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Published On: Thu, Oct 5th, 2017

DirecTV Now may be your best option for replacing cable

There’s more competition than ever in the streaming TV market, with new services leading the charge and cable companies struggling to keep up. There’s one legacy brand, however, that’s not content to sit back as the industry changes: DirectTV. Teaming up with AT&T, DirectTV has launched DirecTV Now, it’s very own live streaming TV service. How does it measure up to Sling TV and Hulu with Live TV, and is it worth the cost? Let’s take a look.

What is DirecTV Now?

Launched in November 2016, DirecTV Now in a streaming TV service. DirecTV has entered the market aggressively, offering lots of channels and features. An entry-level package will set you back $35 but gives you 60-plus channels, with four tiers of programming to choose from. Founded in partnership with AT&T, DirecTV Now offers exclusive discounts for AT&T Unlimited mobile subscribers that significantly sweeten the deal. Sadly, to see the biggest benefits from DirecTV Now, you have to be an AT&T Unlimited subscriber, but there are still reasons to check it out if you’re with a different mobile carrier.

Screengrab via DirecTV Now

DirecTV devices

DirecTV Now is a standalone service that does not require you to be a preexisting DirecTV subscriber to join. All the major news networks, Cartoon Network, Food Network, and family hits like Disney come with even the most basic package.

Along with a selection of the most popular cable channels on the market, DirecTV Now offers local channels to limited parts of the United States. You can check which local channels are available in your area here. Here’s what came back when we tested a Washington, DC, zip code. 

Screengrab via DirecTV Now

It all sounds great, but there’s just one catch: a lack of streaming options. If you use a gaming console as your main streaming device, DirecTV Now is out of the question. However, DirecTV still available on Roku, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire Stick and Amazon Fire TV, and iOS and Android devices, as well as with the web browsers Chrome and Safari.

Screengrab via DirecTV Now


DirecTV Now channels

DirecTV Now comes in four packages, each named like sizes of ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery. Each package comes with at least 60-plus channels, more than any of their competitors at the same price point. DirecTV is notable for offering Viacom channels, something none of the other live streaming TV services can offer.

Keep in mind AT&T subscribers can get each of these packages for $25 less a month. That’s right: The basic subscription for AT&T Unlimited subscribers starts at $10 a month.

Here’s how it breaks down.

Photo via DirecTV Now

1. DirecTV Now Live a Little

For $35 per month, Live a Little subscribers get 60-plua channels, including everything from VH1 to CNN to Cartoon Network. Sports fans will appreciate ESPN and ESPN2 finding a home in the core package. There are a few odd missing options, like the Weather Channel, but this is an excellent package for the price.

Photo via DirecTV Now

2. DirecTV Now Just Right

For $50 per month, Just Right package adds 20 channels, including ESPN SEC, Nicktoons, the Travel Channel, and the aforementioned Weather Channel. With more than 80 channels, this package is a considerable bargain. 

Photo via DirecTV Now

3. DirecTV Now Go Big

This is where DirecTV Now starts to flex its channel muscles. The Go Big package is $60 per month and offers 100-plus channels, from MTV Classic to NBC Golf to BBC World News. The only service that comes close to this number of channels for the price is PS Vue, which offers more than 90 channels for $60 per month.

Photo via DirecTV Now

4. DirecTV Now Gotta Have It

With 120-plus channels for $70, Gotta Have It is the biggest live streaming TV package available on the market, adding the Starz network and its affiliated channels, the horror- and exploitation-themed Chiller and El Ray networks and more. This is a remarkable number of channels for the money, but do you need that many channels for the cost of a traditional cable plan? That’s up to you.

Photo via DirecTV Now

DirecTV Now add-ons

DirecTV Now offers the cheapest movie add-on packages of any streaming service. HBO and Cinemax can each be added for just $5 apiece per month while Showtime and Starz can join your package for $8 per month. Each of these movies channels comes with a livestream of the channel and on-demand access to their libraries.

Photo via DirecTV Now


DirecTV Now features

At the moment DirecTV Now is lacking in the special features. The company has announced beta testing for features like cloud DVR, live TV pausing, 4K quality video, and the ability to download media to watch on the go shortly. However, at the moment, they only have one real special feature. Granted it’s a doozy.

AT&T Unlimited Streaming and Pricing

AT&T Unlimited subscribers have no reason not to use DirecTV Now. Along with their mobile plan, they get a $25 credit towards DirecTV Now packages, giving them a starting rate of just $10 a month for service. Even better AT&T Unlimited includes streaming DirecTV Now on the go, so you can keep up with your favorite shows even when wifi is nowhere to be found. After 22GB of data usage each month AT&T will slow your speeds so don’t go crazy with it, but if you’ve ever had a surprise layover at the airport the appeal of this service is easy to understand.

Photo via DirecTV Now

72-hour Rewind

DirecTV Now allows users to go back three days to watch shows they missed the first time around. Until cloud DVR is introduced, this is an excellent way to keep up with shows when you’re out of the house during prime time. This feature doesn’t work on every network due to licensing issues, but you can see the complete list of Rewind channels right here before pulling the trigger.

DirecTV Now review

We tested DirecTV Now on Roku and iOS. On Roku, DirecTV Now was smooth and intuitive, with livestreams hitting around 720p and on-demand programming coming in at 1080p. The interface is a little slow, but the menus are easy to navigate. Finding what’s currently playing, jumping between on-demand content, and finding movies to watch is a breeze. On iOS, streams were typically about 480p, but on the iPhone SE, the picture was crisp and clear. In each case, we streamed on a 100MB internet connection. However, you don’t need your mobile device to be on Wi-Fi to stream.

Is DirecTV worth it?

How much DirecTV Now will appeal to you depends on three factors: how you stream, if you have AT&T Unlimited, and how much you miss a massive cable package. If your only streaming option is an Xbox or PlayStation, you’re out of luck at the moment. For AT&T Unlimited subscribers, signing up for DirecTV Now is a no-brainer, giving you a full-featured cable package for the cost of a Netflix subscription.

It’s the final category we’re most interested in. One of the appeals of cord-cutting is removing the fluff, and DirecTV Now packages quickly fill up with niche channels you might not need. However, of all the services DirecTV Now feels the most complete, thanks to the inclusion of Viacom channels like MTV and VH1. If you miss having access to a host of channels, DirecTV Now offers the most options for the least amount of money.

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DirecTV Now may be your best option for replacing cable