By Phillip Swann
The TV Answer Man, @tvanswerman

TV Answer Man, with YouTube TV raising their price, is streaming becoming just as expensive as cable and satellite? For example, is YouTube TV just as expensive as DIRECTV now? Is that possible after all the talk about streaming being cheaper. — Dale, Sarasota, Florida.

Dale, YouTube TV this month raised its base price from $64.99 a month to $72.99 a month. Although it was the streamer’s first price increase in three years, the announcement stunned some cord-cutters who wondered whether it was time to return to cable and satellite, or at least find another video source.

But first reactions aside, is YouTube TV really now as expensive as cable and satellite? Let’s take DIRECTV as an example in this head-to-head comparison.

YouTube TV now costs $72.99 a month. With taxes, which are required on streaming services in some states, the monthly price might be in the $77 range.

That’s still far less expensive than DIRECTV, right? Particularly since the satcaster has all those fees, right? Regional sports fees, receiver fees, etc. etc. The DIRECTV monthly bill has to be well over $100, right?

Hold on. Not necessarily. It depends upon which plan you are talking about, whether you are a new or existing customer, and whether you have additional services such as a DVR or receivers in multiple rooms.

DIRECTV’s base plan, called Entertainment, is now available to new customers for $64.99 a month if you agree to a two-year commitment. (The two-year agreement includes a price lock so your monthly price will stay the same for two years.) This is for one TV in one room, not a multi-room installation.

But what about the fees, you ask? The Entertainment package, which includes 165 channels, has just one fee requirement: a $15 a month advanced receiver fee. Since the Entertainment plan does not include regional sports channels, there is no regional sports fee. (YouTube TV does have RSNs, but relatively few.) There is also no Access fee, HD fee or any other fee that the satcaster (and cable) has charged in various plans over the years.

If you add up the Entertainment plan’s cost with the fee and taxes, the monthly price would come to around $83, which is about $6 less than what it would cost for YouTube TV in many states. The gap between streaming and cable/satellite is indeed narrowing.

But we’re not finished. There’s one more important point. You don’t need an Internet plan to watch DIRECTV. It’s all via satellite. With YouTube TV, you must have an Internet service, and a good one (meaning expensive) to ensure a reliable stream. With DIRECTV, no Internet is required, which could save you scores of dollars every month. Of course, having the Internet is better because it would enable you to watch DIRECTV’s On Demand lineup, and stream both live and On Demand shows anywhere you want. But you wouldn’t have to get the Net if saving money is your top priority.

In addition, DIRECTV’s dish installation and the receiver come free with the two-year agreement so you don’t need a Roku or Fire TV, either. More savings. (There is a $19.99 one-time activation fee for DIRECTV if you call in to order. But order online and you don’t have to pay it.)

Bottom line: If you’re a new customer, and you are looking for value, the choice between DIRECTV’s base plan (165 channels) and YouTube TV (100 channels) is not an easy one. And who would have believed that would ever happen a few years ago when live streaming was all the rage?

Now, there’s no doubt that if you’re an existing DIRECTV customer not under promotional pricing, you’ll be paying a lot more than $83 a month, particularly if you have the Choice plan or above which includes regional sports channels and RSN fees. But you probably are getting a lot more for your money. Similarly, if you add some of YouTube TV’s supplemental plans, such as 4K, you’ll pay more.

But YouTube TV’s price increase, and DIRECTV’s new two-year offer for its base plan, basically makes the two services the same when it comes to which one is cheaper. That might surprise some people in the industry, but narratives aren’t always true.

There are certainly other reasons to choose one service over the other. YouTube TV, for example, has poached the rights to the NFL Sunday Ticket away from DIRECTV. Many people also express fondness for YouTube TV’s interface, tech features such as Stats View, and the fact that it doesn’t require contracts. But DIRECTV, which still has more than 10 million satellite subscribers, has its fans, too, particularly in areas where Internet access is limited or spotty.

If you’re a new customer, you can make up your own mind. Here is the channel list for DIRECTV’s Entertainment plan and here’s the channel list for YouTube TV’s base plan.

Need to buy something today? Please buy it using this link. This site receives a small portion of each purchase, which helps us continue to provide these articles.

Have a question about new TV technologies? Send it to The TV Answer Man at Please include your first name and hometown in your message.

— Phillip Swann