‘Cutting the cord,’ namely moving from cable TV to getting all of your viewing content online, has moved from a frugal dream to a reality.
One of the many options is YouTube TV—new to the game, but making a splash nonetheless. We take a look at whether YouTube TV deserves the title of best cable alternative and what its competitors have to offer.
What YouTube has to offer as the best cable alternative
YouTube’s move into internet TV was pretty predictable—after all, it is one of the largest video streaming sites around. In 2017 it launched YouTube TV at a low price of $35 per month (with a one month free trial) and a good-looking package of networks. But, is it worth committing yourself to for all of your TV needs?
Pros of YouTube TV
- Lots of networks: YouTube TV currently shows content from 50 networks plus its own YouTube Red Originals. The networks include ABC, Fox, the Disney Channel, BBC America, Bravo, Nat Geo, ESPN, and the CBS sports network. You can also add Showtime, Fox Soccer Plus, Shudder, and Sundance Now for an extra monthly fee.
- Easily accessible: YouTube TV is easy to watch on your smartphone or tablet via the YouTube TV app. When it originally came out, it lacked a Roku app, but that has since been resolved.
- DVR: This is YouTube TV’s biggest draw. Record unlimited hours of content and store it in the cloud to watch whenever you’d like. Recorded shows are available for up to nine months. In contrast, Hulu only offers 50 hours of DVR storage and charges $20 to expand it to 200 hours.
- Multiple accounts: YouTube TV gives users up to six accounts and three simultaneous streams with each subscription. This means family members can use the same subscription to watch different content all at the same time. Many big streaming sites don’t have this option.
Cons of YouTube TV
- Big holes in the content: YouTube TV doesn’t show any MLB games, which could be a deal breaker for baseball fans. There are also no channels from Time Warner or Viacom, which means no CNN, Comedy Central, HBO, or Discovery channel, for example.
- Needs to be streamed to your TV: If you want to watch on your TV screen you’ll have to get a Google Chromecast or have a smart TV that offers Chromecat or Roku. That said, most TV streaming sites need some kind of device to share the content with your screen and you do get a free Chromecast after your first paid month.
- Limited coverage: YouTube TV is still only available in certain metropolitan areas in the mainland US (you can check the full list here). Although it does keep expanding its coverage, if you live outside of these cities you won’t be able to access it at all.
- Poor integration with YouTube: Even though YouTube TV and YouTube are the same company, YouTube videos are only sometimes integrated into the YouTube TV app.
Other top cable alternatives
Playstation Vue offers 45 channels in the basic package, including some that aren’t shown by YouTube TV such as Cartoon Network, Discovery, FX, CNN and TBS.
The package begins at $40 per month and goes up to $75 for extra channels like HBO and Showtime.
Playstation Vue includes DVR so you can record hundreds of programs and store them for up to 28 days. It’s compatible with Amazon Fire, Android, Apple TV, Chromecast, iOS, PS3 and PS4, and Roku, making it a very versatile streaming option.
Sling TV’s many channels include the basics of CNN, ESPN, and the Disney Channel but it can include just about every network thanks to the paid add-on options. This makes it very versatile but also means that the cost can quickly rise from the basic $20 a month.
Sling TV doesn’t offer much DVR but it is available throughout the 50 states so coverage is better than YouTube TV.
Hulu Live offers a great catalog of both on-demand video and over 50 live channels including all those by Disney, 21st Century Fox, Time Warner, and Comcast.
Their basic package begins at $40 a month, but you have to put up with a lot of ads and only one stream at a time. For more DVR storage space or extra simultaneous streams you’ll be charged up to $30 extra per month.
How much could you save with the best cable alternative?
The question ‘How much could I save if I cut the cord?’ is difficult to answer because it all depends on how much TV you watch and how many channels you want to access. We’ll assume that your cable bill is the average for the US of around $85 a month, which comes to over $1,000 per year. You’ll still need to pay for your internet service, which is around $40-$50 a month on average, depending on your provider.
If you replace your cable with YouTube TV at $35 a month, your maximum total savings will be $120. The lowest-cost cable alternative is Sling TV’s basic package at $20 a month, saving $15-$25 a month or up to $300 a year.
If stand-alone internet service costs are very high in your area it might not be worth it to cut the cord just for the price alone. But, the flexibility of paying only for the channels you want and being able to change providers whenever you’d like could clinch the argument for you.
If you live in one of YouTube TV’s included areas and your favorite channels are included in YouTube’s package, why not? You’ll get great TV for a great price along with unlimited DVR. But YouTube TV can’t replace cable entirely so if you’re thinking of cutting the cord, don’t do it without checking out other options first.