YouTube TV will add 4K support and offline playback, but that’s going to cost you money. Google has detailed YouTube TV’s “4K Plus” subscription add-on, which costs an additional $20 on top of the standard $65 per month plan, for a total of $85 per month. 4K Plus may sound like it just offers a resolution bump, but a higher-level subscription also unlocks a new offline playback feature and unlimited simultaneous streaming over home Wi-Fi. The latter feature is otherwise limited to three streams per account. The only free feature from today’s announcement is 5.1 audio support, which is rolling out to all YouTube TV members.
YouTube TV is Google’s US-only paid service intended to replace a cable TV subscription. For the base price of $65 per month, you get access to a bundle of major cable TV channels such as ESPN, CNN, MTV, Cartoon Network, Discovery, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, TBS, TNT, USA, NFL Network, and more. The major US TV networks – CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox – are all included. In addition to paying extra for 4K, you can also use other premium add-ons such as cable TV movie channels like HBO, Stars, Showtime, and Cinemax. Sports packages, including NFL Red Zone, are also available. Like cable, YouTube TV is quite expensive and is getting more and more expensive. Google just raised the price to $65 last year.
Even if you pay the extra $20, it sounds like 4K content will be hard to find. Google says that “4K playback is available on select live and on-demand content from these networks: Discovery, ESPN, FOX Sports, FX, Nat Geo, NBC Sports and Tastemade.” However, the lack of 4K content is not YouTube TV’s fault. While internet streaming services like Netflix, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime Video, and YouTube have been on the 4K content train for some time, cable TV networks still primarily produce content in 720p or 1080p. YouTube TV is essentially cable and there just isn’t that much 4K content available.
Those AV1 disputes really matter
Google’s support page states that 4K playback requires an internet connection of at least 15 Mbps. Most 4K-enabled smart devices seem compatible, but Google calls the 4K Apple TV and PlayStation 4 Pro dubious 4K support, saying these two devices are only compatible with “selected content” and that “some shows may have lower resolutions.” .” It sounds like this is an AV1 video codec problem. AV1 is the next big video codec for devices to support, and it offers better picture quality at lower bitrates, with no royalties. Google is a big driver of the codec, a position that has led to disputes over support on Roku devices. The Apple TV and PS4 Pro both don’t support AV1, so it sounds like this support note just states that those devices can’t play exclusive AV1 4K content.
Offline playback is perhaps the most interesting of YouTube TV’s two new features. The offline feature allows you to download DVR recordings if you pay more than $85 per month for YouTube TV with the 4K Plus package. The only major drawback is that offline playback requires the YouTube TV app, so that means it works on phones and Chromebooks, but not on something that normally uses a browser, like Windows, Mac, or Linux.
To try and get users hooked on the additional $20 add-on, YouTube is offering an introductory price of an additional $10 per month for the package for the first year. After 12 months, the price will increase.