As each new cord cutting option comes online, I take a look, but aside from buying an HD antenna a couple of months ago, I’ve not taken this cord-cutting idea any further. Based on reviews, channel selection, and a very attractive introductory offer, I took the plunge and signed up for DIRECTV NOW, the cord-cutting offering from AT&T owned DirecTV, if only to be able to rule them out as a viable alternative. After a weekend with the service, here are some of my thoughts.
The first question I had when I started looking into streaming options was “does it have DVR capability?” The answer is no, unfortunately. At least that’s the answer right now, though they do plan on offering DVR functionality in 2017. Though they do have a growing on demand offering, if you’re not able to watch something live, you might need to find an alternative viewing source, at least in the short term, or see if the channel is included in their 72 Hour Rewind feature.
Another question that comes up often is “how many streams are you allowed?” DIRECTV NOW currently offers 2 streams. Beyond that, you’d need another account. Hopefully they’ll make it possible to purchase additional streams for a nominal fee in the future.
Finally, where would any of this technology be without devices? DIRECTV NOW is currently available on Amazon Fire TV devices, Apple TV, Chromecast (for Android only), most modern computer browsers, Android phones and tablets, and iOS phones, tablets, and the iPod Touch. Support for Chromecast (for Apple iOS), Roku, and XBOX One is coming. Here’s the official current list of supported devices.
DIRECTV NOW offers 4 plans, with an increasing number of channels and cost. At the low end is “Live a Little,” which is advertised as having 60+ channels for $35/month. This is followed by “Just Right,” which includes 80+ channels for $50/month. Next up, and this is the plan they hope to snare folks with at launch, is “Go Big,” which includes 100+ channels and a limited time special introductory price of $35/month as long as you remain a subscriber (regularly $60/month), and finally “Gotta Have It,” with 120+ channels for $70/month. In addition to these four plans, they also offer two add-on packages for $5 each/month—HBO and Cinemax. Here’s a comparison of the channels included in each plan.
There is currently a 7 day free trial, and some free equipment if you prepay for 1 or 3 months. If you prepay one month, you will receive Amazon’s all-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote, and if you prepay for 3 months, they’ll send you an Apple TV.
You should know that my experience thus far has been limited to my web browser. I’ll be trying it out on our Fire TV Stick soon, but I haven’t yet. That said, the picture quality has been at least as good as any other streaming provider. DIRECTV NOW streams all programming in HD, and downgrades the quality as necessary, depending on your bandwidth (they recommend 2.5 – 5.0 Mbps for HD quality).
Using DIRECTV NOW web app should be intuitive for anyone familiar with using other streaming sites, and the channel guide is similar to most cable guides. However, I do have a couple of suggestions that I think would greatly enhance the user experience with the guide:
Those two things would go a long way to improving the usability of the guide.
While I am ready to cut the cord, I’m not sure that DIRECTV NOW is the right solution at this time, mainly due to the lack of DVR functionality. As I mentioned earlier, they say it’s coming in 2017, but it’s already available with PS Vue, and Sling released a beta DVR service. That said, the $35/month special introductory offer is quite compelling, and just might be good enough to entice me to stick around while the work on the DVR. Though the thought of not being able to watch what I want, when I want, even if for a short time, feels like a huge leap back into the stone age.
Here are some links that you might find useful: