YouTube TV: What You Need to Know

All about YouTube's television streaming service for cord cutters

YouTube TV is an online streaming service that allows subscribers to watch live television on computers, phones, and other compatible devices. It requires a high-speed internet connection, and it's a convenient replacement for cable television for people looking to cut the cord.

You can't rent movies on YouTube TV, but you can rent and buy movies on YouTube using the same login and payment information.

How to Sign Up for YouTube TV

Signing up for YouTube TV is straightforward, and there's a free trial, so you can check it out before committing to a monthly charge.

Here's how to sign up for the free trial of YouTube TV.

  1. Navigate to tv.youtube.com.

  2. Select Try It Free.

    The Try It Free button
  3. Choose the account you want to use for YouTube TV.

    If you only have one Google account, you won't receive this prompt.

    Choose the Google account you want to use for YouTube TV
  4. Sign in if you receive a prompt, then select Let's Go.

    The Let's Go button
  5. A list of the included networks appears. Select Next.

    The Next button
  6. Select any add-on networks you want to subscribe to, then select Next.

    The Add Networks screen with the Next button highlighted
  7. Enter your credit card and billing information. Then, select Buy.

YouTube TV determines your location based on your IP address during this step. If it thinks you live in an area where the service isn't available, select I Don't Live Here. Doing this allows you to check if the service is available where you live, but you can't sign up until you're at home.

If you don't cancel within the trial period, YouTube TV charges your credit card.

The Buy button

YouTube TV Plans and Availability

Unlike cable television and other live television streaming services, YouTube TV packages are straightforward. There is only one subscription package, and it includes 40+ channels, so there aren't any complicated options.

YouTube TV unavailability screen

When you sign up, you see a list of the channels included in the subscription. If you don't see one, that means it either isn't available in your area or isn't included in the basic package.

The most significant difference between YouTube TV and cable television is that YouTube TV is less complicated in terms of subscription plans. The single YouTube TV subscription option comes with a selection of network and basic cable channels, and then you can pay extra for additional ones on an a la carte basis.

YouTube TV is available in most major metropolitan areas in the United States. However, the availability of broadcast networks like Fox and ABC is limited based on geographical location. You can watch your favorite local channels on YouTube TV. However, those channels become unavailable if you travel outside the area.

How Many Shows Can You Watch at Once With YouTube TV?

Streaming services like YouTube TV limit the number of shows, or streams, that you can watch at the same time. Some services limit you to one show unless you pay for a subscription package.

YouTube TV limits the number of devices that you can stream to at once. However, since there is only one subscription option, you can stream to multiple devices without paying extra.

What Internet Speed is Required to Watch YouTube TV?

YouTube TV requires a high-speed internet connection, but the specifics are a little more complicated. For instance, a slower speed results in lower picture quality, and you may experience buffering where the stream stops for a while intermittently.

According to YouTube, you need:

  • 3+ Mbps for standard definition video.
  • 7+ Mbps to stream a single high definition show if no other devices are using the network.
  • 13+ Mbps to stream shows in high definition if other devices are using the same network.

If you aren't sure how fast your connection is, check out our guide to testing your internet speed.

YouTube TV Add-Ons and Special Features

Like other live television streaming services, YouTube TV offers many add-ons. The situation is less complicated with YouTube TV, though, as the add-ons come in the form of single channels instead of larger packages.

You can select the specific channels you want, like Fox Sports Soccer for live soccer, without paying for those you won't watch.

YouTube TV Add-ons and Special Features

YouTube, like many of its competitors, produces original content. These shows are also available with YouTube Premium, a different subscription service that allows you to remove ads from YouTube videos.

While all YouTube Premium original shows and movies are available on demand from YouTube TV, signing up for YouTube TV is different than signing up for YouTube Premium.

YouTube TV subscribers see ads on regular YouTube videos, YouTube Music videos, and YouTube Gaming videos.

Watch Live Television on YouTube TV

YouTube TV allows you to watch live television without a cable subscription or an antenna. It lets you do so on a computer, TV, phone, or other compatible devices.

If you have a compatible smart TV, you can watch YouTube TV directly on your television. You can also cast to your TV from a mobile device if you have the right equipment.

With that in mind, watching live television on YouTube TV is extremely easy:

  1. From the YouTube TV home screen, go to the Live tab.

    The Live tab on YouTube TV
  2. Highlight the channel you want to watch. You'll see more information about the show that is currently on and what will come on next.

    Channel info on YouTube TV
  3. Select the title you want to watch.

Since YouTube TV allows you to watch live television, expect to watch the same commercials you would see if you watched the program on broadcast or cable television. However, you can pause live television on YouTube TV, and there's also a digital video recorder (DVR) feature. This feature is great for watching live sports, like streaming NFL games, since it allows you to pause and re-watch the action. YouTube TV also includes on-demand content.