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May 13, 2017

YouTube TV has managed to satiate my desire for live television

by John_A

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But with rival services making their way onto the scene, YouTube TV needs an edge.

Is there anyone out there who cut the cord and misses cable as much as I did? It wasn’t until I downloaded YouTube TV that I realized how much I missed the sensation of flipping through channels, or being able to watch programs at the same time as everyone else.

Sure, full-featured cable TV does have its drawbacks. In many cases, it’s overwrought with screeching advertisements and garbage content (says the reality TV connoisseur), not to mention that it can be pretty expensive if you want the whole kit and caboodle. But I found that the past few weeks with YouTube TV have been successful precisely because it evokes the same sensations of subscribing to cable TV while simultaneously filling in the blanks where some streaming services fall short.

It’s saving me from a bad habit

Let’s get this straight: There is nothing wrong with being a consumer of reality television. For me, it’s a way to escape the world at present and be ensconced in someone else’s drama for a change. But even I can admit that I was spending way too much money on the varying seasons of the Real Housewives and a few other shows simply because I wanted to watch them at the same timeline as everyone else. Most seasons range between $12-20 in the Google Play Store — it definitely adds up after a while, and then I’m left with seasons of old reality television tied to my Google account.

YouTube TV saves me a ton of money.

YouTube TV saves me a ton of money. For $35 a month, I can watch garbage television on Bravo, E!, and The CW in real time, or subscribe to them — it’s the thing to do on YouTube, after all — so that I can watch them later.

I also appreciate the duality of the YouTube TV app. Not only do I have access to 50 live channels, including a variety of sports-centric networks (ESPN , FS1, and NBC Sports Network, to name a few), but I can also keep a mark on the other network shows I like to watch, too, without having to wait for Hulu to publish the episodes. And if it’s a live special that won’t appear on the internet after the fact, I can use the built-in DVR capabilities to record it and watch later.

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YouTube TV offers live TV (left), but there’s also on demand content (middle) in addition to YouTube originals (right).

That’s the other thing about YouTube TV: the promise of nearly-unlimited DVR. You can record shows as they air and keep them tied to your account for up to nine months. There’s a downside to doing this, however, and it’s also a reminder of why I cut the cord in the first place: I’m forced to watch the advertisements in between scenes, and I can’t skip ’em either.

But considering I’ve been a Hulu subscriber for such a long time — six years! — and I’ve never paid to eliminate the ads, I’m okay with sitting through a few of them when I’m watching TV. If anything, it adds to the effect of “having cable,” and I don’t have to worry about pausing the content in between segments to get up and take a break from the couch.

The beginning of a burgeoning trend

YouTube isn’t the first to jump on the live-TV-over-the-internet trend. Sling TV has been long offering this kind of functionality on a variety of devices. I found its packages to be a bit too limiting for my liking, however, and the channels I wanted to watch in real time were part of its highest subscription tier. It’s since changed its offerings, however, and I’ll be curious to see if I can get more variety for the same price as YouTube TV.

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Hulu is currently accepting sign-ups for its live television abilities.

Hulu has also joined the ranks in delivering live television over the internet, and that’s the service that I’m feeling particularly conflicted about. The pricing and variety of channels are about on par with YouTube TV, and though I’ve yet to try it out, it seems to be more worth the cash. It only offers 200 hours of cloud DVR, however, but that’s in addition to the breadth of original content and movies available on demand.

YouTube doesn’t necessarily have all that content available. Sure, I have access to whatever is on demand from the various network channels — this includes made-for-TV movies and past seasons of terrible reality television — but the feed is also clogged with mentions of YouTube Red content that doesn’t appear as appealing to watch.

One thing’s for sure: the idea of live TV wherever you are is definitely heating up.

I’ll be curious to see if Hulu Live can offer an edge of what’s essentially a beta service offered by YouTube. I like the flexibility of the YouTube TV app, however; the ability to watch TV on either my Android device or through Chromecast. But Hulu is even more cross compatible in that regard, particularly since it’s available on practically everything. What’s a gal to do?

One thing’s for sure: the idea of live TV wherever you are is definitely heating up. It’s also a great reminder of how the methodology of watching TV has drastically changed over the years. Before, you could only watch live TV by subscribing to cable or sharing shady links with your friends. Now, you can do almost everything a traditional set-top box with DVR used to do right from your smartphone.

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