Cable TV is dying a slow and horrible death, and not even this service will really change that. Is DirecTV Now worth trying? Absolutely, but probably not for the reason you think. Keep reading and I’ll explain.
DirecTV Now is the newest cable alternative on the market. Released November 28, 2016, it is the product child of the AT&T buy out of DirecTV. So now, not only does DirecTV send television programing over the air via satellite, but now you can get programming through your internet connection… with the exception of CBS owned stations as of the filming of this video.
Having tried the miserable failure known as Sling TV in mid-2015, I immediately blew off DirecTV Now when it was first announced. However, the more I heard about the service, the more intrigued I became. I signed up for the free one-month trial of Sling TV, a special deal they had in conjunction with Microsoft and offered exclusively through the Xbox One. It was a way for a cord cutter as myself to see the Mavericks play (and lose) in the 1st round of the Playoffs. But Sling couldn’t make it through a single quarter of the game without freezing and buffering. During game 1, it started buffering half way through the second quarter, and despite everything I tried, I didn’t get the video feed back until just over a minute was left in the 4th quarter. I immediately canceled Sling TV, only 1 day into the trial. So you can understand why I wasn’t so anxious to try DirecTV Now.
However, DirecTV Now is a completely different animal. Sling is a very small company compared to the communications giant AT&T and TV provider giant DirecTV. Still it wasn’t enough to get me onboard… until I heard about their special promotion.
Their base package is $35 a month, but if you sign up before January 9, 2017, you can have their second highest package for the same price for as long as you keep the service. It includes all of my must have channels: AMC, Fox Sports, DIY, and Nat Geo. Three of those channel usually require a higher package than the base package with any provider. To make the deal even sweeter, they offer HBO and Cinemax for $5 a month each. That’s a far better deal than the $15 a month I paid for HBO Now. Even with all of that, it wasn’t until I found out about their free device promotion that I jumped onboard.
If you sign up and prepay for a 3-month introductory period, they will give you a free 32GB Apple TV! If for some reason you can only bring yourself to prepay for 2 months, they will give you the far less exciting Amazon Fire TV Stick for free. Since I was already in the market for an Apple TV, this will a no-brainer for me. Two birds… One stone... Worth Trying.
So what does DirecTV Now offer?
Up to 120 channels, HBO, Cinemax, and Starz.
On demand content from select channels.
Sports, something that’s missing from the lives of most cord cutters.
And the ability to watch from nearly anywhere, including your cell phone while on the go. Also there’s a bonus for AT&T cell customers. You can watch unlimited DirecTV Now on your phone, and it doesn’t count against your data plan.
So what are the downsides?
While you’re not limited to a single live feed like you are with Sling TV, you’re only allowed two live streams simultaneously. That’s unfortunate, because there are plenty of times when I watch something different from my wife, while the kids watch their own show. A third stream would make the service nearly perfect.
While the DirecTV Now app is available on Fire TV and Apple TV, it’s not yet available on Android TV. It is, however, available on Android and iPhones, as well as the iPad and Android tablets.
The Fire TV app is a little buggy, but it’s more annoying than anything else. Navigating the guide often means pressing left, as going down the list of channels often starts to move the selection to the right. So much so that you eventually don’t see the live shows in the guide anymore.
All of the apps lack a last channel button, making returning to a previous channel very tedious, and getting to the guide takes more button presses and navigating than it should.
At first buffering was a problem, but it seems to happen far less now than it once did. However, I still have trouble with the picture becoming jittery and nearly unwatchable over wifi when watching on my Fire TV Stick. The solution for this is to simply change the channel and then change it back. A simple task of pressing left or right, and then pressing the opposite direction to change back.
So do I think it’s worth it? At $35? Absolutely! If you see this after January 9, 2017, you’ll have to make your own evaluation based on the price and their current offers.
Also I want to point out, I can’t shake the feeling once the price increases, they will add a 3rd stream for those paying full price.