20 (on home network) or 3 (on the go)
User profiles Yes No
Kids’ profile No No
Cloud DVR storage Unlimited Unlimited

YouTube TV Takes the Lead When It Comes to Channel Selection

Looking at the starting number of live TV channels in the base packages from YouTube TV and DIRECTV STREAM, the former offers more than the latter. The YouTube TV channel list includes channels that have a sister network – Nicktoons and Nickelodeon, Hallmark Drama and Hallmark Channel, BBC and BBC World News – whereas DIRECTV STREAM channels in the base package are typically just the main networks.

Both services do offer premium channels like HBO Max and EPIX. However, YouTube TV throws in sports networks like MLB Network and NFL Network in its base package. DIRECTV STREAM, on the other hand, requires you to choose a CHOICE™ package or above for regional sports networks (RSN). In terms of foreign channels, while both services offer a Spanish package or add-on, DIRECTV STREAM offers Vietnamese, Brazilian, and Korean add-on packages.

If you want to have more variety to choose from, YouTube TV wins the race in the channel selection category.

YouTube TV Offers More Value for Live TV and On-Demand Content in the Base Package

One of the main reasons people become cord-cutters is because skinny bundles are more affordable and manageable. Still, streaming services have increased prices on their plans over the years, and YouTube TV and DIRECTV STREAM are no different. That said, YouTube TV pricing is straightforward, as you only have two plans to worry about: base and Spanish. DIRECTV STREAM costs are a little more complex, as it has multiple tiers and the highest-priced package offers the most content.

YouTube offers more channels and includes sports networks in its base package while DIRECTV has fewer in its lineup, with no sports networks in its cheapest plan. This is why we think YouTube TV gives you more bang for your buck. While YouTube TV’s on-demand content pales in comparison to DIRECTV STREAM, it still has the opportunity to grow its library, with popular titles and YouTube Originals to boot. The YouTube TV free trial also lasts a little longer  — at seven days compared to DIRECTV STREAM’s five days. You can even get a free 20-minute preview of the service. That’s 20 minutes in total, so you can come back on another day for 10 minutes if you’ve only seen it for 10 minutes today!

YouTube TV Offers a More User-Friendly and Minimalist Interface

We checked out usability in both our YouTube TV review and DIRECTV STREAM review, and while both services are straightforward in navigation, YouTube TV goes the extra mile to keep it super simple. You have three tabs: Library, Home, and Live. Library is where your recordings go, and Home is how you browse YouTube TV’s recommendations. All live videos play at the same time without sound, as if you have multiple mini TV screens on one big screen. When you head over to the Live tab, you’ll see the channel guide and what’s currently airing.

YouTube TV home page on the web app
YouTube TV home page as seen on the web app.
YouTube Live TV page on the web app
YouTube Live TV page as seen on the web app.

DIRECTV STREAM doesn’t fall far behind in user-friendliness, though it aligns more with traditional cable TV navigation. It has four tabs with one dedicated to its extensive on-demand library and refers to the live TV channel lineup as Guide, which is what you typically see on cable TV. Unlike YouTube TV, DIRECTV STREAM only has one big video player that minimizes in the corner of the web app and won’t disappear even when you click on a different tab. You’ll have to manually close out the player so it doesn’t distract you while you’re browsing content.

DIRECTV STREAM library on the web app
DIRECTV STREAM library as seen on the web app.
DIRECTV STREAM channel guide menu on the web app
DIRECTV STREAM channel guide menu on the web app.

YouTube TV allows six accounts to use one subscription, but only three device streams can be played simultaneously. DIRECTV STREAM offers a whopping 20 simultaneous device streams on one home network, but only three when you watch on the go. We’ve experienced streaming delays on YouTube TV while the DIRECTV STREAM interface was sluggish at times. In short, if you want to go for the simplest route in terms of usability, YouTube TV is the way.

DIRECTV STREAM Is the Premium Choice for Sports

While we mentioned earlier that DIRECTV STREAM doesn’t include any sports networks in its cheapest package, it does include RSNs on the CHOICE™ package and above that aren’t available on YouTube TV. This means sports fans can watch games in their local area or state and cheer on their teams without going to the stadium or field. RSNs are often deal-breakers for people who watch sports religiously, so DIRECTV STREAM is the winner in this contest.

The Verdict: YouTube TV vs. DIRECTV STREAM

If you’re looking for the cream of the crop in terms of live TV and on-demand content, DIRECTV STREAM offers plenty of them and then some. YouTube TV isn’t a bad choice either, especially when affordability is the name of the game. Neither service requires annual contracts, so you can cancel at any time or take advantage of their free trials to test them out before you commit. If sports are your bread and butter, DIRECTV STREAM has RSNs to get you in the cheerleading spirit. But if you prefer the familiarity of YouTube’s interface, you’ll be right at home with YouTube TV. All in all, both YouTube TV and DIRECTV STREAM are top contenders in the highly competitive skinny bundle market. It just all comes down to preference when choosing one that suits your live TV palate.

64 thoughts on “YouTube TV vs. DIRECTV STREAM: Which Should Cord-Cutters Choose?

  1. Shari says:

    I got rid of my Dish Network cable because they kept raising their prices. I have had You Tube for only a few months and now they have raised their price $10 per month. Do all the streaming services keep increasing their prices without notice?

    1. David says:

      When I started YouTube TV it was $30 and had exactly what I needed with local channels and all the ESPN sports channels. They’ve added channels over time increasing their price each time to $35 then $50 and now $65. This last time I paused my subscription for six months to try other providers. I used Sling TV for two months and tried AT&T TV Now’s one week trial with HBO and HBO Max. Tomorrow I’m reactivating my YouTube TV. For me it’s the best value despite my disappointment with their price increases for the channels they added.

      1. mike says:

        Thank you. I am trying to decide. Direct TV has a superior interface to YouTube TV but I am fining if you want cheap, YouTube TV is best for what you get,

    2. El Jefe says:

      Yes I had AT&T TV Now and was paying $45 a month. I year later I’m now paying $82 a month

  2. Vicki says:

    We had Directv for many years, but finally decided to switch due to constant price increases (and the fact that Directv was in too much flux). Went to YouTube TV and really liked it. Even tolerated the price increase that happened shortly after we switched to it as the price remained below that of Directv. But then the hammer came down and the regional sports networks dropped off YouTube TV. That made us decide to try ATT TV as they have regional sports channels. We have had ATT TV for just a couple of days…not thrilled with it. Seens really cumbersome. Planning to keep ATT TV until the baseball season ends (7 months) and switch back to YouTube TV for the months of November through March (5 months). Sounds crazy, I know but since I don’t have contracts with either…It’s not that big of a deal.

    1. Robyn says:

      Hi Vicki, so AT & T allow you to see local sports? that is the same dilemma we have is being able to watch our local MLB and not being blacked out via YouTube TV. Thanks for the pointers

      1. Jim Jablonski says:

        Fox Sports Detroit (and many other regions) was sold to Bally, and is only available on AT&T streaming. This means no local sports if you have YouTubeTV, as do we. Totally sucks!

    2. Bob says:

      What do you mean by cumbersome? Thanks.

  3. Silvina says:

    You forgot to say that not every smart TV can get the AT&T TV app. We had to buy TVs that have a ROKU, or buy ROKU for the TVs that don’t have it. The only brand supported is Samsung, or other streaming devices like Amazon, Chromecast or Apple TV, etc.

    1. Trapp says:

      We just pay $5 extra a month for a box and remote and it programs to the TV, sound system ND other stuff. Haven’t had it but a week so no input on that yet

      1. Josh says:

        Still got it?

      2. Debbie says:

        Can I ask how you like the streaming box? IS it worth it?

      3. Margaret says:

        That Roku device costs $30 at the outside. You were played.

  4. Bill says:

    This doesn’t mention the audio format for each. Do both have Dolby 5.1 surround sound?
    Sound format is a big factor for me in choosing.

    1. Rick says:

      DIRECTV stream has 5.1 surround sound and YouTube Tv does NOT. This was a huge factor for me as well. I also believe DTV Stream has a better picture quality as well.

  5. Marria says:

    I tried YouTube TV and every other day it has buffering issues so bad that it will just get stuck there. When I called about it, they said they are aware and working on it. That was a month ago and it still does the same thing. One day it work, the next day it doesn’t. For $65/month you would think they could get it right! Am I the only one having this issue?!!?

    1. W Mains says:

      We have had YouTube TV for about 6 months and have had no problem….

    2. mike says:

      I do a system restart at least once per week.

      1. Anonymous says:

        you do a restart

      2. Wewa says:

        Please clarify what you restart weekly. TV, Internet router, YouTube TV

      3. Erivk says:

        RSNs are almost important as ESPN and SEC Network for me. So DIRECTV Stream was the answer.

    3. Anonymous says:

      I have buffering issues too.
      I also have the highest speed cable you can get..

    4. Sharon says:

      It could be your TV. They usually blame your wifi, but in my case an old small TV does this and I have to unplug it to “clear the memory” and then it is fine for awhile. The newer bigger TV (same brand) that is in the same room never has the problem so I don’t think it is the wifi or YouTube TV – I think it is the TV itself. If unplugging is a problem for you, sometimes I just switch to Netflix or some other streaming service, then back to YouTube TV and that will usually fix it.

      1. Antman says:

        You are describing failed capacitors in the “old small TV”.

        Not applicable here.

    5. Hul says:

      I have the same issue on my fire sticks, I generally have to hold down the center button and play on the remote to reset the stick and I’m good

    6. Jon V says:

      If you have buffering issues, that is either Internet or Wi-Fi related. I have Fiber internet and no streaming issues on multiple TVs playing at the same time using YouTube TV.

    7. Anonymous says:

      That is definitely NOT a YouTubeTV problem, but one with your internet service.

    8. Yadi says:

      We switched to Directv stream 5 weeks ago…hate it!!! It buffers every single day multiple times per day. Super slow and annoying. We’re dropping them!

      1. Ed says:

        We have had Direct TV Stream for a couple of weeks without issue. No buffering.

    9. rw says:

      We cannot get our local abc, cbs, nbc, and pbs channels in HD because the stream would lock up. Have to dumb down our resolution to SD and we still have terrible problems especially when we try to forward. And we have high speed internet. And it doesn’t happen on Netflix, Disney+ or AppleTv apps on our LG. Fed up. Now that they lost espn we will probably switch. What good are channels if you can’t watch them?

    10. Djp says:

      It’s you not YouTube tv. Buffering is ALWAYS you

      1. RedComynes says:

        Glad I found this conversation. I learned a lot in a back handed sort of way. I have terrible buffering problems on ATTV Direct streaming, and was considering a switch to YouTube. All the complaints about both systems makes it unlikely that a switch will work. The people who are SO certain that the problem is always with the ISP or YOU seem to be lucky and brand loyal. If the problem MUST lie with something other than the streaming system, why do I get buffering and apologetic onscreen messages from ATTV but from no other apps? Everything goes through the same Fire Cube. Enjoy your luck, but don’t be so smug.

    11. Mark Pelski says:

      We had that issue and upgraded our router. That solved the problem.

    12. Anonymous says:


      Your buffering issue has nothing to do with YouTube TV. You need to change your service level with whomever provides you internet access. More upload and download capacity is required. What people dont understand is that we all have so many devices connecting to our WiFi’s at home….burglar alarms, thermostats, sprinkler timers, cell phones, computers, stereo receivers, ipads, watches, home appliance and more. With so many devices CONNECTED, that’s what causes buffering problems. i changed to a FiberOptic Gigabite service from Cox and have zero issues now with buffering. Good luck

    13. Anonymous says:

      YouTube TV STILL has buffering issues. It often just freezes up. We are constantly rebooting it. We will be switching ASAP. Have also lost our local sports stations in SoCal. Huge price increase and we get BET?! Wow. PC shoved down our throats. Goodbye YouTube, Hello anybody else.

    14. vic says:

      Have YouTube Tv now for a couple of years…happy with it. No significant buffering issues. Have you checked your wifi streaming speeds? Router?

    15. Gary says:

      I have had YouTubeTV for months and even use it when traveling. Never had a buffering issue. You may need to check your internet speed.

    16. Keone Brown says:

      YES I HAVE!! The app stalls / freezes 80% of the times I attempt to launch. It’s become such an issue that I finally downloaded to and watch on my Firestick.
      Navigation is an issue for me as well. There should be a quicker way to navigate to specific channels in general, instead of having to go through the entire guide to reach it.

    17. RT says:

      We cut the cord 5 years ago, and switched to YouTubeTV – and LOVE IT!!!

  6. W. Reese says:

    Well, we’re getting ready to drop YTTV and try ATTTV. The DVR that YTTV touts has failed to record the four shows in my library since May. Repeated emails to their “Customer Service” have not even been acknowledged. What good is all that extra storage if the DVR fails to record anything? Not happy with their buffering issues either

    1. Djp says:

      This is a user problem

      1. W. Reese says:

        Except that after I switched to DirecTV, all my previous problems went away. The DirecTV DVR records ALL the shows as scheduled, and I’m not having any buffering issues. Apparently, it WAS a YTTV problem.

  7. Mark says:

    Given the recent spinoff of Directv by AT&T, maybe we can get this column updated with a new eval… I’d be interested in the reassessment…

  8. Glenn says:

    I have had Youtube TV for 8 months. The price of $71(includes taxes, etc.) is half of what my cable bill was and I get a few more sports channels. The picture is excellent on all my sets and I have only rarely had any buffering issues. People that do have such issues might want to check their internet or router connection and speed. That is more likely to cause buffering. It’s tough to beat what they offer with other streaming services especially the DVR that keeps your recorded programs for 9 months. Also, remember that no service will be 100% perfect for all people.

  9. Deb Rufner says:

    Does anyone know what the article above means when they say “For better or for worse, DIRECTV Stream does a better job of replicating the cable or satellite experience: It costs more, but it offers some truly comprehensive bundles and a very cable-like experience.” ? I went to YouTube TV from cable for the cost (almost half of what I was paying for cable with the service + cable boxes, etc.), but I HATE having to push a button at least 5 times to get to the channel I want to watch! (Push power on + “home” + click on YouTubeTV + click on “Live” (then scrolling through the choices)+ the channel). Any suggestions?

    1. Brett J Higginbotham says:

      I think you just have to try each. My daughter is in another city and I know Directtv Stream will allow 3 devices away from your main home. So, thats no tv cost for her.
      YouTube may make you logout and all that jazz.

      1. Timothy Corl says:

        We like that feature as well of Direct Tv

      2. Kelly says:

        Youtube allows for 3 users. So my husband’s daughter watches from school, I watch when I am away on military duty and my husband watches from home.

    2. Sarah says:

      I think it means that for live TV, you go to a channel line-up page that shows all channels and programs by time slots instead of having to choose the genre you want, then the title you want, etc.

    3. Bob says:

      I press the mic button on the remote and tell the tv to open you tube tv and what channel to go to. It isn’t really fast, but it seems to get there every time.

    4. Mike says:

      Hi, I just DirectTV Stream, does anyone have a problem with surround sound?

  10. Brett J Higginbotham says:

    YouTube is starting to push their weird shorts and that’s enough to make me drop their TV service.

    1. Linda says:

      I’ve had DirectTV Stream for at least 5 years without a single problem – I have a grandfathered package “Live a Little” with 65 channels for $64.99 ($69.54) and HBO included. No buffering and all the channels we need. I can’t complain.

  11. Jim says:

    I’ve had DIRECTV Streaming for a week. Picture is great on all TVs and no problems. Each TV has a box and remote so it takes getting use to a different remote from Dish we had for years. Saving some money over Dish but not as much as I wanted. Each box is $5 /month and unlimited DVR storage is $10 /month. Like that each channel is numbered versus Utube tv no channel numbers. So far so good. From a friend who has Utube tv it’s probably about $25-30/ month cheaper but not as many channels as DIRECTV Streaming.

  12. Doug Fisher says:

    We switched from Direct TV about 18 months ago and were fairly happy with the Direct Stream service as it was accessed through ROKU. When we moved to our new house we replaced our TV’s with Smart TV’s, Samsung to be exact. Ever since we tried to use the Direct Stream app on the Samsung TV, we have had nothing but problems. The stream keeps disconnecting every 30 minutes, and sometimes takes 1-2 minutes to reconnect. IF you plan on using the Direct Stream service on a Smart TV, at least a Samsung that is newer than 2018, check it first, the only solution we found was to access it through a ROKU device. We have since moved on to YoutubeTV.

  13. Sue says:

    What I hate about Youtubetv is the DVR. It may be unlimited but I find it so cumbersome because I cannot record only new episodes and cannot delete. If you record things like SVU or others in syndication it can be a real pain. We have no issues with Direct

  14. Dean says:

    Utube TV is great.., problem is it doesn’t
    have the Dodgers. Direct TV Streaming
    has the Dodgers but their streaming
    Clarity sucks!! It’s Super Clear for the Olympics but Dodger Games and news
    station and everything it’s no good! Too
    bad because I am now stuck buying Direct
    TV Satellite which clarity is perfect but
    Stuck with 2 year Contract that increases
    $50 a month in the second year…..Dam
    Direct TV Streaming get it together like
    UTube TV!!

  15. Wilton King says:

    why does You Tube TV not have the CowboyChannel or RFDTV. these are both free channels that do not charge the provider for so the consumer can watch at no additional cost.

  16. Linda Cohen says:

    On Direct TV it’s easy to switch between channels. When you shut off the TV on one local channel, it opens up on the same channel when you turn the TV on. It takes one button to switch between your local channels. If I’m on channel 7 and want to switch to channel four, I just hit the r on my remote. I’m also able to set up DVR recording by program, and every time a new episode airs, it records it. Can anyone tell me how is YouTube different?

  17. Fyrpm says:

    We subscribed to DIRECTV stream when it first came out and was DIRECTV now. We have the Go Big tier which has been discontinued. They no longer offer some of the channels in their current plans but we are grandfathered in. Stared out paying $35 a month (about 5 years ago) Great deal at the time. Now we pay $89 but we have a tier equal to their $119 plan. Still worth it in our opinion. But we will be looking to compare if prices continue to increase. I’ve used YouTube tv at work and it’s ok and cheaper but DIRECTV stream is better overall IMHO. Better guide info and never had any issues streaming. But we have 300+ mbps fiber. Ultimately it’s the overall channel selection that keeps us with them

  18. Jeff says:

    I have to restart fire stick at least 6 or 7 times a week to watch DIRECTV stream. Did not have this problem at the beginning and never had with YouTube tv. I have called amazon, internet provider and Directtv and no one has the fix. Back to YouTube tv I go.

  19. Scott Eaton says:

    the think I don’t like about YouTube tv is you cannot watch on a computer using safari you have to use chrome. Just annoying.

  20. Scott Eaton says:

    the thing I don’t like about YouTube tv is you cannot watch on a computer using safari you have to use chrome. Just annoying.

  21. RJ says:

    We have had YouTube TV for about a year. We don’t have a lot of buffering issues, but frankly are fed up with their rewind function (moves back in increments of 15 seconds) and their live channel guide. If you watch a channel for a couple minutes and want to move to a new channel, it always resets to the top of the guide. Then you have to scroll again all the way through the guide. Its a pain….

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