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What is YouTube TV? For starters, it’s not YouTube — you won’t find much in the way of cat videos or pranks on YouTube TV. The real deal with YouTube TV is that it’s Google’s live TV streaming service, a cable-replacement subscription that works more or less like fuboTV and Sling TV, among others.
That’s the most important thing to know about YouTube TV, but it’s certainly not the only thing that you ought to be aware of. Let’s take a tour of YouTube TV together and get acquainted with all of the features and details that make YouTube TV different from other streaming services.
If there’s one question that matters most in streaming, it’s this one: What can you watch?
If you’re familiar with our coverage of fuboTV, Sling TV, and other “skinny bundle” services, then you already know what to expect here. YouTube TV is a streaming alternative to cable or satellite TV. Like cable, it includes multiple channels — the same familiar ones that cord “havers” get, like ESPN, MTV, and TBS. In other words, this service gives you cable-like live TV — without cable.
These live TV channels are YouTube TV’s main draw. The idea of a service like YouTube TV is to get cable-like live TV for less, so YouTube TV’s channel list is a huge deal for the service. With that said, there are a couple of other types of YouTube TV content that we should talk about.
First, there’s the on-demand content. Like a lot of other live TV streaming services, YouTube TV lets you rewind live TV, save movies and shows with a “cloud DVR” feature, and even browse a menu full of on-demand content, which is largely drawn from recent live TV broadcasts. YouTube TV’s on-demand content also includes a few YouTube original series.
YouTube TV’s app also gives viewers the option to buy or rent movies and TV shows from YouTube. This isn’t actually something that’s exclusive to a YouTube TV subscription, though, because you could just as easily rent these same movies and TV shows on YouTube.com without a YouTube TV subscription. With or without a subscription, these cost the same to buy or rent from YouTube (or, for that matter, from Amazon, Vudu, or another unaffiliated service).
Remember, when you do something like watch CNN without cable on a Roku device, you’re not just “watching CNN on Roku.” What you’re really doing is using the Roku device and platform to access a service, and then that service is delivering CNN. Just like you need the Facebook app on your iPhone before you can view someone’s profile, you typically need a streaming app on your Roku or Fire TV before you can watch a live TV channel.
One of the services we can use to watch live TV on these devices is YouTube TV. But not every service works on every device, so where does YouTube TV fit in?
As we were happy to note in our YouTube TV review, supporting platforms and devices is one of the areas where YouTube TV excels. It keeps up with many of its competitors by offering apps for all of the major devices and platforms on the market, including the top few streaming devices we recommend most of all.
YouTube TV costs $64.99 per month. That base price will give you access to all of the channels in YouTube TV’s main bundle, and there aren’t any tricky tiers of service or complex add-on bundles to figure out. There are a few individual add-ons you can tack onto your subscription (including HBO), but that’s it. YouTube TV’s pricing is very straightforward.
YouTube TV’s prices are pretty similar to what we’ve seen from competitors like fuboTV and Hulu + Live TV. YouTube TV costs more than some other competitors, like Sling TV and Philo, but those aren’t necessarily perfect comparisons: Sling TV and (especially) Philo are missing some key channels, so their lower prices don’t automatically mean they offer better values. We loved the prices on these services in our Sling TV review and our Philo review, but we’ve been generally positive about YouTube TV’s value, too.
YouTube TV isn’t overwhelmingly expensive, but it’s fair to say that great live TV doesn’t come cheap. Live TV streaming services have been getting pricier over time, so we’d recommend getting in while the getting’s still good. Deals on this service are rare, but if any do happen to pop up, we’ll be sure to let you know.
One cost-saving option that is always available is YouTube TV’s free trial program. As of this writing, YouTube TV is still offering a free week of service to new customers. You can cancel your YouTube TV free trial at any time, or you can keep it through the full week and let it turn into a paid subscription automatically.
Unlike cable and satellite services, live TV streaming services virtually never force customers into long-term contracts. YouTube TV is a typical streaming service in this department: You won’t see any contracts here! This means that you can cancel YouTube TV at any time and never be billed again (your service will just end at the end of whatever month you most recently paid for).
Canceling YouTube TV is pretty easy. To do it, just log into your account on YouTube TV’s website, then click the settings menu (the little gear icon), and then navigate to “Membership” and “Pause or cancel membership.”
If you’ve made it all the way down here, you’ve probably learned a lot about YouTube TV. There’s still plenty to talk about, though — in addition to our YouTube TV review, we have lots of coverage of YouTube TV’s competitors (check out our guide to Hulu + Live TV), reviews of our other favorite services, and our rankings of the very best live TV streaming services money can buy.