Cutting the cord is a lot easier, and YouTube wants you to watch through them. But there are other options in services that have been around for years. I pit YouTube TV up against two terrestrial services – AT&T DirecTV NOW and Spectrum TV.
Cable TV Offering
I live in a Spectrum TV area. This used to be Charter, but the company did a name change after they purchased Time Warner TV. You might have Cox, Comcast, Frontier, TDS, or another service in your area. Your results, and channel lineup may vary. I would love to hear what your service offers for Internet TV.
Spectrum has 3 tiers of cable. Basic, Silver, and Gold. For this video, we’ll focus on the basic tiers with no bundle options. Spectrum basic TV is $64.99.
My internet also goes through Spectrum, which I end up with a hefty bill close to $200 a month. One note – even though I have a $10 bundle credit, I also have to pay $8.85 surcharge for getting broadcast TV – local CBS, NBC, etc. I have to pay for receivers, unless I decide to use the app, which is available on iOS, Android 4.2 and better, Amazon Fire devices, Roku, XBox, and Samsung smart TVs.
Basic will give me 239 channels, but keep in mind, the first 60 channels are doubled, as they have a SD and HD version. I do get about 30 additional music only channels, local access channels, and OnDemand and PPV options.
There is also a DVR option, but for additional cost. If you can wait, you’ll be able to see OnDemand the next day – with no fast forward option.
If I wanted to get 447 channels including premium channels like HBO and Showtime, I would pay an additional $40/month.
You can connect up to 15 devices, but only 5 can be used simultaneously. The app also only will display up to 1080p in my area. The cable boxes only do 1080i at best themselves, but many channels on the network don’t stream in anything better than 1080i.
This is AT&T’s offering. DirecTV also has a Satellite TV package, but for this video, we’ll focus on DirecTV NOW. No hardware required.
Plans start at $45 / month for 65 channels. They have 5 different tier plans, including one that includes more spanish channels. Since I have an AT&T unlimited phone service, my HBO is free, and I also get a discount of $15 / month.
They also have a cloud DVR option, which is in BETA at the moment of this review. It’s a good start to the offering, but does have some bumps. Most notably the ability to start the recording on the current show.
You can watch on iOS, Android, Chromecast, Roku, or Fire TV. There is promise for XBox and Samsung TV, but at the time of this review, it was not available. It may be available if you can run an internet browser. directv NOW has a 2 device limit.
And even though DirecTV NOW says they support 4K, I could only get channels in 1080p. This might be for their satellite over streaming service.
Overall, the interface is easy to use, but the opening of the app, along with calling up the guide, is pretty slow.
Deep dive with the video I did last year – Is Hulu Live TV worth the $40/month
The new kid on the block is YouTube TV. You can connect this up fairly easy, and there’s a 14 day trial. $40 / month with upgrade options. Missing is HBO, Cinemax, and other premium channels. But adding premium channels is pretty straighforward. Each channel also comes with a 14 day free trial. In all, with the extra options, I could pay up to $95/month.
Keep in mind, YouTube TV is still not available in all areas. But it does have a good US coverage if you’re around a city with 200k or more people.
There is a family share option, which you can allow others in your household with YouTube accounts to share the TV option.
The DVR option is called “Library”. Add shows to get the next episode.
YouTube does stream in 4k, but the question is if the channels are transmitting in 4K. Comet, a channel you would get over the air as a sub-channel (like 47.2)ususally streams in 480i on your TV. The shows are older, and probably cheap to air, so stretching it to 4K will look pixelated and choppy. Commercials and promos might look crisp, though.
In July 2018, they quietly rolled out 60fps support. This depends on location, but with that, you can get crisper content if the show is also 60 fps.
I suppose you could digitally remaster old content, but if these shows films are old and damaged, you’ll still have viewing issues.
Youtube also has the feature to go down rabbit holes. Watch the YouTube content of Big Bang Theory, or after show podcasts. It doesn’t have the ability to go to YouTube Live channels, though, like my Geekazine live stream. That would have been an awesome feature for me.
What is also interesting is YouTube Originals channel is missing in my area. I would guess that is an easy add for the video giant. It’s not like they have to negotiate with anyone over this. But then again, your area might have a different lineup of stations.
Speaking of which, if you travel, your lineup will change depending on the city you’re in. Keep that in mind if your planning to record Jeopardy on your local channel while your gone.
The service is available on the most devices, iOS, Android, XBox, Apple TV, Roku, Samsung, LG, Browsers, and Chromecast or Airplay.