Smart Money

What is Youtube TV and Can It Replace Your Cable Box?

These days, it’s possible to create the home entertainment situation you want, without paying the cost of cable.

Editor's Note

You can trust the integrity of our balanced, independent financial advice. We may, however, receive compensation from the issuers of some products mentioned in this article. Opinions are the author's alone. This content has not been provided by, reviewed, approved or endorsed by any advertiser, unless otherwise noted below.

One of the first things we often try to cut when looking for places to save is the cable. After all, cable can be expensive, it comes with specialized equipment and you cant always access it everywhere.

In recent years, streaming services have become increasingly popular, prompting some consumers to get rid of cable and pay for cheaper streaming content. One of the downsides to some streaming services, though, is that it can sometimes be difficult to access live events or see TV shows on network stations when they air.

YouTube TV aims to remedy that situation, providing access to popular cable channels and live TV--all without the need for special equipment. Here’s what you need to know.

What is YouTube TV?

YouTube TV is an online streaming service offered by YouTube. It’s important to understand, though, that it’s different from YouTube Premium. YouTube Premium offers you a way to avoid ads on your YouTube videos, plus keep playing videos in the background or even watch some videos without internet access.

However, with Premium, you’re not actually getting access to TV stations the same way (although you can see live streams when you go to a specific YouTube channel).

Instead, YouTube TV is access to live channels. Popular networks like NBC, FOX, the CW, SyFy, and ESPN are all available on YouTube TV. When you pay for a subscription, you get access to these channels, providing you with live TV.

While YouTube TV doesn’t have everything, it does have a fair amount. It also comes with add-on networks, like Showtime, that you can add for an extra fee each month.

Finally, YouTube TV also comes with a cloud DVR. So, if you want to record live TV, you can. However, rather than having a physical DVR, it’s all taken care of in the cloud. This makes it fairly easy to manage your entertainment no matter where you are, and without a lot of complicated fiddling around.

How to Watch YouTube TV

You don’t need a cable box or any other equipment. All you need is the YouTube TV app and access to the internet.

First of all, you can watch YouTube TV on a mobile device or your computer. No matter where you are, you can access the app on your smartphone or tablet. If you want to watch on your TV, you might need to take a few extra steps. Luckily, it’s fairly simple. If you have your TV set up to accept casts from your Samsung Galaxy or iPad, you can cast to your TV.

YouTube TV is also compatible with Apple TV and Chromecast, and there are even apps for Roku and Android TV. So, if you already have a device designed to help you watch online content on your TV, you’re likely to be able to use it with YouTube TV to get a similar experience.

You do need to have high-speed internet. However, for many consumers today, the internet is a part of the regular budget. So, rather than paying internet costs plus another $120 (or more) for cable, you could pay a much smaller price for YouTube TV and get a similar experience.

How Much Does YouTube TV Cost?

YouTube TV starts at $40 per month. Getting an add-on network will bring up the cost. For example, the Showtime add-on is $7 per month. So, if you want Showtime, you’ll pay $47 per month. That can still be much less than paying for premium cable channels with a more traditional package.

When comparing this to the cost of your cable package, you might want to see where you stand in terms of what channels you use, and how often you watch them.

In some cases, you can get a better deal with cable, if it’s bundled with your internet package, or if there is a deal with your wireless phone provider. However, for many consumers, YouTube TV is likely to provide savings. For example, back when I had cable, I paid $80 for the internet and $110 for a cable package--and that didn’t include the $10 a month spent to rent the cable box.

Rather than spending $120 per month on cable, and switching to YouTube TV for $40 per month, that would amount to a savings of $80. Over a year, that would be a savings of $960. That’s almost $1,000 a year in savings after switching from cable to YouTube TV.

Can YouTube TV Really Replace Cable?

Of course, the real question is whether you can use YouTube TV to truly replace your cable. The answer depends on what you prefer to watch, and how often you watch it. One of the bonuses of YouTube TV is the fact that you can get access to live TV, including all the NFL games--plus the Super Bowl--because the major networks are part of the package.

In addition, to live TV channels, and the ability to record shows with the cloud DVR, you also get access to YouTube original content programming (which was previously known as YouTube Red). If you stick with the basics, and you like YouTube’s original content, using YouTube TV can be a viable replacement for cable.

What you might not get with YouTube TV includes premium cable networks. For example, you’re not going to get HBO, even though Showtime is available as an add-on. There might be other channels you cant get. Plus, you might not have access to some of the movies that you’d get with streaming on Hulu or Netflix, or the programming you’d get with Amazon Prime. And, of course, even though the Disney channel is included on YouTube TV, the new streaming service, Disney +, isn’t part of the deal.

Bottom Line: Putting Together Your Entertainment Package

In the end, putting together your entertainment experience is all about where you spend your time. If you’re looking to replace basic cable and expensive live TV, there’s a good chance YouTube TV will work just fine, especially if you already pay for your internet separately.

However, with all the streaming services, you might need to consider what makes the most sense in your situation. For example, I rarely watch live TV, but I like to stream movies and older TV shows, so Hulu works well. If I decide I want to watch live TV on top of that, I can actually add live TV to my Hulu subscription. For Hulu Premium + Live TV, the cost is $50.99 per month. So it’s only a little more expensive than YouTube TV.

For now, though, I’m good with paying $11.99 for Hulu Premium and $15.99 for Netflix. I get what I need for $27.98 per month. But I also don’t watch live TV very often.

As you weigh the options, consider the types of shows you watch and the experiences you’re most interested in. YouTube TV can make a great replacement for cable, especially if you watch live TV and don’t spend much time on premium channels. Pay attention to what works best for you, and compare the options.

These days, thanks to so many streaming services, it’s possible for you to create the home entertainment situation you want, without paying the cost of cable.

Miranda Marquit

Miranda Marquit

Miranda is a nationally-recognized financial writer and money expert. She has contributed to NPR, Marketwatch, Yahoo! Finance, U.S. News & World Report, FOX Business, The Hill and numerous other publications. Miranda is an avid podcaster and writes about money and freelancing at her website,

Recommended Stories