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YouTube TV is a great source for both on-demand content and live TV. The live TV content you’re able to watch and record depends on both your home location and your current location, and those limitations can be difficult for some cord-cutters to swallow. Below, we’ll discuss how YouTube TV determines your home and current locations, and how to change locations on YouTube TV.

What Is YouTube TV’s Home Area and How Does It Work?

A YouTube TV subscription provides access to local channels for sports, news, and TV shows. YouTube TV doesn’t have the right to distribute that content to just anyone, though, so it needs to know your home location — or “home area,” as they call it.

When you sign up for YouTube TV, it will ask for your home ZIP code. You may be wondering if you can just type in any ZIP code. As with most things that seem too good to be true, that scheme won’t work. YouTube TV’s apps require device-location permissions, so it can use your internet protocol (IP) address, GPS, and nearby Wi-Fi networks to verify your real location.

You can change your home area twice in a 12-month period. For most users, more than two moves in a year is unlikely, but digital nomads and frequent travelers should keep this limit in mind. If you spend a lot of time in more than a couple locations, you’ll probably have to deal with the limitations YouTube TV imposes outside your home area.

Your home area doesn’t impact the channels you can access when you travel. YouTube TV uses your current location to provide access to local channels, but you won’t be able to record them if they don’t match your home area location. You won’t have access to your home area local channels when you’re outside your home area, but you can access any recordings you already made while in your home area.

YouTube TV home location settings
YouTube TV's home location settings

YouTube TV Home Area Rules

Our brief description above covered how the YouTube TV home area works, but there’s a lot more to cover. Here are the most important details:

  • When you register, you’ll be asked to provide your ZIP code, which determines your home area.
  • YouTube TV will use your IP address and your device’s location services (GPS, nearby Wi-Fi) to determine your current location.
  • Your current location determines which local and regional channels you can watch, regardless of your home area.
  • You can record content from local channels only in your home area and only when you are currently in that area. You can watch these recordings from anywhere.
  • You can change your home area no more than twice in a 12-month period, and you can only do so while at the new location.

Most people should have no problem using YouTube TV within those rules, and, as you can see in our YouTube TV review, we think the service is well worth it. It’s not too hard to find situations that just don’t fit the mold though. Offering access to local channels wherever you go — if YouTube TV has local channels there — is great, but it would be nice to be able to record shows while traveling.

And what if you want to watch your hometown team play? You can’t do it unless you’re home. Hopefully you set a device at your house to record the game, because you can’t get it otherwise.

Getting Around YouTube TV Home Area Rules

If you want to access your home area channels, you need to be in your home ZIP code — or convince YouTube TV that’s where you are. When verifying your location, they are definitely going to check your IP address. 

A virtual private network (VPN) is the most reliable way to change your IP address. It lets you appear to be browsing the web or accessing an app in a different location. Many people already use this trick to access geo-restricted content on their favorite streaming services, so it makes sense to try it here.

Youtube TV and Sports
YouTube TV offers a lot of great sports content, but what you can see will depend on your home location.

One potential problem with changing your IP address to access home area channels on YouTube TV is that your IP address isn’t the only way YouTube TV can identify your location. The app has access to your device’s location services, which use GPS and nearby Wi-Fi networks. You may be thinking you’ll get around this by using a device without GPS or location services, but YouTube TV is one step ahead of you. Its TV app requires you to verify your location on a mobile device to access local content. 

Using a VPN With YouTube TV Home Area: Tips and Tricks

Another potential problem with changing your IP address is finding a reliable VPN. Not every VPN will be able to trick a service as sophisticated as YouTube TV. Streaming platforms have gotten very good at identifying when you are on a VPN. Some VPN services bypass those checks better than others, but no VPN is perfect. You also need to ensure that the VPN you choose has a server in your home location since that will be required if you want to pretend to be there.

So far we’ve assumed you want to use your actual home ZIP code as your home area, but that doesn’t have to be the case. If you’re a Boston sports fan living in Chicago and you want to record all your favorite Boston teams’ games, for example, your best bet is to try to convince YouTube TV your real home area is in Boston. You get to tell it what ZIP code to use, but you’ll need to have a VPN that can reliably make all your home devices appear to be in Boston.

You could install a VPN on every device you own, but that’s a hassle. Most VPNs limit the number of devices you can use, and they often don’t have apps for every operating system and streaming device. There’s also coordination required to connect all your devices to the same VPN server — or at least servers in the same ZIP code. You can bypass these issues by installing a VPN on your router so every device on your network is automatically connected to the same VPN server, and you’ve used only one device on your VPN plan.

GPS location will still be a problem though. A VPN can’t change your GPS location, and the process for spoofing GPS-based location services varies based on what devices you own. There’s no router-level solution, so you’ll need to find a solution for each device you intend to use with YouTube TV.

If you are accessing YouTube TV through the Chrome browser, you can try adjusting your location through the Chrome developer tools. For the mobile app, you’ll need some more tech savvy, and I strongly encourage you to read up on the risks associated with these processes before you try them. 

iPhone users will have to “jailbreak” their iPhones to gain access to location services. That process voids your warranty, though, and it can lead to several security issues if you don’t know what you are doing. Android users can download an app that will change their GPS location, but many of these apps come with their own security risks. You should be particularly careful running other apps while your location is spoofed, since many app developers (such as the makers of Pokemon Go) crack down on GPS spoofers and often delete repeat offenders’ accounts.

Using a VPN With YouTube TV

Most users won’t need to change their location on YouTube TV for everyday use. If it’s not necessary, you probably don’t want to deal with the hassle — especially if GPS spoofing is required. YouTube TV and other streaming services don’t often ding people for using a VPN, so that’s generally safer to try. If they detect you are using a VPN, the most likely outcome is that they’ll refuse to let you watch videos until you turn it off.

ProtonVPN
Changing your location with a VPN is easy with most services, but it's a bit tougher with live TV streaming services like YouTube TV.

When picking a VPN to use with YouTube TV, look for one with a large number of servers. Many services block VPNs using a simple blacklist, so they have a hard time completely shutting out VPNs with several thousand servers. 

Which VPN should you use with YouTube TV? Our best VPNs list is full of excellent options, many of which offer free trials, free tiers, or money-back guarantees, which makes it easy to figure out whether they fit your needs before you commit. ExpressVPN is a great place to start since it has an excellent track record for changing locations on YouTube TV.

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