The high cost of cable TV has been a huge part of the rise of streaming services, as well as live TV streaming services such as Google’s YouTube TV. When it launched, YouTube TV was incredibly affordable, but prices have continued to rise. Is it still the cheaper alternative? Let’s compare.

YouTube TV’s latest price hike

As of April 18, 2023, YouTube TV will raise its base pricing to $72.99 per month. That’s up from the $64.99 per month price that was set in place in 2020, and at this point over twice the cost of the original YouTube TV package.

Why the jump? Google attributed the jump to “content costs.” This refers to the deals behind the scenes that keep channels on YouTube TV, and often have rising costs on the part of the content provider. YouTube TV has had public disputes in the past over these costs, often with channels departing briefly before returning, or never coming back at all. MLB Network was one recent departure, while YouTube TV did manage to renew its contract with The CW to keep those channels in place.

How much does cable cost compared to YouTube TV?

For many, the rising cost of YouTube TV, and its competitors, leads to some obvious questions. For one, is it even worth it in the first place?

But, more importantly, is YouTube TV actually more affordable than cable in 2023?

To answer that question, let’s take a look at the pricing of some of the biggest cable TV providers in the United States. These companies are notorious for hiding their full costs, but we’ve done what we can to pull actual pricing that customers would pay after promotional periods, which often deliver steep discounts on cable TV packages. This is also assuming you’re just paying for cable TV. Many providers offer a discount when you bundle TV, internet, and/or home phone service.

First, let’s look at Spectrum.

The massive TV and internet provider is one of the few that offers contract-free plans, and its base package is actually rather affordable. The “TV Select” plan offers 125 channels at a cost of $59.99/month for the first 12 months.

However, after the first 12 months, that cost jumps up to $84.99/month. And on top of that cost, there’s hardware. Spectrum does offer cable services via streaming through the Spectrum TV app, but actual hardware runs $10.99 per set-top box and a $12.99/month DVR service fee. Assuming you want two TVs in your home to be connected, that adds up to $119.96 before even including any further, more hidden fees.

AT&T’s DirecTV also reels you in with a reasonable package cost which starts at $64.99/month.

DirecTV customers are locked into a two-year contract at that price with their first DVR box included, but there’s an “Advanced Receiver Service Fee” that runs $15/month tacked on immediately. There’s also an additional $13.99/month fee for regional sports. You’ll get 165 channels in that base plan, and once two years are up, the price goes up to $74.99/month.

As for Dish, I couldn’t get any specifics on the cost of a package after promotions, but the provider is rather straightforward when it comes to pricing. The base 190 channel package costs $79.99/month for the first three years. You will have to sign a two-year contract with Dish, as well as pay a $10/month fee for the Hopper 3 DVR.

Next, there’s Verizon Fios. For around 125 channels, Verizon’s “Your Fios TV” package runs $75/month. That includes one set-top box rental as well as access through the Fios app on Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV (only two streams at once).

Comcast’s Xfinity X1 cable TV service proved the hardest to get information for, because the provider doesn’t offer any information unless you live in their service area – I do not. But luckily, we were still able to dig up some pricing details. For Xfinity X1 cable TV, you’ll be looking at $50-$60 depending on where you live for around 125 channels. But you’ll still have some fees to cover, including an $8.50/month fee for the DVR hardware plus $9.95/month for the “HD technology fee.”

Fees are perhaps the biggest area where all of these providers, and the many other smaller providers, will really raise your bill.

It really is quite the difference when you compare to YouTube TV and other services like it, which have a straightforward price without these hidden charges. If your bill is higher, it’s because you signed up for some kind of add-on package, like YouTube’s “4K Plus.” The core price of YouTube TV includes around 100 channels, as well as on-demand content and unlimited DVR space. Plus, there’s simultaneous viewing on up to three devices at once, and no fees for additional devices. Plus, there’s much wider support for smart TV platforms and other devices compared to even the newer offerings of these traditional providers.

To me, even with this latest price hike, YouTube TV still seems worthy of its price tag compared to cable. The better question is if it’s still better than other live TV streaming services, and if the monthly cost is actually worthwhile for you.

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About the Author

Ben Schoon

Ben is a writer and video producer for 9to5Google.

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