Is YouTube gearing up for a full-blown digital media takeover? Okay, I admit … maybe that is a little bit hyperbolic. But they do seem to have their hands in just about every category of streaming entertainment these days. Perhaps you have been harassed by YouTube yourself, as billions of people are, every time you visit the site by them asking you over and over again if you want to try YouTube Music, or YouTube Premium, or YouTube Go, or YouTube TV. Annoyingly enough, of course, simply clicking “no thanks” does not make these offers go away. The next time you visit YouTube, chances are, they will be asking you again. No means no, YouTube … learn to take a hint.
All jokes aside, though, I would be lying if I said that I haven’t been at least a little curious to try one of YouTube’s ancillary services for quite some time. As a huge music nut (and given the fact that at least a little more than half of my time on YouTube is spent watching videos of ripped MP3s that are hard to find on music streaming services), YouTube Music, for instance, has piqued my interest on more than one occasion.
I have also heard nothing but good things about their service that we will be taking a look at today, YouTube TV. So, then, this begs the question: is our immediate rejection of YouTube’s premium services truly warranted? Furthermore, why is it that the general public seems to be so reluctant to give them a shot?
Well, let’s explore the latter question first. YouTube has increasingly struggled with its public image over the last few years. People no longer trust it. This is due, in part, to the video streaming platform’s gradually growing bombardment of ads before, during, and after videos. Especially since most users of YouTube are old enough to remember a time when the platform was nearly ad-free. The fact that these pesky ads and surveys now interrupt our video viewing is frustrating. And it has caused many to turn on the site (or, rather, to turn off the site).
Another reason for YouTube’s PR crisis stems from its overbearing censorship. This is another aspect of YouTube that has slowly crept up on users, flying under the radar long enough until it began to reach a fever pitch in the last year or two. YouTube is not a place for total and unadulterated free speech anymore.
Videos are constantly being taken down for violating various copyright concerns, inappropriate content mandates, and even just blatant political disfavor. If YouTube does not agree with or like what your video has to say, they can simply have it removed. Furthermore, if you are the owner of a monetized channel, YouTubers can face demonetization for espousing statements that YouTube finds troubling or distasteful.
On one hand, YouTube, as a private owner of its own servers (its own digital property, if you will) technically has the right to remove any video as they see fit. However, from an ethical standpoint, their decision to do so is more complicated, as many see it as a dangerous precedent to set.
Either way, politics and moral qualms aside, today I would like to simply take a look at one of the paid subscription services that YouTube offers, simply in the context of how it functions and whether it is worth our money. Because there is the potential with something like YouTube TV to be a godsend for cord-cutters all around the world.
YouTube TV is a relatively new streaming service. It went live in April of 2017 and did so at first only in five major markets, as a trial run of sorts – New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. The service was meant to be an ‘over-the-top’ internet television streaming platform designed to, I would imagine, ideally, make traditional hardwired cable television networks obsolete. Or, at the very least give them a run for their money.
From the moment of its launch, YouTube TV offered live broadcasting of some of the top cable networks. Users were instantly able to live stream channels like ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, FX, and the Discovery Channel. Since then, YouTube TV has acquired even more networks, eventually adding the Disney Channel, MSNBC, BBC, and too many others to list. Essentially, in a relatively short period of time, YouTube TV had a substantial online cable network on their hands.
There are many (myself included) who disparage the site design of the basic version of YouTube. I think it is cluttered and clunky, harder to navigate than is necessary, and more than a little disorienting when it comes to locating content on a page. I mean, this is to be expected when you haven’t really changed your site design or layout much at all since you launched 15 years ago.
However, the team over at YouTube seems to have stepped their game up significantly when it came time to design YouTube TV. The look and feel of it are very modern, sleek, intuitive, and much easier to use and navigate than its predecessor. Plus, it is fully streamlined and consistent no matter what kind of device you use it on. And you can use it on just about any device – Roku, Google Chrome Cast, Apple TV, any newer smart TV (LG, Samsung, Hisense, Vizio, Sharp, etc.), Xbox One, Android, iOS, and the Fire Stick. Perfect for the family, too, YouTube TV can stream simultaneously on 3 separate devices.
The layout of YouTube TV, no matter what device you access it on, is familiar enough to the traditional YouTube interface without nearly as many flaws. This results in the ability to pick it up and immediately know how to use it – a level of intuitive design that you could only get from such an iconic site.
As I mentioned before, YouTube TV offers a large roster of television networks from which to choose. In fact, depending on your locality, YouTube TV gives you live streaming access to 70+ channels, which is, for the price (discussed momentarily) right on par (if not a better deal) than most local cable providers will offer. Add to that the fact that, with YouTube TV, you can keep up with all of your favorites shows no matter where you happen to be, and you have the recipe for a superior version, an evolved version, of traditional cable TV viewing.
A subscription to YouTube TV gives you six unique accounts. This means that the whole family can watch and DVR whatever they want without having to weed through everything that everyone else in the family has chosen to favorite, follow, or record. Speaking of DVR, by the way, YouTube TV boasts the fact that its cloud-based recording capabilities make it the only DVR on the market with unlimited storage space. There is no limit on how many shows can be recorded simultaneously, too, and recordings are stored for 9 months. Stream anything from your DVR library on any device at any time, arguably making TV viewing more convenient than ever before.
In addition to 70+ channels and all local broadcasts, YouTube TV grants you access to all of YouTube Premium’s original content as well; however, a YouTube Premium account is not included with the subscription.
Desktop and Mobile Experience
As I touched on a little bit earlier, YouTube TV functions and operates similarly to YouTube, only in an optimized, less glitchy, more dependable way. Whether you are streaming live television on your smartphone, desktop computer, or smart TV, this platform performs consistently.
It is also completely streamlined. This means that when you stop watching a show on one device and move to another, granted you are on the same account, simply pick back up where you left off (at least for recorded content). As far as live TV is concerned, switching devices is as easy as turning the television off and then back on again. No matter what device you are on, or what kind of device you are using, you can be guaranteed a consistent and convenient viewing experience.
Pricing and Plans
I promised a few paragraphs up to give you the scoop on how YouTube TV might actually be more affordable than traditional cable subscriptions. Well, on the site itself, YouTube TV makes the following claim: “Cut the cord and save $700 a year. YouTube TV has no hidden fees, unlike traditional services.” All you pay is the monthly fee that you agree to pay upfront – you won’t pay extra for DVR, HD, cable boxes, cancellation, sports channels, or local channels.
And that fee that you agree to pay upfront is only $49.99 per month – cheaper if not on par with most cable plan prices.
Suggestions I Have for YouTube TV
I would like to see YouTube TV extend the duration of time that you can hold onto recorded programs. Ideally, you could keep at least some of them indefinitely, or, say, a few years. This would put other streaming services like Netflix or Hulu in hot water the way that YouTube has already put pressure on traditional cable providers.
All in all, public image aside, it would appear as if YouTube has done something right in the last few years. And that something is YouTube TV. If you are already paying for cable, why not cut the cord and access almost all of the same content for cheaper, no matter what device you choose to view it on?