YouTube TV can skip ads on more channels, thanks to DVR upgrade

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Cable TV has a growing number of competitors who can stream live TV to your home over an Internet connection, and Google has its own in YouTube TV (Android, iOS), which you can subscribe to for $40 a month. However, each cable competitor has its quirks.

When it launched, one of YouTube TV’s notable downsides was how it handled your DVR recordings. If an entire show, movie, or other recording completed before you accessed it, it could be converted to a version with unskippable commercial breaks.

SEE: The best live TV streaming apps in 2018

While the service advertised unlimited DVR storage for up to nine months (which in our experience did not actually expire), this conversion system canceled out the feature’s appeal for many users — in a space where Hulu, Sony, and other deep-pocketed live TV streaming rivals were avoiding or severely limiting the practice.

However, Google has just lifted this restriction on most of the 60 channels available on YouTube TV. The only exceptions for now are CBS, CBS Sports Network, and The CW. (Disclosure: Download.com is a subsidiary of CBS Corporation.)

With that flip of the lever, YouTube TV just got a lot more interesting for users who pile up a lot of DVR content. Because in addition to prohibiting skipping, this type of recording also tends to rotate a small number of the same ads, so they quickly become repetitive. And unlike regular TV, you can’t simply change the channel until the ad break is over.

This made the overall experience actually worse than the DVR capabilities of most cable TV operators, rather than making the user feel liberated from their local provider.

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How YouTube TV’s DVR compares to PlayStation Vue, DirecTV Now, and others

AT&T’s DirectTV Now streaming service (Android, iOS) promised to finally add a DVR feature to its service this spring, but so far, it’s limited to a total of 20 hours, and recordings expire after 30 days.

Hulu with Live TV (Android, iOS) lets you store 50 hours, and the recordings don’t expire. However, it doesn’t let you fast-forward through commercials. To do that, you need to spend another $15 a month for the Enhanced Cloud DVR add-on — but it also increases your capacity to 200 hours.

PlayStation Vue (Android, iOS) offers unlimited storage, but recordings expire after 28 days, and Fox-owned channels on that service prohibit fast-forwarding, as do Vue’s premium-cable add-ons.

As cable continues to bleed customers, however, we expect these DVR restrictions to keep loosening up. YouTube, Twitch, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and other streaming services have put a deep dent in a TV channel’s ability to control the ad experience.

The takeaways

  • Google’s live TV streaming service YouTube TV has just lifted the restrictions on skipping ads for most of the 60 channels it provides.
  • Previously, a DVR recording would be converted to the on-demand version upon completion of the recording; the on-demand versions include ad breaks.

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