Broadcast television is one of those technologies that just doesn’t seem to want to die. Ever since the inception of the technology in 1927, television has been a staple in the lives of consumers across the globe. Though we’ve seen the internet revolutionize hundreds of industries since its birth, cable TV has been something that has stayed largely the same since it was originally monetized.

Over the last couple of years however, a number of players have attempted to change the way we watch TV not by replacing broadcast television altogether, but by creating streaming services that give consumers access to both broadcast TV and pre-recorded series and movies.

Services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video may have popularized the streaming revolution by offering instant access to TV shows and movies that consumers love, but something about live TV appeals to many consumers on a level that has been almost ingrained into the very fabric of media as we know it today. This was evident even when streaming first began a couple of years ago, and players like Roku and Hulu swept in to fill the void consumers so badly craved.

Now, Google is looking into get into the game by offering (select) consumers instant access to live television as well as a select list of TV shows and movies for a monthly cost of $34.99. Is this price point enough to encourage consumers to cut their cables altogether and jump headfirst into the internet of everything? Let’s take a look.

Design

I am actually quite pumped about the design and control of this service, though that doesn’t mean I don’t have reservations about the implementation.

If you’re a techie and know how to use Google services, the theory of YouTube TV is a dream come true. Having access to your favorite live and recorded content anywhere you want is absolutely fantastic, since it can be viewed anywhere as long as you are signed into your Google account. However, if you’re not quite as technical and are not used to Google services and the idea of “casting” content, you may be left wondering why you have to watch your shows on such a small screen.

You don’t, of course, but Google doesn’t exactly advertise the existence of TV support.

YouTube.com, and that cast button on the top, can be confusing for a crowd that has no idea what content mirroring is. This isn’t bashing the ability to do so at all, as it is a crucial aspect of the service, but it does beg the question as to whether or not Google should have just bundled a ‘TV’ section into the YouTube app itself. After all, many Smart TVs on the market today already include YouTube integration, and so a simple update to these apps would make it possible for folks to use YouTube TV without having to rely on casting from their phone.

When you open the app, you are greeted with popular live TV that you can watch locally on your device, or send straight to your compatible smart TV or Chromecast for easy streaming. The service also showcases local television specific to your area, so you get the added benefit of being able to watch your favorite local content if that’s what you’re into.

YouTube TV is simplistic enough that you shouldn't get lost in a ton of menus and options, and should be pretty easy for even the most tech-illiterate user.

As you scroll down the app, you’re greeted with popular shows available for recording once they air, as well as a selection of movies included with the service. Though one might argue that the app is a little bland, that’s kind of the point. Google wants to make this app as easy to use as physically possible, and I’ve got to say they’ve done a pretty amazing job.

Swiping to the left from the home menu brings you to your library, detailing all the content you’ve starred or recorded, while swiping right narrows your view to a selection of live TV available for streaming. The latter function is arguably the biggest selling point of Google’s new service. The design of this section is also pretty fantastic, as it shows you a variety of live channels available for streaming while showcasing a live feed of the top option you are currently viewing.

Tapping on a selection brings you to a live feed of the channel while showing off upcoming content available on that channel, which I think is a great choice, since it essentially lets you ‘preview’ a show to decide whether or not it is interesting enough before you commit to throwing it up on the big screen.

Overall I’m thoroughly impressed with the design of this app. It is simplistic enough that you shouldn’t get lost in a ton of menus and options, and should be pretty easy for even the most tech-illiterate user.

Content

Google has done a surprisingly good job in making sure that there was a decent amount of premium content available to users at the launch of YouTube TV. The live channels available for streaming on YouTube TV essentially mirrors the content you would have available on any major cable network, giving you access to things like NBC, ESPN, Disney Channel, and SyFy.

There are 39 total channels currently available for watching on the basic plan, though you have the option to purchase Showtime and Fox Soccer Plus at an additional monthly fee. Showtime will cost you an additional $11 per month, while Fox Soccer Plus will set you back an additional $15 per billing cycle.

That being said, purchasing the Showtime network gives you access to all 7 of their channels, including Showtime West, East, 2, Showcase, Extreme, Beyond, Next, and Woman. Fox Soccer Plus will only give you access to that 1 channel, but if you’re a die-hard soccer fan, you might be someone who is willing to pay that price.

There are quite a few sports channels available on YouTube TV as well, meaning you will probably be able to watch football, soccer, basketball, or whatever other sport you follow on the regular. Considering a number of people have cable subscriptions just for Friday night football, this would be another great reason for people to finally get rid of their hard-wired cable subscriptions for good.

One gripe we have with the content on YouTube TV is that we are limited to 720p as a maximum resolution.

Our own Joshua Vergara wanted to mention that he was disappointed at the lack of HBO on YouTube TV, but considering HBO has pulled a number of fans over to its HBO GO and HBO NOW streaming services over the past couple of years, it might make sense that they would want to keep those services contained. These apps do have their own dedicated Chromecast-enabled streaming apps however, so I feel as thought it may have been a smart move for the company to enable sign-in through YouTube TV to be able to access that content.

One other gripe I have with the content on YouTube TV is that everything included on the service, save the native YouTube Red content, is limited to 720p as a maximum resolution. While I understand the reasoning for this, we are entering an age where 4k is becoming the standard in what flat screen TVs can output. Live broadcast TV does usually only broadcast at 720p, so while it is understandable that that content would output at that resolution, it would be nice to see the selection of movies be available at at least 1080p.

Google likely doesn’t offer this in order to refrain from cannibalizing Google Play Movies, but that is a whole separate conversation within itself.

Funny enough, YouTube Red originals stream on the service up to 1440p, which does make sense considering the service offers that on YouTube itself. All in all, the 720 issue is really a gripe with the cable companies, not Google, so I won’t take this as too much of a con.

Usability

There are both great things and awkward things about the usability of Google’s new service. YouTube TV was clearly made to help bridge the gap between 2 technologies that can offer essentially the same service via different technology, and while this seems like a neat idea in theory, one could argue that live TV and streaming services are largely separated by the generational gap of users that are viewing them.

Go ahead and call me out if you think I’m in the wrong here, but in my opinion those who would know enough about YouTube and streaming services to actually want to pay for YouTube TV are largely the type of people who rely almost solely on YouTube and other “instant gratification” services like Netflix to watch their content.

Sure, live TV is great for those who are interested in watching new content as it airs, but often those who watch content online want the ability to watch anything at any time. This works out well for the “internet-savvy” crowd who can watch both existing and recorded content as well as live TV, but I feel that those who are most invested in live TV are not even going to know or care that YouTube TV exists.

If Google is going to at all appeal to the middle aged to older generation, it is absolutely crucial that the app is as easy as possible to use. I feel that Google has absolutely nailed it in this respect.

In this way I feel that Google only has the opportunity to access half of their market, which may or may not be enough to be successful. It was pointed out to me that 100 million households still had premium cable television as of 2014, and while many users probably still get loads of content from their cable providers, I would wager that  this number is dropping relatively rapidly. Again, I could be completely wrong about this, but it does feel a bit as though Google is attempting to sell an old service to a new generation. It will be hard to tell just how successful the service is until it has spread to a much larger portion of the country that is not quite as urbanized as the major metropolitan areas that Google has chosen for initial launch.

Another thing I found annoying was the inclusion of ads in the service. These aren’t regular TV ads either, they are full on YouTube-style ads. In my opinion, if you are paying monthly for a service you should not have to be served ads, especially in addition to the advertising already built into cable TV. I understand that services like Hulu Plus still require users to watch advertising at a certain pricing tier, but it still seems like you are being screwed over if you are paying for a premium service and still seeing advertising.

The point of YouTube Red is to remove ads and still be able to pay the content creators, and the same should be applied to YouTube TV, especially when you are paying what many would consider a relatively hefty (at least for an online subscription service) $35 per month.

However, one thing I do love  is the ability to watch your content and live TV wherever you are as long as you are signed into your Google account. This service doesn’t require any additional hardware like a Roku player, you can just launch the app on your device and get to watching. One could even argue that this service alone could justify owning a tablet. While phones are generally now large enough to view content to a reasonable degree, having this app on your tablet essentially makes it a very portable live TV device, which adds a lot to its usability. In terms of the sheer ability to watch live TV at any time, YouTube TV easily pulls ahead of many other services available on the market.

You can also record to a “Cloud DVR” if there is a show coming up that you won’t be able to view upon airing. These recordings last for 9 months, meaning you’ll have the ability to view your favorite shows whenever you like after they air. Since this recording is completely stored in the cloud, you’ll have a variety of options regarding where you can watch this content, whether it be your computer, your phone, or streamed to a dedicated TV.

There is no content limit on what you record, so you could theoretically let the system back up every single show on the network if you’re that hardcore. Physical DVR boxes used to have very limited space, so having unlimited cloud backup enables you to catch any episode any time after it airs. Pretty freaking cool.

Other thoughts..

Availability

YouTube TV is currently only available in 5 select markets, including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago, and Philadelphia. While the company has said more markets are coming in the future, they did not provide any details regarding a time-frame for this.

This peeved quite a few people, including our own Joe Hindy, who had quite a few words to say about the launch this past week. If you want to listen to his thoughts as well as those of a couple of our other team members, make sure you check out episode 103 of the Android Authority podcast, where we talked about YouTube TV quite extensively.

It also should be noted that even if you sign up for the service in one of those markets, you can’t take it with you to regions that don’t offer access. So if you were hoping to travel with your YouTube TV subscription across the country, you’re out of luck.

Simplicity

Something I am quite a fan of, and I think is pretty crucial to the success of this application and service, is its ease of use. The fact that you can open the app and jump directly into live TV or search for your favorite channels or shows is great, and Google has even omitted its classic “Hamburger” style expandable menu, since there are essentially no extra options you would need to use to tweak the app.

If Google is going to at all appeal to the middle aged to older generation that are used to relying on their cable provider for most of their content, it is absolutely crucial that the app is as easy as possible to use, and I feel that Google has absolutely nailed it in this respect.

“Pausing” live TV

If you need to get up and stop watching your show while it’s airing, Google will automatically record the rest of the show so that you can “continue watching” at any time. This is a fantastic feature, as it allows for much better usability and convenience that it is impossible to get with a traditional cable subscription.

Though Comcast and other wired connections have added internet streaming options for shows as well, the ability to get the service wholly separately and have everything rout through your Google account is something I am personally in love with, and hope that other people can see the benefits of this implementation.

Verdict

YouTube TV is a bold venture by Google to upgrade a traditional service for use in the modern world. Taking your favorite content with you wherever you are and being able to watch shows live from anywhere is a service that many would likely be willing to pay a steep price for, but $35 may seem a bit too far for those who don’t care as much about live TV and are more worried about getting any episode at any time.

The extremely limited availability of the service is a nuisance at the time of writing, but will hopefully be expanded much, much more widely in the near future. Though I did not notice any significant bugs in the service at the time of launch, the ones that do exist will likely be ironed out once the service hits more markets in the future.

It’s hard to say how YouTube TV will fare in a booming market that has seen increased competition recently in the form of Direct TV Now, SlingTV, Playstation Vue, and even an upcoming TV service from Hulu. That said, we’re excited to see how it all unfolds. What’s your opinion of YouTube TV? Can you even use the service? Would you pay $35 a month for it? Let us know in the comments below.

David Imel
David Imel  is a 21 year-old technology enthusiast hailing from Smartville, Califorina. He moves a lot so he's probably not really living in any one place. David loves Android, Writing, Computer Hardware, Mechanical Keyboards, Super Smash Brothers: Melee, and many other geeky things. He attended the University of California: Santa Cruz from 2013-2017 and now writes articles like no tomorrow.
  • Josué Gutiérrez

    I started the trial outside the US. I live in Costa Rica and works well on desktop (Macbook Pro with Chrome) but nowhere near to be able to use it on the phone. They use both carrier ID and GPS (this is a must) to use Youtube TV on the phone. I think I could use it for FXX, channel that is not available in my country, because Archer is so good, but its episodes eventually will be available on Netflix anyway so… If you are from other country and wanna try, you can ask me. Maybe I can help.

  • Great Artiste

    David, you may be an Android expert, but you’re a novice when it comes to television & broadcast technology. FYI: Only the ABC/ESPN/ABC owned cable channels, local OTA & Fox/owned cable channels, local OTA stations broadcast in 720p. CBS and NBC, PBS and their entire family of networks, their local OTA affiliate stations broadcast in 1080i. That goes standard goes for every other cable channel & independent non-ABC/Fox OTA station originated in the US as well. Please get your facts straight.

    However, thank you for bringing out that one important point about YouTube Live. They’ve GOT to be kidding! 720p? With 1080p being the highest standard since the early 2000s and 4K available for the last 5 years and now becoming the defacto standard in streaming, WTH is Google thinking? That alone makes their service a complete bust for me. I live in the New York area and was considering it, but now they can keep it.

    • Benoit Bourdua

      I am betting (hoping) that 1080p and later 4K streams will be available. 720p is not great by any measure, but I’m willing to live with it for a bit.

      Simply can’t believe that the user base won’t demand better, and sooner rather than later.

    • David Imel

      Ah, I’ll have to edit that in, sorry about that. I haven’t really watched TV since I was a kid, so I wanted to try and give a more “is this worth coming back? Has anything even improved?” approach. Really appreciate your edits.

      And I know, right? With everything moving to a 4k standard being a full 3 standards behind for a premium $35/month service is inexcusable. I would still try it out for the 30 days with the free trial and see if it ends up mattering to you that much, but from someone who barely watches traditional broadcast television it’s a bust.

      Thanks again!

  • Benoit Bourdua

    2nd day with the service and I like it a lot.

    Your review didn’t account for a significant user base, that being the sports watchers who want to otherwise cut the cord. We’ve mostly been held by the balls by our addiction to live sports.

    YouTube TV have the most complete cable channels package (ESPN family, Fox family, BTN, CBSSN and more) AND the 4 networks. This is pretty much all that’s needed for me to indulge in my NCAA football addiction. Still missing Pac 12 Networks but that’s all I can think of.

    I have been waiting for such a package for at least 3 years now. I’m cutting the cord as soon as my free month is over. Going all in on YouTube TV.

    Bit of a critic, image was a bit weird. Colors were all washed out on my TV. Where every other content from my Nexus Player was fine, the casted YouTube TV lacked life. Same when casting from 1st gen Chromecast. And same from brand new Chromecast Ultra. Nothing that a bit of TV tuning won’t take care of, but weird. A quick Google search found plenty of folks complaining about that.

    • Alec M

      Same boat on the sports point. I’ve been waiting for someone to come up with a package that had the Fox Sports channels in the same package as the ESPN sports channels. The fact that it’s the ENTIRE ESPN family is such a huge bonus

      • Benoit Bourdua

        Yup, loads better than Sling on that front. All of ESPN plus all of Fox in the same package.

        Playstation Vue was not bad, in theory, but the YouTube package is much much better. No messing around with the 4 networks.

        • libra89

          Thank you for your comment. I’m a baseball fan and I find YouTube TV to be interesting because sports seems to included, along with local channels.

    • PaulAndrewAnderson

      Last year I used Sling to watch Royals live on Fox Sports KC. This year it’s gone; thankfully I discovered this on a free 7-day trial via Amazon TV Box. I have not paid for cable TV in many years, and watch NFL games (go Chiefs) on terrestrial TV. I have Xfinity 60gbps at $50 monthly, and that’s all I pay for: It provides all media, music, and phone services (GV+OBiTalk) at home, as well as free WiFi for my Android phone (w/ WiFi+) within their huge customer-based network.
      If you only want limited local sports, I exploit the reddit (.com) “MLB Streams” page. But then, I have a NUC-PC with Linux OS, HDMI-tethered to my big-screen TV; using a full browser (Chrome or FF) with adblock or Ublock (as highly recommended as an anti-virus program); I thus do not worry about viruses from these ad-riddled sites. I have not missed a Royals game thus far. Just an FYI for anyone else reading herein. Blogger of: Old Dog Teaching New Tech Tricks!

  • 4Ui812

    I’m really hoping this takes off for Google. Maybe in a year or 2 we can get true a la carte channel packages. I cut the cord because I tired of paying for shit I never watch.

  • Emmet

    I live 90 miles north of NYC and Youtube TV works in my area but only with my work email…weird.

  • Keith Borger

    I like it but i don’t use it frequently enough. I’m a tad disappointed with the selection. I don’t watch sports, so that’s 10 channels that I don’t use. another 4 of them are kids channels. So I don’t use 14 of the 37 (37%) provided channels off the bat. And channels like (free form, E!, oxygen, chiller) are pretty worthless to me as well. And the channels I do like (AMC, Discovery, TBS, etc.) aren’t included. I have YouTube Red, and I believe that’s a very worthwhile purchase because of no ads, save offline, background playback, and Google Play Music and YT Music) and YouTube Red Originals, but seriously fuck that. If the YouTube TV came with YouTube Red. I would continue my subscription. Until then I don’t see myself using it.

    • daftrok

      Oh wow I didn’t know YouTube TV didn’t come with Red. That kinda sucks.

  • Bradley Uffner

    Wait a sec, I hope I’m misunderstanding this. Are you saying that in additional to the “normal” tv ads, you ALSO get YouTube ads as well? So you get even MORE commercials with this service than you would get watching through cable?

    • Benoit Bourdua

      I think it means that you get youtube ads when you access exclusive youtube red content.

      When watching TV it’s pretty much the same as watching with a cable or satellite sub. Except some ads are replaced with a generic message. Because of some contractual clauses, I guess. Same as happens on SlingTV.

  • noh1bvisas

    for 35 bucks, i might as well turn the cable back on.

    • Daggett Beaver |dBz| ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

      Exactly.

  • Tori

    I signed up for the free trial about a week ago and so far I’m loving it. I recently ditched my Xfinity subscription and was really missing a few certain shows that are not available on Netflix or Amazon Prime Video (I’m trying to give up my torrent habit). Love the live previews and happy to see that I have access to local channels as well.

  • Daggett Beaver |dBz| ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    Just get a Roku.

    • Jon Bruce

      Doesn’t work with roku yet.

      • Great Artiste

        I’ll bet it never will, nor with an Amazon Fire device.

  • Jon Bruce

    I read that a DVR recorded show will have non-skipable commercials if there is an equivalent on demand show.

    Is this true? Makes DOA for me if this is true.

    • vladashram

      DVR recorded shows have skippable commercials, however there is some “on-demand”-esque content that have non-skippable ads. Like all of The Simpsons is available through Youtube TV at any time, but with non-skippable ads.

  • Happy

    TV – What’s that?

  • Jeff Escobedo

    I subscribed to the Trial, and am disappointed. Like other viewers, I simply do not watch sports, and that is what too many of the channels are focused on. I miss History and Discovery, TBS, etc. The speed is good enough even on my slow rural internet connection. I do not see the draw of having local channels available, as many people could get those free anyways through an antenna. The DVR is the only must have feature, as that is neat to save different movies and shows for later. For the price, I will be cancelling at the end of the Trial. I also would like to see apps for Android TV, Roku, so I do not have to cast anything. Hate casting!!

  • Techngro

    I was intrigued, but I stopped reading at 720p. Even though the article gave a half-hearted possible justification for such a blunder, there’s just no way in hell that I am paying money for 720p content to watch on my 4K tv.

    • vladashram

      Not all of the content is 720p. The live channels are simply in whatever resolution the channel’s themselves provide. There is a lot of content in 1080p(Syfy is one of them).

    • Dedren

      As far as I can tell this has nothing to do with Google. This is just the standard definition most networks record/film shows in. If the network offers 1080i/p then so does YouTube TV. I don’t think it will change soon either because 4K is just too bandwidth heavy, studios would all need to buy 4K cameras, and whatever else is involved in 4K is just lots more expensive. You can find sports content in 4k because they make much more money.

      • Great Artiste

        720p is the HD standard that most broadcasters & cable/satellite channels use? Hogwash! Only the ABC & Fox nets do that. All others are 1080i. Are Blu-rays in 720p? The studios were mastering in 2K HD 20 years ago, back in the day for DVDs, not 480i or 720p! I love when technological illiterates spout off, including this article’s author.

  • Rick45InTX

    I wouldn’t buy anything like this from Google as they tend to censor things that *they* don’t “like”. I don’t want my content filter by someone else.

  • chenriii

    Contrary to the rather rosy picture painted above, Youtube TV’s channel line-up actually has some rather surprising limitations compared to the other 3 major competitors, DirecTV Now, PlayStation Vue and Sling TV (no CNN, for example, and Keith mentions that AMC, Discovery and TBS are also missing). Their DVR function is a little misleading. Yes, they have storage for nine months, but you can’t skip the commercials after the first 24 hours. Compare this to Vue, which has 28-day storage for real DVR recordings where you can fast forward/rewind, and shows also available in On Demand remain available for a period of time after that (don’t know for how long). Of course, DTVN and Sling have no DVR function at all (though Sling has one in beta).

    As for OTA channels, YTV has not yet admitted that it may not be able to offer them in the smaller markets. They’re hiding behind their rollout schedule, which somehow is happening only in those cities where they’ve made OTA deals; strange how that works out…Vue, on the other hand, simply says straight out that some markets will have them some won’t, and they’re charging an extra $10 monthly in their OTA-capable markets (I’m in one of them: NYC).

  • Flow

    The only ever time I use cable is to watch football (NOT SOCCER, FOOTBALL)

    • Flow

      Fox Soccer is garbage compared to BT imo

  • Michael

    I am looking forward to YouTube TV coming to my area. It has the one thing I do not see on PS Vue, DirectTV or SlingTV. The CW. I gotta have my Flash :)

  • Chump

    I’m sticking with Sling for now as it is a better fit for my consumption habits at a lower price point. Plus I loathe the idea of YouTube ads in addition to the regular show ads. I wasn’t aware of this fact so I’m glad David mentioned it. I’m a cord cutter in large part to avoid that crap. And YTTV lacks AMC which is a must for me atm with Season 3 of Better Call Saul having just started. But I’ll keep an eye on its developments.

  • PaulAndrewAnderson

    “If Google is going to at all appeal to the middle aged to older generation…” (omit the words at all). Thanks for humoring this 60yo. BTW, I love AA; read regularly from my Disqus Homepage (and how I just came to this). Still, what makes it ironic (and thus humorous) begins with an inaccurate premise: connecting terrestrial broadcast TV with wired cable TV; two distinct entities which were actually competitors for some time (see Wikipedia’s Cable television in the United States ~ Early Growth section. / Also: Digital television transition in the US / And: Terrestrial television). In fact, digital terrestrial TV is not only new, technologically speaking, it is getting serious R&D dollars.

    So, no dying, and why would it? With full 1080P (and soon, 4K?) terrestrial signals, along with data being transmitted digitally; this will be the future of media broadcast. Here’s why! When the cable companies first got into ISP services (prior to that it was all AT&T or Bell or other land-line phone providers), they offered unlimited data. Just this year, Comcast announced a data ceiling: it’s high, for now, but as more people demand more and more data, so too, will the bills rise to the ceiling. And since advertisers paid for TV (1930’s to 1990’s), consumers watched for free: And smart ones still do! In fact, very few sharp people pay for mobile data at all.

    Therefore, data-based viewing will remain an augmentation, for now, because the tech is still too new and thus, too costly. You have to pay for the data itself — a system that will not last too far into the future to begin with — and then you have to pay again for services such as Netflix and now U-Tube. And the cell towers that now pepper the map, are already being strained to their capacities (got a friend who’s a tower-jockey). But the invincible young really do believe they will have 20/20 vision all their lives, and so they’ll be able to watch a tiny TV (smartphone) forever. Adorable!

  • Eduardo Quintero

    The thing that I like about YouTube TV is that it just works. Sling TV has gone a long way to becoming more usable but it crashed and froze on me both on mobile and on my Chromecast, which is what put me off it. PlayStation works, but I thought it was a little pricey for what I use it for.

    But at least all 3 are better than cable. I can record and watch Beyblade whenever I want for less.