Cox Communications is one of the most expensive cable TV providers on the market, especially when you consider all the hidden costs. But if you want sports and premium channels, have only one TV, and bundle with internet and other services, this provider could make sense for you.
YouTube TV is a refreshing option for cable or satellite TV cord cutters. It feels just like a traditional TV service, but without the hidden fees or equipment rental. Shows and games are easy to find and record, simultaneous streams are a breeze, and the interface felt familiar and intuitive on every device we tested.
Cox has some of the best channel line-ups we've seen, with more to watch for just about everyone. Family-friendly entertainment is Cox's weakest link, but it's still better than a lot of competitors.
Cox has a great local lineup, including staples like NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, PBS, and The CW. It also includes some great Spanish-language locals like Univision, Telemundo, Unimas, and Estrella. However, it's missing Ion, Cozi, and Comet.
Cox cable TV includes a great sports lineup in its Preferred (mid-tier) and Ultimate (top tier) plans. ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports, and the Golf channel are all included in a Preferred plan, and the Ultimate plan adds NFL Network, NFL Red Zone, the Tennis Channel, and the elusive MLB channel. Most competitors typically offer these last three as expensive add-ons, so Cox is ahead of the game here.
Family and education: 3.5/5
Cox has some decent family entertainment, especially when it comes to educational content. You'll get Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, History, National Geographic, and the Science Channel, but you'll miss out on Nat Geo Wild and Smithsonian. The kids will love Cartoon Network, Disney, Nickelodeon, and Nick Jr., but the little ones won't get to enjoy Disney Junior.
News and politics: 4.5/5
Cox has excellent news coverage and politics content. Not only do you get the local news shows, you get most of the big national news channels too. You get C-SPAN, CNBC, MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, Newsmax, and The Weather Channel. Our biggest gripe is that you'll miss out on the international perspective of BBC America.
Entertainment and lifestyle: 4/5
Cox has some decent entertainment options, including Comedy Central, Bravo, CMT, AMC, FX and FXX, two Hallmarks, and Sundance. It's missing some lifestyle channels though, like HGTV and The Cooking Channel, but it has the Food Network and TLC. But what makes Cox stand out is how many premium channels it includes in its top-tier plan. If you spring for the Ultimate plan, you’ll get ten HBO, eleven Cinemax, five SHOWTIME, and nine STARZ channels—at no extra charge.
YouTube TV offers a well-rounded channel selection, ranging from sports and entertainment to news and network TV. We think YouTube TV is a good option if you want a classic live TV experience with a solid on-demand library, but we have a couple minor complaints.
YouTube TV carries almost all your local networks, unlike competitor Philo, and even offers PBS, unlike Hulu + Live TV. You even get multiple Spanish-language local channels with YouTube TV. However, you won’t find Antenna TV, and Estrella TV is available only as an add-on.
There are some things we love for sports fans with YouTube TV, and others we really dislike. Having the option to buy NFL Sunday Ticket is fantastic, with regular prices of $349–$389 per season for YouTube TV subscribers and $449-$489 if you just want the football and not live TV. (1) Beyond pig skins, we love that NBA TV and the Golf Channel are included with the base channel price. We also like that you get your local channels, TNT, USA Network, and more, and the sports add-on is nice for the price. It comes with NFL RedZone, live poker and billiards, OutsideTV+, and FOX Soccer. No MLB coverage is disappointing (2), and you’ll miss out on some regional major league games, even with the sports add-on. That said, you can watch and DVR games in 4K if you get the unlimited add-on for about $10 a month.
Family and education: 4/5
YouTube TV has a lot to offer for kids and anyone interested in using their screen time to learn about the world. You will miss out on favorites like Science and History, but you get multiple Disney and Nickelodeon options and a dedicated channel for PBS Kids. We also really like the Curiosity Stream add-on for educational documentaries and the Hopster Learning add-on for little kids.
News and politics: 4/5
You can find a lot of political commentary from both the left and the right on YouTube TV, but you won’t find Newsmax or Vice, or any C-SPAN channels (which are common with most traditional TV providers). There are nice options for international news, though, and we like that you can satisfy your appetite for local news in either Spanish or English. You might want to pick up a digital antenna, though, if you want to catch some niche broadcast favorites.
Entertainment and lifestyle: 3.5/5
YouTube TV can’t quite compete with traditional and satellite TV when it comes to movies, documentaries, and reality TV, but you still get dozens of options. There’s no A&E, Cooking Channel, and GAC (Great American Country), for example, and no Lifetime movies. SHOWTIME and STARZ are available, but only as add-ons. There’s also not much original programming to be found, but you can catch a couple nice options by jumping over to YouTube Premium (confoundingly, a separate subscription on a separate app).
Although it looks like Cox has a ton of channels, its lineup (which varies by plan and location) is padded with up to 50 music channels. (1) Other than that, Cox delivers a great channel lineup, especially in its top-tier plan. However, it’ll cost you more than other companies.
You’ll get the most bang for your buck (and some sweet premium channels) with the Ultimate plan, but a Premium plan has plenty of channels for most people and the option to add inexpensive premium channels à la carte, which range from $5–$15 per. We don’t generally recommend the Starter plan because you can get most of its channels for free with an HD antenna, though that signal is less reliable than what Cox provides.
Cox Communications has two types of plans. Cox TV includes live TV and on-demand TV. Cox Contour adds the ability to connect streaming apps like Netflix and Amazon Prime to your TV and search their content using a remote. All plans come with a one- or two-year contract, after which you’ll be on month-to-month pricing, which is around $15/month more.
YouTube TV is an excellent choice for streaming live TV, and it all costs about what you’d pay for a mid-range subscription package from a cable or satellite TV provider (but without the hidden fees). The price is about average among the premium live TV services we tested. The only extra charge on your bill is local sales tax, but you’re going to find that with virtually every TV provider out there.
If you want add-ons like NFL Sunday Ticket, sports in 4K, or entertainment channels such as HBO, add-on pricing applies. But buying and canceling add-ons was pretty seamless in our tests, and many of the upgrades (like YouTube TV itself) come with free trials.
Starting in October of 2022, YouTube made it possible to get most of its add-ons without paying the full monthly price, either through YouTube TV or the separate Premium Channels feature on regular YouTube. The prices were a bit higher or the same as purchasing the services separately, but it's nice to watch them with a familiar app and just one bill.
We were a little bummed to discover that you still have to watch ads with a lot of the content, and you don’t get to skip ads on regular YouTube or YouTube Music, since YouTube Premium is a separate service, but we welcome the simplified pricing with open arms.
When it comes to equipment and features, Cox is ahead of the pack. From a great app to exceptional DVR features to a search remote that simultaneously searches streaming apps and cable TV, using Cox is a top-notch experience.
Ability to watch: Great
Cox offers some solid features that make for a great entertainment experience. Cox TV uses cable infrastructure to keep you reliably binging your favorite shows. Your first Contour box is free, and every additional one is $8.50/month, which is cheaper than average. Plus, it has the Cox Contour app, so if you have smart TVs and don't need DVR on all of them, you don't need additional boxes. On the down side, the Cox Contour App has low ratings for both iOS and Android, so you might want to opt for more Contour boxes anyway.
Ability to record: Excellent
The Cox DVR service uses cloud storage so you can access recorded shows anywhere with the Cox Contour app. The Contour app also lets you download on-demand content to watch offline from anywhere.
How much storage you get (50–1,000 HD hours) and how many shows you can record at a time (1 to a whopping 24!) depends on which DVR package you buy. Or you can skip DVR altogether to avoid the additional cost.
Ability to find: Great
While at home with your TV, you’ll use a voice remote to sort through your shows—even the ones on streaming apps like Netflix and Hulu. You don't have to remember which app your show is on to find it, which we loved. It made our entire watching experience—not just our live TV experience—a delight.
YouTube TV comes with everything you expect from a live TV service: easy channel surfing via the Live option, video on-demand (VOD) and DVR in the Library, and access to live sports, events, and shows from the Home tab. Its English-language monthly subscription offers more than 100 channels. If you want content in Spanish only, your monthly price is less than half of the English-language price.
Ability to watch: Excellent
YouTube TV doesn’t come with an option for a dedicated remote, but you can buy a Chromecast with Google TV for about a third of the price of the DIRECTV STREAM box if you want a voice remote. If you spring for the 4K Plus add-on, you get unlimited streams at home and three away from home. If you have a device compatible with Dolby 5.1 surround sound, it will work nicely with YouTube TV.
We were less satisfied with the ads—you’ll see a lot of them on YouTube TV, and they’re quite noticeable if you’re switching from on-demand streaming apps like Netflix, HBO Max, or Amazon's Prime Video. You can fast forward through ads on your DVR content, and some shows don’t have any ads on the DVR version.
When you watch live, you get the same ads the channels show over the air. A few times in our tests, we even saw ad visuals on the screen hyper-imposed on top of what we were trying to watch. It wasn’t a dealbreaker, but it took us out of the viewing experience. You will need broadband internet to enjoy YouTube TV, but streaming a show or game in 4K requires only about 20 Mbps of bandwidth at any given time, so you don’t need to worry about paying for the fastest possible internet speeds.
Ability to record: Excellent
YouTube TV comes with unlimited cloud DVR, and your recordings are saved for nine months. You can pause, rewind, and fast forward on most (but not all) DVR recordings, and it’s pretty simple to add them to your library. Curiously, adding any episode means you’ll record every future episode of that program, even reruns. It’s not a huge deal, but it does mean your library can feel bloated in a hurry.
There were a few standout features, too. We loved the sports highlights and how you can watch only key plays until you catch up to the live broadcast, hide scores of games you haven’t watched, or watch in Fantasy Football or Stats mode.
January 2023 updates to the interface made navigating the library a little easier, and we look forward to more promised improvements.
Ability to find: Great
YouTube TV is owned by search giant Google, and it shows. Finding specific programs, channels, and even recommendations from a browser was a delight. In fact, logging in on a browser is the best way to rearrange your Live guide for channel surfing, and it’s the best way to manage your account. The desktop app and mobile app felt familiar and easy to use, but we were annoyed that we couldn’t turn the volume up very high.
The experience on the Samsung smart TV we tested wasn’t quite as seamless. To get to YouTube TV, you have to open the regular YouTube app and find the YouTube TV button at the bottom left. Once we were in, there was a nice option to verify the account on a smartphone rather than typing your secure password with the remote. We didn’t love the pause and rewind functionality on the smart TV, and we once had to turn everything off and restart because the screen went black.
We also tested YouTube TV on an Apple TV, and it worked pretty well. It wasn’t hidden within the regular YouTube app, which was nice, and controls worked better. The app experience was even better when we tested on the Chromecast with Google TV. The remote was small but easy to use, and the voice functionality was fantastic. Unfortunately, the button labeled YouTube on the remote goes to the regular YouTube app, not YouTube TV.
Ability to share: Great
One YouTube TV subscription comes with six seats, so you and up to five members of your family can have their own private Google profile. With the basic subscription, you can watch up to three simultaneous streams at once, or you can get unlimited streams at home with the Unlimited add-on for about $10 per month.
If we had a magic wand and could improve any feature of YouTube TV, it would be parental controls. If you’re an adult sharing the subscription with other adults, it’s nice that profiles are 100% private—that means other accounts can’t see your DVR, your watch history, or your search history. But if you’re a parent, it’s a little problematic. There is a setting that prevents particular devices from viewing anything beyond TV-G or PG, but it doesn’t apply to accounts (just devices), and it’s not password-protected. Using the Family Link controls may give you more options, but most of those seem to be for regular YouTube and YouTube Kids, not YouTube TV.
Most customers report that Cox has solid customer service, and that's been our experience too. Cox also has some good self-help content on its website. We liked having the option to save money by signing a contract or skip the commitment altogether. However, Cox could work on its transparency. It has some hidden fees that you can't see until after you supply personal information. We'd love the ability to build a cart and see what our bill will be before sharing that.
Installation is generally fast and priced about average. If your house is already wired with cable jacks for all your TVs, self-install is a free, easy option. Professional installation varies by location but will run you around $75, which is pretty inexpensive. Learn how to choose between self installation or professional installation.
If you’re accustomed to shopping online and familiar with how streaming services work, YouTube TV is very easy to use. The interface is fairly easy to navigate and there’s just one package rather than multiple tiers to choose from. However, add-on pricing can be a little hard to track down.
Fortunately, you can get a 21-day free trial of YouTube TV if you’re a new user, and most of the add-ons also have free trials. If you’re not 100% pleased, we love that everything is surprisingly easy to cancel. Reactivation is also a breeze—YouTube TV saves all your info forever, and even saves your DVR recordings for 21 days after you pull the plug.
YouTube TV is so easy to use, most users won’t miss out on a customer service telephone line or a live chat experience, but it’s worth noting that those channels are not available.