YouTube Beginner's Guide

The Ultimate Guide to YouTube TV for Beginners

If you’re new to cutting the cord, getting started with a live TV streaming service like YouTube TV may seem overwhelming.

It doesn’t have to be!

In this beginner’s guide, you’ll learn how to navigate YouTube TV’s home screen, live guide and library. Plus, I’ll share some account settings that you need to know.

Here’s what you need to use this guide:

  • A YouTube TV account
  • A TV set
  • An internet connection 
  • A supported streaming device

In the video below, I demonstrate how to use YouTube TV with a Roku Ultra streaming device. However, this tutorial will still be useful if you’re using another device to stream. 


Table of Contents:


Signing In

You can access YouTube TV from your TV set, a web browser or the mobile app.

From your TV set, which is what we’ll focus on in this article, search for the YouTube TV app if it’s not already installed. Please note: the YouTube TV app is separate from the regular YouTube app. 

When you launch the YouTube TV app for the first time, you should see a screen that looks like this:

YouTube TV sign in screen

If you’ve already signed up directly at tv.youtube.com, select member sign-in and choose from one of the options on your screen. 

To sign in from a web browser:

To sign in with your phone, download and open the YouTube TV mobile app. 

And as long as your phone is connected to the same Wi-Fi as your TV set, you’ll be able to select your Google account and sign in. 

Navigation Basics  

The next few sections of this article will help you learn your way around YouTube TV from a TV set.

When you sign in to YouTube TV for the first time, you’ll see multiple screens to help personalize your experience. 

You can select your favorite news shows, movies, TV series and even sports teams.

After this initial personalization, you’ll be taken to a home screen every time that you load YouTube TV. It’s one of three main sections to explore:

  • Home
  • Library (Cloud DVR)
  • Live Guide
YouTube TV main navigation: Home, Library and Live

Home Screen

Home is the default screen that you see when you first open YouTube TV. Think of it as the place to go if you aren’t sure what you want to watch and need some ideas.

Home Screen Need to Know:

  • Top Picks For You are at the top of the screen
  • Resume Watching shows you already started
  • Shortcuts to live and on-demand news and sports programs
  • Access optional add-on channels
  • Add content to your library (cloud DVR)
YouTube TV Home Screen

At the top of the home screen, your Top Picks are highlighted. These recommendations will improve over time as you use the service. 

Below this, you’ll find filters for various types of programs like movies, sports and news.

Next, click down for the Resume Watching section. This area features live programs and on-demand content that you’ve already started watching.

Resume Watching YouTube TV home screen

Keep scrolling down for various types of content. You’ll see a section where you can add additional channels to your subscription. They’re optional and require an extra fee.

YouTube TV add to membership section from Home screen

Further down, you can find programs to add to your library (cloud DVR).

To add content to your library from the home screen, simply click on a program you want to record and select the plus symbol or “Add to library” option.

Add to Library from Home screen

Toward the very bottom of the home screen, you’ll find an alphabetized list of networks. However, I think it’s easier to access channels from the guide.

YouTube TV list of networks from home screen

Live Guide

YouTube TV updated its live guide in 2022 to provide a more cable-like look and feel.

At the top of your screen, you’ll see a collection of programs that are airing right now. 

As you scroll through the ON NOW section, the channel logos change to thumbnails of particular shows. There’s also a LIVE bug in the lower left corner of thumbnails. 

Below the thumbnail graphic for each show, you see the name of the show, the network that it’s on and the time it airs.

YouTube TV ON NOW section

Make your way to the main part of the guide, which is below the ON NOW section.

As you scroll down through the channels, a brief description of the highlighted show appears at the top of the screen. 

Find something you want to watch? Press OK on your Roku remote and you’ll be taken directly to it. 

Live Guide Tips:

  • See what’s airing right now
  • Click OK to watch shows currently airing
  • To preview shows coming up later, arrow to the right
  • To return to the guide from a show, click back

To return to the guide from live TV, press BACK once on your Roku remote. This will bring you to the section of the guide where you left off.

If you want to go to the top of the guide quickly, simply click BACK a second time.

The last channel that you watched will continue to play in the background as you navigate the live guide.

Live Guide FAQ

  • How do I see what’s airing later? Scroll to the right of the guide. There is no jump to day feature.
  • How can I watch a show that’s airing in the future? Add it to your library (so it will record on your cloud DVR).
  • How do I see what’s airing on a specific network? Arrow to the left of the guide and highlight a channel logo. Press OK on a channel logo. Then you can see content from that network only.
  • How can I change how the channels are sorted on the guide? Look for the three horizontal lines above the network logos. Click on this to reorder the guide.

There are a few of ways to personalize the live guide:

  • Most watched
  • Alphabetical order (A-Z)
  • Z-A order
  • Custom
Customize YouTube TV live guide from a computer or mobile app
  • How do I create a custom guide to see only the channels I watch? To create or edit your custom guide, log in to YouTube TV from a computer or the mobile app. 

See my separate tutorial to customize the YouTube TV live guide.

Playback Options

When you’re watching live TV, there are several playback options you need to know about.

Click down once on your remote to see information about the program you’re currently watching, as well as the timeline. You can pause, rewind and fast-forward using your remote.

YouTube TV playback controls

Arrow down a second time to reveal additional options. 

Let’s start on the left with the three dots. Here you will find audio options, auto-pause, send feedback and stats for nerds.

Settings for audio options, auto-pause, send feedback and stats for nerds

The next section is for video quality. I usually keep mine on auto. Next to that is closed captioning to turn on subtitles.

And, to the right of that, is a plus symbol. When you click on that, you’ll have the option to add the program you’re watching to your library. 

Add to DVR from live TV

Next, you’ll see networks. When this is highlighted, click down to scroll through the mini guide. This allows you to channel surf without leaving the show you’re watching.

YouTube TV mini guide

Highlight the Episodes tab to view upcoming programming.

Finally, select More to Watch and you’ll find a mix of live and on-demand programming that relates to the program you’re currently watching.

Library

Looking for the DVR? Head to YouTube TV’s Library section. Users get unlimited cloud DVR storage, and recordings are saved for up to nine months.

If you set a recording, you can fast-forward through commercials when you go back to watch it.

Library Need to Know:

  • Shows you record are located in the library
  • Add shows to your DVR from either the home screen or live guide
  • Use the search function to locate shows to record quickly
  • To skip ads, always select DVR (not VOD)
YouTube TV library

You can add programs to your library from the home screen or live guide by clicking on the plus symbol as described in previous sections.

But if you know exactly what you want to record, the search feature may be faster.

Just follow these steps:

  1. Arrow up to the top of the screen
  2. Scroll to the right
  3. Press OK on the magnifying glass
  4. Type in the program, event or sports team/league you want
  5. Make a selection from the search results
  6. Add it to your library by clicking the plus sign
YouTube TV search for shows to record

When you add a show to your library, all episodes in the series will be recorded. 

For sports recordings, there are more options. For example, you can search specific teams and record an individual game or all games. You can also record by league.

Watching Library Recordings

On the left of the screen in your library, New in Your Library is shown by default.

See something you’re ready to watch? Just click the thumbnail and select an episode. 

YouTube TV Library - New In Your Library

This is important: When you click on an episode, you may see two options. Always select DVR if it’s available, not VOD (Video on demand). 

With DVR, you can forward through the ads. VOD has unskippable ads.

YouTube TV DVR vs VOD

Scheduled Recordings

On the library screen, click left and scroll down to Scheduled. This is where you can see programs that are being recorded right now or very soon. 

If you select a program that’s being recorded right now, you can either join the program live or start from the beginning. 

Library Scheduled - Join live or Start from beginning

Even if you join the program live, you can always rewind to an earlier portion in the recording. Just use the keys on your remote for that. 

Organizing Your Library

For some of the filters – like shows, movies and sports – YouTube TV helps you organize your DVR.

You can reorder the content in your cloud DVR by clicking on a category, such as shows. At the top of the list, you’ll see a box with three lines.

Click it to reorder your recordings. Filters include recently recorded, alphabetical, trending and most popular. 

Reorder recordings in YouTube TV DVR

Exit YouTube TV App on Roku

Click the home button on your Roku remote to close YouTube TV and return to the Roku home screen.

Clicking back a few times on your remote also gives you an exit option. Or from your account icon in the upper right corner, there’s an exit option toward the bottom of the list.

Be careful, though: Click exit, not sign out!

Account Settings

Some YouTube TV account settings can be changed from a TV set, but others require that you sign in at tv.youtube.com. We’ll start with what you can manage from the big screen.

YouTube TV account settings from a TV

From your TV, scroll to the far right, select your account icon and click on Settings.

  • Autoplay: Choose to have a top recommendation play automatically or not. 
  • Parental Controls: Is this account for a child? You can always adjust the filter setting if that’s the case. 
  • Privacy: Manage search and watch history. Choose to pause or delete your data entirely from this setting. Keep in mind, doing so will affect your recommendations going forward. 

Let’s dive into a few other account settings now. Sign in at tv.youtube.com to continue. 

YouTube TV settings from a web browser

From the web browser, select your account icon in the upper right corner of the screen and tap Settings.

On the left side of the screen, you’ll see many of the settings previously mentioned and a few others.

  • Membership: Select your YouTube TV plan and click manage. From here, you can choose to pause or cancel your membership. 
  • Billing: The billing section is where you can change payment methods and view past charges.
  • Family Sharing: The primary account holder can invite other members of the same household to share a YouTube TV membership. That way, members of the family get their own DVR and recommendations. 
  • Customize Live Guide: This is where you can create a custom guide that includes only your favorite channels. See my tutorial here.
  • Area Section: Adjust the home and playback area if you relocate.

Contact Support

If you have a problem with your YouTube TV account, you can get help from a customer service representative.

From a web browser, click the question mark in the upper right corner and select contact us. Once you explain your issue, you’ll get contact options like phone, live chat and email.

If you’re away from a computer, you can also contact support from YouTube TV’s mobile app.

If you found this training helpful, please consider sharing it with another YouTube TV subscriber. And check out this article with more advanced YouTube TV tips and tricks.

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