Google introduced YouTube TV last week and it’s a definite “win” for cord cutters.
What is it?
YouTube TV is a television streaming service that doesn’t require you to have cable TV subscription. All you need is a device(Computer, Phone, or Tablet) with an Internet connection. It’s not the a la carte TV we’ve all been wanting for the last 30 years, but it is definitely cheaper and more affordable than subscription cable services. The service comes with 6 accounts so everyone in your family can have their own viewing/recording preferences, and once subscribed, you can stream up to 3 devices at once. That means you can view the available live streams or recorded shows on up to 3 TVs, phones or whatever you want at a time. Since you can stream to almost any device, the three devices you’re streaming to don’t have to be in the same location either. As an example, you could be on a train watching a football game, while one of your kids is watching cartoons at home, and your other child is watching a movie at a friend’s house.
$35/month, with the first trial month free. After your free trial month, new subscribers will also receive a voucher for a free Chromecast(A $35 value). As far as we can tell everyone is a “new subscriber” as the service is brand spankin’ new. Google will also pay the tax and shipping on the device.
No subscription, cancel at anytime.
No cable box needed and you can watch on pretty much any device. Google does, however, warn that it’s likely there will be a higher chance of streaming errors on first generation Chromecast devices. We happen to have one that we’re using here, and haven’t noticed any errors yet. Thus far, the first generation Chromecast needs a few seconds to cache the stream. We also tried to stream the first, previously recorded, episode of “Archer” and ended up getting an episode of “Bob’s Burgers” 4 times. The 5th time we tried to play the “Archer” episode it actually streamed the correct show. Google also warns that there are blackouts for certain shows and events, although we haven’t encountered any yet. I’m betting the events will be certain sporting events, given those are usually the shows that are often blacked out locally for cable subscribers as well.
Where’s the hidden cost? So far the only thing you need that isn’t provided is an Internet connection. For the sake of this article let’s assume you already have an Internet connection with unlimited data usage. Other than the $35/month subscription fee, you’re set. If your internet service has a set monthly data allowance, be aware that streaming tv with YouTube TV will be using that data, and with multiple users streaming at the same time, as in the example above, it could eat up your allotted data faster than you’d expect.
Right now the service is available in the US only, in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New York, San Francisco, and Chicago.
Yes. There are ads. This is the first indication that YouTube TV isn’t exactly what it claims to be regarding live TV shows. Unlike Hulu, which you can pay extra to opt out of ads, there are ads in “recorded” episodes of shows. We watched the most recent episode of Designated Survivor and there were a few ads that were definitely not the ads that ran on live TV. However we’ve found other shows that have recorded the live ads, and you can just fast forward through those ads on playback. Given that I can watch some of the same TV shows on Hulu, ad free, I’d rather stick with Hulu for the shows that are on both streaming services. FX was only running ads for other FX shows, and MSNBC didn’t actually show any ads, but instead opted to put up a filler screen every time they would be running ads. Some of the ads are also recorded much louder than the shows, which is particularly annoying. In short, if you’re hoping to avoid ads on YouTube TV, don’t count on it.
The channel list is pretty good. If you’re into sports or news, the channel lineup is spectacular. For the full lineup click on the image to the left. They’re also working on expanding the list of channels right away. Based on the channels they have planned, we’re guessing it’s a technical issue, and they already have the deals signed. Honestly, if this lineup were available for $35/mo from our cable operator, we’d never have cut the cord in the first place. It’s too late to turn back now though.
Unlimited DVR storage for all shows
The DVR feature, while it seems like a “thing”, is really just a pre-recording like on Hulu or the OnDemand feature from Cable providers. When you add a show to your “DVR”, it’s just like adding a show to your watchlist on Hulu or similar services. Even if you haven’t chosen to add a show to your DVR, you can go back and watch episodes that you haven’t seen. We’ll see how this feature progresses. YouTube TV will apparently only hold your recordings for nine months. However, trying to watch previously recorded episodes of a show such as “Colony”, reveal they won’t play older episodes. Colony episodes only go back to Season 2, Episode 8. So… if you missed the first 7 episodes of the second season, you’re out of luck. That’s always been one of the things that has bugged us about Hulu and some OnDemand shows. The playback of certain shows seems to be shorter because of contractual obligations, and there’s likely nothing that can be done about that. The good news about the DVR feature is that you can record as many shows as you want at a time and it’s not limited to the number of cable boxes you have in your house, etc.
Live TV streaming
There’s a new YouTube TV app for Android or iOS. You can also watch in a web browser, with the ability to send live streams to TVs or other devices over Chromecast. The Android and iOS apps were fairly well thought through. The web app is too similar and very clunky on a laptop or desktop machine, even with a touch screen. I understand the need to keep a similar user interface on all devices, but it really doesn’t work for YouTube TV. All of the stations are kept under the “Search” and it’s not easy to search through all the movies, etc. You can search stations, one by one, but it’s just not very well done. It’s a new service however, and Google is generally very good at doing iterative interface updates on their apps. I have a subscription to Google Music too, and their web interface has always been clunky in my opinion, but the content is so good I never looked back once I subscribed when the service came out.
Movies… Yes, MOVIES.
Right now it looks like all the movies that would be available via OnDemand for similar cable subscription channels are available to be streamed right along with the original TV content for the different TV networks. Right now you can only get a list of all the movies by going to the individual channels through the search feature and then selecting “Movies”. Honestly, it’s not a great way to search through the available movies.