The future of all television? Not quite.
I've been testing YouTube TV for about a month, streaming live television, catching up on the news, and recording NBA games. Last night, I ended my official test by watching the Academy Awards, and I came away wondering if this is really worth the hassle.
The problems started during a Golden State Warriors game a few weeks ago. I'm connected to a one gig feed that works perfectly fine for 4K movies on Netflix, handles all of my file storage back-ups with ease, and never even blinks when I'm playing an online game. It seriously has not caused any issues with any app, video streaming service, or back-up in over a year. It's even worked fine for Google movie rentals.
So why did the Warriors freeze on court? An icon appeared on screen, swirling like I was on a dial-up connection. I'm also testing an LG 65-inch TV that runs the YouTube TV app without any other connected peripheral, and I've tested YouTube TV with an NVIDIA Shield TV as well on a Lenovo 4K monitor, also running the YouTube TV app. According to my Internet provider, YouTube tends to start out by streaming at high-resolution automatically, but as more people connect (in my area or on the YouTube servers), the quality can diminish over time or even start buffering or pausing.
LG provided roughly the same exact explanation. It is a YouTube problem. (For their part, Google public relations did not return multiple requests for tech support.) I really wanted this to work, because the monthly fee of $35 is reasonable. I've tested several NBA games, watched CNN and Fox News, streamed multiple episodes of Seinfeld and The Middle. I'd say at least one quarter of all streams on YouTube TV had buffering or pausing issues.
I tested at many different times of the day, but my final test last night watching the Oscars left me wondering if one of the many, many other ways of streaming live television are more ideal. Watching host Jimmy Kimmel walk up on stage at a key moment, the screen froze. This has never happened when I've tested DISH or DirecTV (although in snowstorms and heavy rain or cloud cover, the satellite feed has failed a few times). My local cable feed? I've never had a single problem, after several years with the same HD hook-up to my own Sony television.
I do like the flexibility of YouTube TV. I can switch over to my iPad or an iPhone with ease, watching the same recorded shows or live television. I like how you can search for a sports team and then ask YouTube TV to record all future games automatically. (You can also do this with any show.) The search function is outstanding, popping up quickly and showing me all upcoming broadcasts. I like the interface, too, which lists live channels and displays a large easy-to-identify preview image for events, shows, basketball games, and news broadcasts. It has great potential.
Except, I won't be using it. After watching the stream buffer and pause so many times, even after rebooting my router, the television, and the NVIDIA Shield box, it didn't seem to matter, which just made the entire experience frustrating and annoying. If you try out the service, feel free to drop me a note if you experience the same buffering problem.