The recently announced YouTube TV service appears to offer a lot for $35 per month.
The plan grants you access to live TV from more than 40 providers, including all the major networks. It has a nice selection of cable channels—Disney, ESPN, FX, Fox News, MSNBC, National Geographic, and USA—and even some regional sports networks. And you can add Showtime and Fox Soccer Plus for an extra fee.
To date, the company has revealed only that the service will be available soon "in the largest U.S. markets." But because YouTube has reached deals with local affiliates in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia, it's likely to kick off in those cities.
So if you're looking for pay-TV alternatives, there are about to be a wealth of options. YouTube TV will join Sling TV and PlayStation Vue, which both debuted in 2015, and AT&T DirecTV Now, which launched late last year. Hulu is developing a service as well.
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DirecTV Now offers 100-plus channels for $35 (plus HBO and Cinemax as $5-per-month add-ons). But, according to the company, that's a promotion price that could escalate to $60 per month at any time.
Sling TV has a basic Orange plan with about 30 channels for $20 per month; a Blue plan with more than 40, including some local Fox and NBC stations, for $25; and a combined package for $40. Add-ons cost $5 to $10 each per month.
YouTube TV does have some content holes, most notably cable channels from Viacom (Comedy Central, MTV) and Time Warner (CNN, HBO, TNT). It also lacks programming from Discovery Communications, AMC Networks (AMC, IFC, BBC America) and Scripps Networks Interactive (Food Network, HGTV). YouTube says it's still in discussions with some networks, though, so it could add more channels before the service launches.
YouTube TV's cloud DVR—a virtual recorder that stores programs for you on YouTube's servers—will let you record and save as many shows as you want for up to nine months before they're deleted.
DirecTV has promised a DVR feature but hasn't yet delivered it. Sling started beta-testing a cloud DVR last December, but only for Roku users. It's now being rolled out on Amazon Fire TV, Android TV devices, and Android phones and tablets. Apple support is expected to follow.
Another plus for YouTube TV: It will support up to six user log-in profiles, though only three people can watch the service at once. DirecTV Now supports two simultaneous users, and Sling TV Orange is limited to one at a time. Upgrading to Sling Blue bumps you up to three streams. For four, you have to pay for the combined Sling Orange and Blue package.
Given its Google ties, YouTube TV is likely to shine on search and personalization features. The service will use Google's artificial intelligence technology to find shows you want to watch and make targeted recommendations.
We'll have a better idea of how all these features work once we've had a chance to kick the tires on the new YouTube service. We've signed up to give it a try as soon as it's available in our area, so check back for our hands-on evaluation.
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