Despite its many nifty features, YouTube TV does have a few potentially irritating limitations that you should know about before you sign up. Continue reading to learn about the best alternatives for YouTube TV: DirecTV, Sling TV and Hulu With Live TV.
Here’s Why You May Not Like YouTube TV
YouTube TV is designed with casual TV watchers in mind. But if you’re a hardcore couch potato, you may want to go with a different cable replacement service. Here’s why.
Limited channels, limited customization
With YouTube TV, you get about 40 channels and — with the exception of a few limited add-ons — that’s it. (You’ll get more or less local channels, depending on whether or not your local TV affiliates have made deals with YouTube.) You can’t add HBO or Cinemax, or upgrade to different plans.
No CNN, no Food Network, no TNT
If you relate more to the Fox News or MSNBC versions of how the world works, you may not mind that CNN isn’t available on YouTube TV. But if you’re a CNN fan, you may want to go with a different cable replacement service after you cut the cord. Additionally, if you like basketball or if you’re a foodie, you may be disappointed by the fact that YouTube TV does not offer TNT or the Food Network.
That unlimited DVR feature is not as sweet a deal as it seems
Here’s the problem with YouTube’s “unlimited” DVR: YouTube won’t let you record a show if an on-demand version of the episode you want to watch is available. It seems that YouTube wants as many people as possible to sit through repetitive “special messages” from its sponsors, which are embedded into all of its on-demand videos. You can’t even pay to turn off the embedded ads because YouTube only offers one universal TV plan.
Bottom line: if you hate commercials as much as you hate your cable provider, you might not love YouTube TV.
YouTube TV’s program guide is very easy to use and its live thumbnails are easy on the eyes. However, if you’re used to all the options you get with a classic cable TV program guide, you may find YouTube’s TV guide to be a bit too basic. The guide only gives you a short-term view of what’s on next.
No Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV or Roku support
If you own an Apple TV, an Amazon Fire TV device or a Roku, YouTube TV likely isn’t for you. YouTube has yet to come out with apps for any of those devices. Apps for Roku and Apple TV are on the way, but YouTube TV will probably never come to Amazon. Amazon and YouTube haven’t been getting along very well lately.
Only 3 simultaneous streams
YouTube TV limits you to 3 simultaneous streams, which is probably enough access for most casual TV watchers. However, YouTube’s 3 stream limitation could be a potential downside if everyone in your clan is a TV head.
YouTube Red originals are intentionally lame
Streaming services typically put out edgy, groundbreaking originals to attract buzz and critical acclaim — but not YouTube.
YouTube Red regularly churns out corny shows and one-offs featuring over-the-hill celebs like Ellen DeGeneres, Kevin Hart and Ryan Seacrest. Other awful YouTube Red “comedies” feature Paul Logan and other YouTube knuckleheads with large fan bases.
After a rough, controversy-filled year for YouTube in 2017, the world’s largest video sharing platform may be deeply in need of content that won’t make waves or offend anyone.
“YouTube doesn’t really need these shows to take off. These ad-supported shows are designed to make worried advertisers feel good.” – Business Insider
The YouTube TV app doesn’t have much YouTube content
It’s easy to switch between YouTube and YouTube TV on a computer, but YouTube TV and YouTube exist in two entirely different worlds on mobile devices. As a result, you won’t find many YouTube clips in your search results when using the YouTube TV app.
What Alternatives Are There for YouTube TV?
Here are 3 streaming services you may want to try out if YouTube TV isn’t your style.
Better program guide
Sling TV’s program guide is more customizable compared to YouTube TV’s. If you don’t like the thumbnail layout, you can switch to a text-based menu instead.
Sling TV’s plans start at $20, making it one of the least expensive streaming services of its kind.
Unlike YouTube TV, Sling TV is customizable — perhaps to a fault. Sling TV offers a labyrinth of tweakable subscription bundles.
First, you pick a base subscription — either Sling Orange (approximately 30 channels for $20) or Sling Blue (approximately 40 channels for 25$). You can also get both Orange and Blue together and get around 50 channels for $40.
After you decide which base package you want, you can upgrade and get more channels by buying themed add-on bundles. Sling’s bundles feature sports, news, comedy and other interests.
Note: The amount of channels you get depends on whether or not Sling has closed deals with your local TV affiliates.
Works with Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Roku
Sling has Sling TV apps for nearly every device under the sun except PlayStation.
Our main gripe about Sling TV is that it advertises itself in a misleading way. Because Sling TV limits you to various subscription bundles, it is not really the “a la carte” streaming service it claims to be. You can’t actually pick and choose individual channels.
Additionally, Sling TV has yet to make a deal with CBS. Moreover, Sling TV’s local TV coverage is very poor compared to YouTube and Hulu With TV. If you rely on your TV antenna for local broadcasts, though, that shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
Currently, Sling TV is offering a free 7-day trial.
Way more channels
With YouTube TV, you can get 40+ channels for $35. But with DirecTV Now’s basic “Live a Little” plan, you’ll pay the same amount and get 60+ channels.
Alternatively, you can upgrade to “Just Right” ($50) and get 80+ channels, or “Go Big” ($60) and get 100+ channels. The DirecTV plan with the most channels is “Gotta Have It” ($70) which is a little pricey but lets you get 120+ channels. You can even tack on HBO ($5), Cinemax ($5) and/or a handful of Showtime/Starz channels ($8) if you want.
Excellent stream quality
If HD streams are your priority, DirecTV Now may be the cable replacement service for you. Last summer, DirecTV started adding high def 1080p channels to the menu. 4K is coming soon, as well.
Pay only $10 per month if you have AT&T
If you are an AT&T Unlimited Choice subscriber, you can sign up for DirecTV Now for just $10/month.
Works with Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Roku
DirecTV Now works with select Rokus, all Amazon Fire TV devices and 4th gen Apple TVs.
Because DirecTV Now limits you to 2 simultaneous streams, it isn’t the best choice for large families. Additionally, DirecTV Now is still beta testing its DVR feature. DirecTV promised that it would roll out the official DVR at the beginning of 2018, so upgrades should be on their way soon.
Like Sling TV, DirecTV also lets you try out their service risk free before you commit.
Hulu With Live TV
Ad-free on-demand content
Unlike YouTube TV, Hulu With Live TV doesn’t force you to look at ads when you watch on-demand content. When you get Hulu With Live TV, you can upgrade to No Commercials for $4 extra.
The best looking interface
Out of all the streaming services we’ve seen so far, Hulu With Live TV might have the best-looking interface overall. When surfing around on Hulu With Live TV, live TV channels blend in perfectly with on-demand content.
Because Hulu With Live TV lets you stream to an unlimited number of screens, it could be the best cable replacement service for large families. You have to pay an extra $15 to unlock this feature, though — and it still limits you to 3 simultaneous streams when connecting outside the home.
Works with Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Roku
Hulu With Live TV has apps for 4th gen Apple TVs, new Roku devices, and all Amazon Fire TVs and Fire TV Sticks.
YouTube TV is more stable compared to Hulu With Live TV. Because Hulu With Live TV is still in beta, it sometimes goes down during live events.
Additionally, Hulu With Live TV is pricier than YouTube — especially if you add Unlimited Screen, Enhanced DVR ($20) and other upgrades.
5 simultaneous streams
With PlayStation Vue, you can stream to 5 different devices at the same time. This makes PlayStation Vue an excellent choice for large families.
Lots of juicy upgrades and bundles
The basic PlayStation Vue plan is similar to YouTube TV. For $40, you get around 40 channels.
However, upgrades significantly sweeten up the deal. The $45 “Core” plan gives you 65+ channels. With the $55 “Elite” package, you get 90+ channels. For HBO and Showtime, you can level up to the $75 “Elite” subscription.
If you’re a sports fan, you might want to consider PlayStation Vue’s $10 Sports Pack bundle. With Sports Pack, you get all 3 Fox College Sports channels, Bases Loaded, ESPN Classic, ESPN Goal Line, Eleven Sports, LHN, Strike Zone, NBC Sports, NESN National and Outside.TV.
Though PlayStation Vue offers a much deeper channel menu compared to YouTube TV, YouTube TV is significantly cheaper. Additionally, you need a high-speed internet connection to get the most out of PlayStation Vue — you’ll likely struggle if you don’t have at least 10Mbps. Another bad thing about PlayStation Vue: its on-demand content has embedded ads that you can’t pay to turn off.
Which Service Is the Overall Best Alternative to YouTube TV?
Still can’t decide which streaming service to choose? Here’s some advice that’ll help you decide which YouTube TV alternative to get.
If you think YouTube TV is too expensive…
Sling TV offers one of the cheapest ways to get TV via the web. For just $20 a month, you can get the Orange plan and enjoy a fairly decent selection of cable TV channels.
If you want more than 40 channels…
DirecTV is the way to go if channel quantity is your priority. The $70 “Gotta Have It” plan gives you access to over 120 channels.
If you don’t like YouTube TV’s interface…
Hulu With Live TV’s interface is the slickest looking cable replacement service we’ve seen thus far. We especially like the way Hulu seamlessly blends its on-demand content into its live TV menu. YouTube TV’s interface is also quite handsome, but its stripped-down program guide may be too basic for some.
If you hate watching ads…
If you dislike commercials as much as you hate expensive cable plans, skip YouTube TV and try out Hulu With Live TV instead. Hulu With Live TV has a good DVR, which allows you to zoom through broadcast network ads. Additionally, it’s one of the only streaming services that gives you an upgrade that lets you cut out embedded on-demand ads.