Google is making it easier to eliminate your cable provider and watch TV directly over the Internet. For $35 per month, YouTube TV will let you stream programs live from 40 channels, including the five major broadcast stations, onto any of your devices. The service launches in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Philadelphia, with others cities following shortly.
You’ll be able to watch ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and CW, Fox Sports and its FS1 and FS2 affiliates, ESPN, CBS, and NBC sports channels, as well as Syfy, Bravo, FX and FXX, E, Disney Channel, Fox News, MSNBC, and CNBC.
More channels will be added later, including BBC and AMC. Other channels will be available for an additional fee. Not included are Time Warner and Viacom channels, such as CNN, TNT, MTV, Comedy Central, and HBO, as well as NPR and local programming.
One subscription for $35 provides you with six user accounts that each can be customized for personal preferences. Each account user can record and save their favorite programs on a cloud-based DVR, much like a TiVo in the sky.
You can watch the shows on a smartphone, tablet, PC, or on your large screen TV with a Chromecast accessory.
Using YouTube TV is simple. On the phone, downloaded the app. You’ll need to sign in from your home area, and it must be from one of the cities with service.
When you open the app you can choose to watch from what’s live or access your prerecorded shows. You can also select favorites that you want it to record to the cloud, so you can watch at a later time.
The app has a carousel interface showing what’s playing as well as a conventional channel guide that lets you see what’s being broadcast both now and later.
If you want to watch on your TV, you can send the program to the TV wirelessly from your phone or tablet using a Chromecast module plugged into the TV. The phone then becomes a remote control. (Subscribers will get a Chromecast at no cost.)
If you use the cloud for saving or recording your favorite shows, it will save them for nine months and provide unlimited storage at no cost. This is the primary benefit over some of the competing services such as DIRECTV Now, Sony’s Vue, and Dish’s Sling.
Searching for your favorite shows or genres will likely be a lot easier as Google knows searching. You’ll be able to search by genres, subjects, and sports teams, for example. You’ll even be able to search using voice.
The $35 monthly charge provides live streaming from the following channels.
National Cable: ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3 (later), ESPNU, ESPNews, SEC Network, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD, Freeform
Broadcast: NBC, Telemundo (later)
National Cable: Bravo, Chiller, CNBC, E!, Golf Channel, MSNBC, Universo (later), NBCSN, Oxygen, Sprout, SyFy, Universal HD, USA
Regional Cable: Comcast Regional Sports Networks, NECN (New England Cable News)
Broadcast: CBS, The CW
National Cable: CBS Sports Network
National Cable: FS1 (Fox Sports 1), FS2 (Fox Sports 2), BTN (Big Ten Network), FX, FXX, FXM, Nat Geo, Nat Geo Wild, Fox News, Fox Business
Regional Cable: Fox Regional Sports Networks
AMC Networks (later):
AMC, BBC America, BBC World News, WE TV, IFC, Sundance TV
The Weather Channel
You’ll still encounter some of the crazy rules imposed by broadcasters, making this service less a replacement for a full-fledged cable subscription, and more of a service for the more casual watchers.
You’ll not be able to stream live when you’re out of your home area. (It knows where you are because you need to keep your GPS on.) However, if you’ve preset a station to record, you can start watching from the cloud as soon as the program begins to record and you can watch whatever is prerecorded from wherever you are.
Since most of us prefer watching our shows to our schedule, the free DVR cloud storage will turn out to be the real benefit. But again, that’s a rule imposed by the networks. Why not allow us to watch any show at anytime without having to prerecord it, since Google clearly has recordings of all the shows in the first place.