Cable TV just got its biggest competitor yet.
Unlike the free YouTube you know so well, populated by cat videos, how-tos and myriad independent channels and shows, YouTube TV is a direct competitor to cable you’ll have to pay for. It will deliver live local TV channels like ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC as well as cable stalwarts like ESPN, the Disney Channel, Fox News and Bravo. (Disclosure: CBS is the parent company of CNET and Showtime.)
The cost? $35 per month. YouTube hasn’t yet set a release date, saying only that YouTube TV will appear “in the next few months.”
If you’ve never had cable TV service, you’ve already cut the cord, or you’re on the fence considering whether to do so, YouTube TV offers yet another basically risk-free service to consider. Risk-free because you can cancel anytime and you’re only out $35. Try that with your cable company.
Three similar services exist already, namely Sling TV, PlayStation Vue and DirecTV Now, and Hulu has said it will debut yet another entry in this field before the end of the year, too. All offer various channel packages and features for a range of prices, starting at $20 per month for Sling TV. Here’s a closer look.
How does YouTube TV’s channels compare?
This is the big unknown, mainly because it could add more channels between now and when it launches.
YouTube TV claims it’s still negotiating with a few program providers to add channels. It says that the price won’t go up if and when that happens.
In the meantime, here are all of the channels it has announced so far:
If it launches with only the channels above, its total number of channels will fall short of the base packages offered by DirecTV Now ($35/month) and PlayStation Vue ($30 or $40). The selection above is more than Sling offers in its base package ($20/month), however.
Major channels missing from YouTube TV’s lineup, yet available on other services, include AMC, CNN, Comedy Central, Discovery, Food Network, MTV and TNT, among many others. HBO is also a no-show, but you can sign up for HBO Now separately.
If you’re curious, here’s a tally of all of the channels available on the other three.
YouTube TV will include YouTube Red original shows and movies. It also says that all of YouTube’s trademark user-generated and online-native content would be folded into YouTube TV’s searches.
Beyond channels, what else should I know?
The features included with a YouTube TV subscription are similar to what is offered on other devices, with some major differences.
- Cloud DVR with unlimited storage
- 3 simultaneous streams per account
- 6 user profiles with separate log-ins per account
- Works with Chromecast, Google Home, computers, iOS and Android phones and tablets
- Launching in select major US cities only
The cloud DVR lets you “record” shows to watch later, just like a traditional cable DVR, and sounds superior to what’s offered on competitors. PlayStation Vue’s cloud DVR erases your shows after 28 days. Sling TV’s cloud DVR is still in beta and only available with certain devices, while DirecTV’s has been promised but hasn’t launched yet.
The multiple simultaneous streams is similar to a “family plan” on a service like Spotify, allowing you to stream to more than one TV or device at the same time. Competitors (beyond Sling’s base plan) also offer it. Only YouTube TV and Vue allows user profiles (similar to Netflix and Hulu), however, and only YouTube TV lets you log in with different credentials (email and password) to the same account. That makes it the most “shareable” of the bunch.
Device support is spotty so far, however, with only Chromecast able to connect to a TV (Google Home owners can also command it via voice). That said, YouTube could add other TV platforms before launch, such as Android TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV or Apple TV — all of which offer the standard YouTube app. Like its competitors, YouTube TV is also available on mobile phones, tablets and computers.
Unlike the others, YouTube TV won’t be available nationwide. It will launch in select major cities only at first, and YouTube has yet to specify which ones. That’s because the local channels it offers (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC) have to be negotiated separately with local network stations, a process that’s still ongoing. Local channels on the other three services are similarly restricted by region.
We’ve asked YouTube for more details and will update this article when we get it.