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AT&T TV vs. YouTube TV: Which streaming TV service is right for you?

AT&T TV is the latest option to enter the cord-cutting arena. Here's how it stacks up to our favorite, YouTube TV.

AT&T TV has arrived and with it, AT&T has yet another option for those looking to ditch traditional cable or satellite. It comes with an Android TV-powered box, starts at $50 per month (for the first year, but then almost doubles) and lets you find channels by using actual numbers as opposed to endlessly scrolling through a guide.  But how does it compare with the many other cable TV replacements on the market? We pitted it against our favorite live TV-streaming service, the CNET's Editors' Choice winner YouTube TV, to find out. 

Both do largely the same thing: They stream a bunch of channels live to your TVRokuAmazon Fire TV or Apple TV streamer, phone or tablet. Both let you ditch traditional cable once and for all. The big difference? YouTube is also $50 per month, but unlike AT&T TV it doesn't require you to sign a contract. So how do you choose between them?

Our favorite for most cord cutters is still YouTube TV because it doesn't require a contract and has more top channels in its base package. If money isn't a concern however then AT&T TV is an interesting choice. It comes with HBO included and, depending on where you live and which channel package you get, a better assortment of regional sports channels. Here's how they stack up.

Read: Best internet providers in 2019: How to choose cable vs. DSL vs. satellite and more  

Sarah Tew/CNET

With an excellent channel selection, easy-to-use interface and best-in-class cloud DVR YouTube TV is the service to pick if you want a cable TV replacement. It may not have every channel you want, and some add-ons like HBO aren't yet available (its coming this spring), but nonetheless it's the current gold standard of live TV streaming. Read our YouTube TV review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

AT&T TV is for those who want to try cord cutting but still want some of the traditional methods like channel numbers and a dedicated box. Included HBO and a strong collection of local sports options are perks, but complications with Roku, pricey plans and a two-year contract that guarantees a price increase in year two make it a tough sell to those ready to truly ditch cable. 

Cost: YouTube TV is cheaper and doesn't require a contract

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YouTube TV: YouTube TV costs $50 and doesn't offer any add-on channel packages, although it does have a handful of single-channel add-ons including Showtime, EPIX and (coming soon) HBO. This one-price approach mitigates the paralysis of choice a little bit. 

AT&T TV: Beyond a box, AT&T TV brings over a lot that will remind you of DirecTV or cable. This includes a large selection of packages starting at $50 per month (for the first year). Like cable, however, there are a ton of small fees. That price? It's the first year of a required two-year contract where year two will see the base package jump from $50 per month to $93 per month. There also are a bunch of other fees like a $20 one-time "activation fee" for setting up that required box. And if you want additional boxes they cost $120 each.

Channels: AT&T wins, if you want to pay more 

YouTube TV has one package with 70 plus channels and in many markets includes locals such as CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox and PBS as well as popular channels including ESPN, TNT and USA.  

AT&T, meanwhile, has four main packages (prices are for the first year): 

  • Entertainment ($50) which includes ESPN, TNT and USA    
  • Choice ($55) package which throws in regional sports networks. 
  • Xtra ($65) with over 235 channels
  • Ultimate ($75) with over 250 channels

AT&T is a better option for many sports fans n the New York or Los Angeles areas because YouTube TV no longer carries YES Network or Fox Sports West and Prime Ticket. If you visit the YouTube site, or the AT&T site you can enter your zip code and check which local and regional sports networks are available in your area. 

Usability: Pretty much a tie, but YouTube wins on Roku and DVR

05-sling-versus-youtube

The YouTube TV interface on Roku.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The menus and interfaces on both services are relatively drab, especially in the mobile app versions.

YouTube TV: In general the YouTube TV interface is easier to use, and not just to people used to using regular YouTube. If you're using the desktop or app versions, Google's streamer offers a more streamlined structure that's also nicer on the eye. The quick "live" tab on the bottom of the mobile app is also a quick, easy way to get to live programming. 

AT&T TV: By using its own traditional box, AT&T's TV service on televisions is pretty similar to what you'd find with DirecTV, down to the same channel numbers for directly switching. Google Assistant integration is also helpful for quickly jump to a channel, show or movie. 

You can also watch using the AT&T TV app on TV devices like Roku and Fire TV, or phones and tablets. The app is fairly similar to YouTube's on mobile but having the "guide" button almost hidden in the upper left corner on is a bit frustrating compared to YouTube's decision to feature it as a dedicated tab (Live). 

Both services allow for three simultaneous streams and have apps on iOS, Android, Apple TV, Android TV and Fire TV. For the moment AT&T does not allow new downloads of its app on Roku, giving YouTube TV a point there. While a single box is included with the AT&T service and you can use the app on other devices, although as we mentioned above if you want an additional AT&T TV you'll need to purchase one for $120. 

AT&T includes 500 hours of cloud DVR with its service, which is a lot, but it pales in comparison to YouTube TV's unlimited storage. Another point for YouTube TV. 

Read more: Best streaming device of 2020: Roku, Apple TV, Fire Stick, Chromecast and more

07-sling-versus-youtube

YouTube TV's desktop interface.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Which service is best for you?

If you want a special box and channel numbers, or live in an area where your local sports aren't on YouTube TV, then AT&T TV is for you. 

But if you're ready to truly cut the cord and all the bad that comes with cable, especially two-year contracts, there is no reason to choose AT&T TV over YouTube TV. A cheaper rate, excellent app and the ability to work on a large number of devices without the need for a dedicated cable box makes YouTube TV a more flexible and affordable option than AT&T TV.

Channel comparison

Below you'll find a chart that's a smaller version of this massive channel comparison. It contains the top 100 channels from each service. Some notes:

  • Yes = The channel is available on the cheapest pricing tier.
  • No = The channel isn't available at all on that service. 
  • $ = The channel is available for an extra fee, either a la carte or as part of a more expensive package or add-on. See above for pricing info on AT&T TV's step-up channel packages.
  • Not every channel a service carries is listed, just the "top 100" as determined by CNET's editors. Minor channels such as AXS TV, CNBC World, Discovery Life, GSN, POP and Universal Kids didn't make the cut.
  • Regional sports networks -- channels devoted to showing regular-season games of particular pro baseball, basketball and hockey teams -- are not listed.  

AT&T TV vs. YouTube TV: Top 100 channels compared

Channel AT&T TV YouTube TV
Total channels: 60 67
ABC Yes Yes
CBS Yes Yes
Fox Yes Yes
NBC Yes Yes
PBS No Yes
CW No Yes
MyNetworkTV Yes Yes
Channel AT&T TV YouTube TV
A&E Yes No
ACC Network $ Yes
AMC Yes Yes
Animal Planet Yes Yes
BBC America Yes Yes
BBC World News $ Yes
BET Yes No
Big Ten Network $ Yes
Bloomberg TV Yes No
Boomerang Yes No
Bravo Yes Yes
Channel AT&T TV YouTube TV
Cartoon Network Yes Yes
CBS Sports Network $ Yes
Cheddar $ Yes
Cinemax $ No
CMT Yes No
CNBC Yes Yes
CNN Yes Yes
Comedy Central Yes No
Cooking Channel $ No
Destination America $ No
Discovery Channel $ Yes
Disney Channel Yes Yes
Disney Junior Yes Yes
Disney XD Yes Yes
DIY $ No
Channel AT&T TV YouTube TV
E! Yes Yes
EPIX $ $
ESPN Yes Yes
ESPN 2 Yes Yes
ESPNEWS $ Yes
ESPNU $ Yes
Channel AT&T TV YouTube TV
Food Network Yes Yes
Fox Business Yes Yes
Fox News Yes Yes
Fox Sports 1 Yes Yes
Fox Sports 2 $ Yes
Freeform Yes Yes
FX Yes Yes
FX Movies $ Yes
FXX Yes Yes
FYI $ No
Golf Channel $ Yes
Hallmark Yes No
HBO Yes No
HGTV Yes Yes
History $ No
HLN Yes Yes
IFC Yes Yes
Investigation Discovery Yes Yes
Lifetime Yes No
Lifetime Movie Network $ No
Channel AT&T TV YouTube TV
MLB Network $ Yes
Motor Trend Yes Yes
MSNBC Yes Yes
MTV Yes No
MTV2 Yes No
National Geographic Yes Yes
Nat Geo Wild $ Yes
NBA TV $ Yes
NBC Sports Network Yes Yes
Newsy No Yes
NFL Network No No
NFL Red Zone No No
NHL Network $ No
Nickelodeon Yes No
Nick Jr. $ No
Nicktoons $ No
OWN $ Yes
Oxygen $ Yes
Paramount Network Yes No
Channel AT&T TV YouTube TV
Science Yes No
SEC Network $ Yes
Showtime $ $
Smithsonian $ Yes
Starz $ $
Sundance TV Yes Yes
Syfy Yes Yes
Tastemade No Yes
TBS Yes Yes
TCM Yes Yes
Telemundo $ Yes
Tennis Channel $ Yes
TLC Yes Yes
TNT Yes Yes
Travel Channel $ Yes
TruTV Yes Yes
TV Land Yes No
Univision Yes No
USA Network Yes Yes
VH1 Yes No
Viceland Yes No
WE tv Yes Yes
Channel AT&T TV YouTube TV