Few things are better than plopping down on the couch after a long day of work, turning on the TV and vegging out. You do it, I do it, everybody does it.
And now Google (GOOG, GOOGL) wants to get in on your TV time with its new YouTube TV streaming service. Available in select cities for $35 a month, YouTube TV promises 40 channels of live TV including the five major broadcast channels: ABC, CBS, CW, FOX and NBC.
Google, though, is entering an increasingly crowded market with a wide variety of different channel offerings that can be difficult to parse when all you want to do is watch “The Bachelor” and eat your KFC $20 Fill-Up in your comfy chair.
But since I care so much, I’m breaking down each of the major over-the-top cable streaming services so you can get back to watching the rose ceremony.
Still, not all over-the-top services offer the same channels. YouTube TV is missing Turner and Viacom properties. Sony’s (SNE) PlayStation Vue is also missing Viacom channels, while Dish’s (DISH) Sling TV and AT&T’s (T) DirecTV Now don’t offer CBS. That said, at least one of these options could be right for you.
We’ve been waiting a long time for Google’s big TV play and it’s officially here. YouTube TV features 40 channels and gets you everything from the major broadcast channels to a huge array of sports stations. In fact, YouTube TV gives you 13 sports channels and the option to add on Fox Soccer Plus.
Outside of that, you get Fox News, MSNBC, Disney, National Geographic, Bravo, USA, FX and E!, among others. Google says it will add AMC and BBC World News to its lineup in the near future. You can also add Showtime for $11 a month extra.
But YouTube TV has some drawbacks. First off, the service doesn’t carry Turner properties like CNN, TBS, TNT and, importantly for me, Cartoon Network. You also don’t get Viacom channels like MTV or Comedy Central. What’s worse, there doesn’t appear to be an option to add on HBO just yet, only Showtime.
What’s more, YouTube TV isn’t available for Roku streaming devices or Apple TV. To address that, Google will provide you with a free Chromecast so you can stream your favorite shows to your big-screen.
Still, if you’re a Roku or Apple TV user, that means having to bounce between those devices and your Chromecast just to watch different channels, which can be annoying.
Sony PlayStation Vue
Sony’s PlayStation Vue is the Japanese tech giant’s over-the-top streaming play and it’s actually a quality offering. Rather than a one-size-fits-all offering, Sony offers four different packages depending on the number of channels you want to watch and how much you want to pay each month.
The base offering, which starts at $40 per month, gets you 49 channels including ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC, as well as CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, ESPN and ESPN 2, FS1 and FS2 and a slew of others. Oh, and Cartoon Network. Sony’s $45 package gets you more than 60 channels, while the $55 package gets you more than 90 channels. Then there’s the $75 option, which includes the NFL Network and HBO.
Sony, however, recently did away with Viacom content like Comedy Central. So if you’re trying to watch the “Daily Show,” you’re out of luck.
Vue is available on a number of devices including, naturally, Sony’s PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4, web browsers, Apple TV, Roku, Amazon’s (AMZN) Fire TV and your mobile devices.
If you’re already a PlayStation fan, Vue is a solid choice.
Dish’s Sling TV offers three packages Orange, Blue and Orange + Blue with a host of additional add-ons to customize your viewing options. The Orange package costs $20 per month and gets you 30 channels including ESPN, AMC, CNN, TBS, Comedy Central, Travel Channel and, of course, Cartoon Network. What you don’t get are the basic broadcast channels like ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC or the CW.
The Blue package costs $25 per month and gets you 45 channels including FOX and NBC. The Orange + Blue package, which costs $40 per month, gets you 50 channels.
Here’s the thing, though — you can add a range of different channels to any of the three packages. For instance, the New Extra add-on gets you MSNBC, BBC World News and Headline News for $5.
Comedy Plus Extra, also $5, gets you MTV, Spike, MTV2 and CMT, which means you can watch “Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Challenge,” the greatest show on television.
Curiously, Sling doesn’t include CBS. So “Big Bang Theory” fans, you know who you are, won’t be able to watch their favorite show.
Sling TV is available on most mainstream TV streaming devices including Apple TV, Roku and Amazon’s Fire TV players, as well as Apple, Android and Amazon phones and tablets, Mac and Windows computers and Microsoft’s Xbox One. Unfortunately, you can’t watch Sling TV on your PlayStation.
If you’re the kind of person who wants greater control over what channels you pay for, Sling TV is the way to go.
AT&T DirecTV Now
Like Sling TV, AT&T’s DirecTV Now allows you to purchase different packages of channels based on what you want to want and how much you want to pay each month. The base offering starts at $35 per month and gets you more than 60 channels including ABC, NBC and FOX, but not CBS and the CW.
You also get CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, ESPN, Disney, Cartoon Network and Comedy Central. The $50 option gets you more than 80 channels, while the $60 package gets more than 100. The largest option is the $70 package, which gives you more than 120 channels, enough to keep you on your couch for quite some time. You can subscribe to HBO GO as part of your package for an additional fee.
AT&T lets you watch DirecTV Now on your Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Android phone and tablet, iPad and iPhone, Chromecast and web browsers. But you can’t watch it on your Chromecast with the iOS app, your Roku or Xbox One. As with YouTube TV, DirecTV Now gives you a streaming device, in this case a Fire TV stick, with your first month’s payment.