YouTube TV was a great deal for a while. It comes with five accounts, an unlimited DVR that saves recordings for nine months, and dozens of channels. When I first subscribed, I was getting all of that for $40 a month. Then the price went up to $50. It still seemed like a great deal. But now that the price has gone up to $65, I've re-evaluated my family's TV watching habits.
When we first signed up for YouTube TV, my two kids often watched television. In the last year, that's changed a lot. They mostly watch Hulu, Disney+, Netflix, and Funimation. My husband and I mostly use the television for news. For us, spending $65 doesn't make a lot of sense. However, even at $65, YouTube TV is still a good deal for families that watch a lot of television.
If you've decided that the 30% price increase for YouTube TV is too steep for you, what are some good alternatives?
Full Services With Local Channels
- Hulu with Live TV: As the name suggests, this service combines Hulu with a full television streaming service. It comes with 65+ channels and a 50-hour DVR for $64.99 a month. The biggest downside is that it can only be viewed on two screens at a time versus three for YouTube TV. You can upgrade to unlimited screens, but that comes with a hefty price tag of $9.99. That's more expensive than YouTube TV, although you won't have to pay extra for Hulu.
- FuboTV: Fubo's standard plan costs $64.99, comes with 250 hours of DVR space, and allows viewing on 3 screens at once.
- AT&T TV Now: At $55, this was the best deal for anyone wanting local networks and major cable channels. The Plus package had 45+ channels, could be viewed on 3 screens, and had a 500-hour DVR. Unfortunately, it is no longer available for new subscribers. It is still available to existing subscribers. AT&T now offers AT&T TV with 65+ channels, no annual contract, and no hidden fees, but it starts at $69.99 a month plus taxes. The DVR is only 20 hours although you can upgrade to a 500 hour DVR for $10 more. Local channels aren't available in some areas.
Services Without Local Channels
- Sling TV: If you really want to cut costs, Sling is your best bet. It comes with two options: Sling Blue and Sling Orange. It also offers Sling Latino and a bunch of international options covering several languages. Sling Blue and Sling Orange currently cost $35 a month. Blue is the better deal because it allows viewing on three screens versus one for Orange. You can get both together for $50 and watch on up to four screens at once. It comes with a free 50-hour DVR. For $5 more, you can upgrade to a 200-hour DVR. The big downside of Sling is its lack of local channels. Either locals aren't available at all or only the local NBC and Fox affiliates are offered.
- Philo: For $20, you get 60 channels that can be viewed on up to 3 devices at once. It has an unlimited DVR, but shows can only be saved for 30 days. Despite all its offers, it's not going to be for everyone because there are no sports or news offerings.
- Vidgo: The only local channels are ABC and Fox. Vidgo doesn't have a DVR, but does offer 24-hour playback and Video On Demand for many channels. Despite these limitations, it's a lot more expensive than either Sling or Philo at $55. It can be viewed on up to three devices at once.
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If Sling, Vidgo, or Philo offer everything you need except local channels, there are a few options.
If Sling offers NBC and Fox in your area, you can subscribe to Paramount+ (formerly CBS All Access) for live CBS television. You can stream many of their popular shows like Star Trek, 60 Minutes, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and NCIS. That way, you have access to three local networks. The only major network you will be missing is ABC. Unfortunately, the live CBS television option on Paramount+ will be removed for those using the cheaper subscription beginning June 4, 2021. Anyone who subscribes to the cheaper option before then will remain on their original plan and continue to receive live CBS TV. However, if you cancel your subscription and sign up again, you will have to pay $9.99 to receive live programming. NBC also offers the Peacock app if the station isn't available in your area. Most of the content is free.
A $5.99 Hulu subscription offers access to a lot of shows that run on the major networks. Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Good Place, The Amazing World of Gumball, Family Guy, Good Girls, Superstore, The Masked Singer, and many other shows are available on Hulu soon after they air.
Locast is a non-profit local streaming option that's available in many parts of the country. While it's advertised as free, a donation is required to get uninterrupted viewing. To enjoy this service, you have to donate at least $5 a month. A major downside is that it doesn't offer any DVR. For $5 a month, you can use Locast with the Stremium (FitzyTV) DVR, but that gets you to $10 a month. However, combined with Sling or Philo, it isn't a bad deal. And you will have access to most of your locals, including PBS stations.
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LocalBTV is another free option for streaming local channels. And like Locast, it's only available in limited markets. Unlike Locast, which has run into legal issues with the major networks, LocalBTV only offers authorized local channels. This means no CBS, ABC, Fox, or NBC. In my area, I get PBS Kids, and channels offering old shows like The Munsters, The Nanny, Bewitched, and Mork and Mindy. There's also a channel offering local news. It's worth checking out because it is free and you can record shows or a series of shows on channels that allow recording.
Either an indoor or outdoor antenna is another option to receive local channels and there are ways to save over-the-air channels to a DVR. If you subscribe to Sling, you can use their AirTV Mini with an antenna.
Other Live TV
There are several live TV providers that don't have local channels. They offer channel guides similar to cable TV and some have on-demand offerings as well. Because these services are free, they generally don't offer cloud DVR. Some of these providers are:
- Pluto TV (offered through an app for multiple devices)
- Xumo (offered through an app for multiple devices and xumo.tv)
- Tivo Online (offered on the Tivo Stream 4K and online.tivo.com)
- Samsung TV Plus (available on Samsung TVs and select Galaxy devices)
- Roku Channel (offered on Roku devices and therokuchannel.roku.com)
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The best option for you depends on your viewing habits. The nice thing about full services like YouTube TV is that they offer everything in one place. You don't have to worry about getting your cable channels through one app and your local channels using another method. But if you aren't a big TV watcher, or you watch only a few channels, spending $65+ a month may not be worth it to you. Ultimately, what you pick will depend on what channels you want to watch.
If having lots of local networks isn't a big deal for you, and you only watch a few channels most of the time, Sling Blue with added DVR space may be your best bet. 200 hours of DVR space costs an extra $5 and you can watch on up to 3 screens, so it's good for families. And if you live in an area that offers NBC and Fox, add a subscription to Paramount Plus (formerly CBS All Access) to have three local networks. That's what I did since I got Sling's one-year price guarantee of $30 a month. I'll be spending $9 less than what I was spending on YouTube TV, and $24 less than if I chose to keep it. I also have Locast, so if the need ever arises, I can donate $5. And I have LocalBTV, because why not. Along with subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu with ads, Funimation, HBO Max free from my Internet provider, free Prime video options, free Peacock shows, and free apps like PBS, the CW, and Crackle, we have more than enough viewing options.
If locals are important to you but you don't want to pay for them, look into using an antenna.
If you live with roommates, consider YouTube TV, which comes with five separate accounts. You can split the cost and each individual will have their own DVR and can arrange the channels to their liking. Keep in mind that only three accounts can be used at the same time.
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© 2020 LT Wright