Is YouTube TV Finally Worth It?

Image: Roku / Gizmodo
Image: Roku / Gizmodo

Saddle up, cord cutters. Your life just became slightly less inconvenient. YouTube TV will now work on Roku devices, which means you can watch over 40 channels of live entertainment through your set-top box. Does that make YouTube TV more appealing? Sure. Does that make YouTube TV worth $35 a month? Ehhhhhhhhh.


There’s always been an obvious upside to YouTube TV. It’s live TV that you can watch on your phone, tablet, or television. Local news and sports. No need for a cable box. This is literally the sales pitch on YouTube TV’s website, and it’s appealing to anyone who likes to watch TV the old fashioned way, without all the old fashioned annoyances. Heck, you can even watch the Super Bowl with YouTube TV.

What’s always been missing from that sales pitch—or at least confined to the small print—is the fact that YouTube TV doesn’t really work with most TVs. Until now, you’ve needed a Chromecast or an Xbox One to get it on the big screen. There are a handful of smart TVs that have supported the new platform, too, but nobody goes out and buys a new TV so they can watch their internet videos more easily. But the latest Chromecast is just $35. Google was actually giving Chromecasts away when it launched YouTube TV. Because that was the only way you could watch YouTube TV on a TV!

The problem is the Chromecast experience sucks sometimes. The device itself is fine. It usually works as advertised, sending whatever video is in your browser to your TV over a shared Wi-Fi connection. However, this means that you have to use a computer or a mobile device to find the content and then cast it. If your phone or laptop dies or gets disconnected, no more TV for you. It’s almost as if Google thought up a more futuristic way to watch TV and then forced consumers to develop new habits. Again, using a Chromecast is usually a breeze, but it’s just not as breezy as picking up a remote and turning on a TV.

Enter Roku. Everybody loves a Roku! So much so that it’s the most popular set-top box in America, even more popular than those made by tech giants like Amazon and Apple. Most gadget reviewers would attribute Roku’s success to its platform agnostic approach to streaming video. Roku isn’t trying to push you to buy stuff on iTunes or Amazon Prime. You can just install the channels you like and spend your money as your please in the video store of your choosing. YouTube TV is now one of those channels, which means that you can indeed pick up a remote, turn on a TV, and start watching YouTube TV.

Back to that original question, though. Does watching YouTube TV on a Roku device make it a better value? After all, $35 a month for basic TV channels is cheaper than most cable plans, but it’s still steep compared some other internet TV services. Sling TV starts at $20 a month, although Hulu with Live TV costs a whopping $40 a month. You do get some perks with YouTube TV, like unlimited cloud DVR storage and the inclusion of great channels like AMC, Bravo, the Disney Channel, and ESPN. But even with the ability to watch Vanderpump Rules live, is YouTube TV really worth a dollar a day? It actually costs a little bit more than a dollar a day.

That’s up to you, Captain Moneybags. If you’re a big fan of sports or reality TV, the ability to see fresh television content might be worth as much as $100 a month. Heck, you might even be paying that much for a bloated cable package. If you’re into movies and documentaries, Netflix is probably enough at $11 a month—even though those prices keep creeping up in an annoying way. If you value human interaction, well, go outside and meet yourself a stranger. That’s free.


Senior editor at Gizmodo.


Turning the phone off doesn’t stop casting whatever you were casting to the Chromecast. Yes, you wouldn’t be able to control it anymore if you wanted to pause, but it doesn’t just stop. The phone is the control, once you cast something, as long as it isn’t stored on the phone, the Chromecast goes through your internet connection to get the content directly. Your phone doesn’t buffer a YouTube video and then send it to the Chromecast it tell the Chromecast where to go get it. I can cast a TV episode I have on my Plex server to my Chromecast, turn my phone off, and watch a whole season without ever turning my phone back on or interacting with the Chromecast at all. This article is very misinformed on how the Chromecast works, yes it has it’s drawbacks, but you are making it out like it is as crippled as a mirror device instead of what it actually is.