Home to greats like The Office, Parks & Rec, Real Housewives, and Law & Order, Peacock has some great content at a price we loved. But our hands-on testing revealed that its channel lineup was disappointing and couldn’t fully replace a more expensive live TV streaming service like fuboTV or YouTube TV.
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.
Peacock is a great deal, especially if you take advantage of its $1.99 per month offer. It’s one of the cheapest TV streaming apps, but if you want it to cover all your live TV needs, you’ll probably be disappointed. It’s great if you love international sports like rugby, soccer, and golf, or if you want live news from a few of the largest metro areas in the US (think Chicago, New York, Los Angeles). But you won’t have access to NBC/Universal’s live stations, CNBC, MSNBC, or, well, NBC. That means you can’t watch live episodes of The Voice with your friends. Instead, you can get them on Peacock the next day—after your co-workers passive-aggressively feed you spoilers. Womp-womp.
Still, Peacock gives you access to arguably some of the greatest shows on TV, like The Office, Parks and Rec, and all the Law & Order reruns you could ever want. It’s a ton of value, but we recommend considering it an addition to a more complete live streaming option like Philo, Sling, or Hulu + Live TV.
Peacock TV has three versions. The free version is kind of like a teaser for the paid versions. You get to watch a few new shows and a bunch of channels packed with syndicated reruns, all while drooling over all the shows you’d get if you coughed up the cash for the paid version. The next step up, Peacock Premium, is a great buy at $5 per month. You get all the content Peacock has to offer and commercials were surprisingly low-key. Finally, the premium tier is Peacock Premium Plus. It’s twice the price and, in our opinion, rarely worth the cost. You get the same content with fewer commercials and the ability to download shows to watch offline (but no ability to DVR live content). It’s pretty meh.
YouTube TV is an excellent choice for streaming live TV, and it comes with everything you expect: 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 85 channels. If you want content in Spanish only, your monthly price is less than half of the English-language price.
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), and 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.
While Peacock has limited value as your only live TV streaming service, the content it does have is great. You get live NBC news from several big cities. Plus, NBC has some award-winning shows, both new and old. From The Office, 30 Rock, and Parks and Rec to Blacklist, all the Saturday Night Live, and Real Housewives, there’s some great content to watch on Peacock. If you work your way through all the episodes of these shows before you’re done binging (though we’d be surprised if you did), you can pick from over 40 channels of various news shows, classics like Dennis the Menace, reruns of Jimmy Falon, and more.
Peacock Premium and Peacock Premium Plus have some great sports content too. You’ll get a bit of everything, from soccer to golf to cycling to NASCAR to Sunday Night Football—all live or on-demand, depending on when you log in to watch. You also get the Olympics, of course, but these won’t be live. So if you like to stay up til three in the morning to watch your favorite curling team sweep their hearts out, consider this your permission to sleep in and catch all the bonspiels (that’s curling-speak for games) during normal waking hours. Oh, and if classic WWF matches are your jam (wait, is that just us?), Peacock has a channel that plays them 24/7/365.
Finally, Peacock has some great movies. Create a kids profile, and it’ll be packed with Dreamworks movies like Turbo, Shrek, and Shark Tale alongside shows like Blippi, Strawberry Shortcake, and Trolls: The Beat Goes On. Plus, you can dress to the nines in your living room and join the Gentleminions movement without besmirching your polite theater-goer reputation. Meanwhile, an adult profile will get you Peacock originals/exclusives like Honk for Jesus, Meet Cute, and Jurrasic World Dominion, along with faves like The Bourne Trilogy and classics like The Godfather.
Now for what you won’t get with Peacock TV: just about everything else. If you’ve had cable TV or another live TV streaming service like Sling, YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV, or fuboTV, you might see Peacock’s channel lineup and snort out loud. And you’d be totally within your rights. Most of Peacock’s “live” TV channels just play reruns of specific shows all day and night. You can’t control which episode you watch or when you start one, nor are you getting fresh content. It’s kind of the worst of both the live TV and on-demand worlds. Our advice? Get Peacock TV for the sports, day-old NBC shows, and movies—not for the channels.
YouTube TV offers a well-rounded channel selection, ranging from sports and entertainment to news and network TV. YouTube TV also carries your local networks, unlike competitor Philo, and even offers PBS, unlike Hulu + Live TV. The sports add-on comes with NFL RedZone, live poker and billiards, OutsideTV+, and FOX Soccer. You can watch and DVR games in 4K if you get the unlimited add-on for about $20 a month.
Starting in the 2023 season, Youtube TV will also offer NFL Sunday Ticket as an add-on, and it may be offered as a standalone service. (1) Pricing has yet to be announced.
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. You’ll miss out on some regional major league games, even with the sports add-on. You’ll also miss out on MLB Network, unless YouTube TV and the MLB sign a new deal in time for the 2023 season, which begins at the end of March. (2)
YouTube TV a solid option for cord-cutters, but it’s not perfect. Some popular entertainment channels are absent, including Lifetime, INSP, VICE, A&E, and GAC (Great American Country). 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).
No matter which Peacock plan you get, you’ll never be able to record live shows. There’s no DVR capability, but we’re not sure you’d need it. Most of the content we wanted to record was available on-demand anyway (except for live sporting events). And if you spring for Peacock Premium Plus (the highest-cost plan), you can download on-demand shows to watch offline later. We’d probably skip the upgrade, though. We liked the idea for long flights or keeping the kiddos entertained at the car wash, but we didn’t find a ton more uses for this pared-back feature.
Speaking of the little ones, Peacock makes it super easy to find shows for your kids. Just create a kids profile for quick access to only childrens shows. You can also set up a PIN to keep the little ones restricted to these kid-friendly profiles. As a bonus, parents’ profiles won’t be bogged down with Curious George or Blippi episodes. (Although we’d probably keep a kids profile around just for all the Dreamworks movies.)
We confirmed that you can stream only three devices at once on Peacock. When you try to add the fourth, you’re alerted (by the adorable Puss in Boots from Shrek giving you those big, precious eyes in apology). You don’t have to worry about kicking anyone else off their show—but you can’t choose to either. You’ll have to kick them off the old-fashioned way, with a text, phone call, or shout down the hall. Unfortunately, we could not confirm that Peacock has 4K content. While Peacock says it has 4K content available and it’s labeled as such when you browse, we didn’t find any shows or events with that badge.
Beyond the basics, Peacock has some fun extras that delighted us. We loved picking profile avatars using headshots of our favorite NBC characters (we’re looking at you, Ron Swanson). We also enjoyed discovering the “Content curated by dinosaurs” section—spoiler alert, T. Rexes love Jurrasic Park and The Expendables, while dilophosauruses love The Real Housewives. Who knew?
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. One 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. 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.
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. January 2023 updates to the interface make navigating the library a little easier, and we look forward to more promised improvements.
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, 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.
Something Peacock TV does really well is let you jump between devices in the middle of watching a show. It easily picked up where we left off when we switched from computer to the phone app to TV and back again, whether we were watching live or on-demand content. For some streaming services, (we’re looking at you, Sling TV) switching devices mid-stream can get glitchy fast. So well done, Peacock!
In other ways, Peacock wasn’t as easy as some of the other live TV streaming services we tested, especially on our phones. We were bummed that we couldn’t multitask: there was no mini video we could watch while firing off an email or answering a text. And the Peacock app made us browse shows and channels in portrait mode, then flipped us to landscape mode to watch, which was annoying. Additionally, there’s no “back” button on the app, so if you get a few clicks into browsing for on-demand shows, you have to hit the Home button and start all over if you want to back out (If you’re using a browser, you can hit its back button). There’s a “back” button on the live TV side of things, but, oddly, it doesn’t take you back a step. Instead, it brings up the channel guide on the bottom half of the screen while your show keeps playing. We liked being able to browse while catching up on the news, but it was confusing at first.
The only real gripe we had about using Peacock TV on a browser was that a lot of the descriptive text (like the channel guide and show descriptions) disappeared faster than we could read it, which meant we had to keep moving the mouse to get it back. It was a minor annoyance, but we’d love to see this fixed in the future. We’re not all speed readers, Peacock.
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.
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, we even saw ad visuals on the screen hyper-imposed on top of what we were trying to watch. On-demand content we tested had no issues with rewind and fast forward through ads, but the repetitive targeted ads got annoying in a hurry.
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.