- No contract
- Easy to sign up
- No additional fees
- No hardware to lease
- Doesn’t count against data cap on AT&T Wireless
- Casting support
- HBO and Cinemax addons
- Access to several sports networks
- No CBS, CW, or Showtime
- Streaming of major networks limited to certain regions
- Missing many episodes
- No Android TV app
- Limited to 2 concurrent streams
DirecTV Now is the latest edition to the growing number of services to tackle online TV streaming. Allowing you to watch live TV without a cable subscription, and joining the ranks of Sling TV and PS Vue. Personally I use Comcast for my TV subscription and I hate them. I’m an avid TV watcher though, and admittedly watch way more TV than I should.
Making changing providers an intriguing proposition. I’ve not yet tried Sling TV or PS Vue so I won’t be able to compare them to DirecTV Now in this review. I’ll only be able to offer my experience from a cable subscriber’s perspective.
Signing Up and Device Support
Signing up was quick, painless, and easy. There are no credit checks, no extra hardware required to lease from a cable company, no contracts, etc. It was just as simple as signing up for many other streaming services.
The first thing I noticed is there is no Firefox support, I was asked to switch browsers after signing up. DirecTV Now streaming on the computer is only supported by Chrome, Safari, and Internet Explorer. Really? Internet Explorer is supported, but not Firefox. I happen to be a Firefox user, but I also have Chrome on my machine as well. Not a big deal I guess, but slightly annoying.
This wasn’t so bad because I planned on watching it mainly on my mobile devices and TV. One big disappointment here is there is no Android TV app. While DirecTV Now is available on Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV Stick. Both of which you can get for free if you sign up and prepay for enough months worth of service. Thankfully there is casting support built in, but it really doesn’t make up for a lack of an Android TV app.
The next thing I noticed is watching live TV comes with some pretty big caveats. Mainly that you cannot watch your local channels unless you’re in specific markets. I am not in one of these markets. This means no live streaming of ABC, NBC, or Fox. You can watch shows on demand from these networks, but you’ll miss out on live programming. NBC also doesn’t allow streaming on smart TVs or connected devices, even if you are in one of the few lucky markets.
You might have noticed I didn’t mention CBS or The CW. That’s for good reason CBS, The CW, and Showtime are not present in DirecTV Now at all. You cannot live stream, nor can you watch shows on demand from these networks. They refused to make a deal and be part of the DirecTV Now service.
Considering most of my live TV watching takes place on the main networks this was very disappointing. However you do have access to many other great networks for live streaming such as AMC, Comedy Central, ESPN, ESPN2, FX, SyFy, TBS, USA, etc. As well as live streaming or on demand watching for premium networks like Cinemax, HBO, and Starz if you subscribe to those channels.
Keep in mind that you can only have two streams going at once. This might be an issue for families with several members and devices.
On demand watching also leaves a lot to be desired on DirecTV Now. I wanted to catch up on quite a few shows I’ve gotten behind on. I wasn’t able to watch Arrow, The Flash, Shameless, or The Big Bang Theory for obvious reasons. For this I had to resort to using Comcast for it’s on demand offerings. Next I tried to catch up on some shows from ABC, Fox, and Syfy. I also ran into issues here.
Every half hour show I tried to watch on ABC suffered from ad overload. There were three commercial breaks lasting an average of six minutes a piece. I timed the commercial breaks and the whole length of the show. The shows became 39 minutes long and some change.
Adding almost an extra 10 minutes of commercials to a 30 minute show that already included commercials. I tried watching the same show with the ABC app on my Android TV and Comcast on demand. Both of these services had significantly shorter commercial breaks with the show lasting the normal 30 minutes.
This is outrageous, and I find myself becoming ad fatigued after 3 minutes. Thankfully this was only isolated to half hour shows on the ABC network. I assume the blame goes to ABC here. They only choose to take advantage of DirecTV Now customers though, and it makes the service itself a lot worse.
The next hurdle I ran into was missing episodes of shows. I found the latest episode was often missing for many shows. Even if that show’s last episode aired two or even four weeks ago. I ran into this with Family Guy, Empire, Incorporated, and more. Another issue I had trying to watch the latest Family Guy is it refused to play, even after two straight days of trying multiple times.
For shows where the latest episode was present. I often found that there were other episodes missing. Meaning if you were hoping on binge watch the last three episodes to catch up. There might be a couple of episodes missing, despite being able to watch the latest one.
One benefit of using DirecTV Now is you can sign into the network’s apps with your login information. This was very handy in catching up on shows with missing episodes. I was able to login with HBO, Fox, ABC, and more. While also having the option to use their Android TV apps.
This is a nice benefit to the service. However the fact that it’s a necessary to hop from app to app to watch what you want is frustrating.
I’m not a big sports fan but DirecTV Now seems to offer a decent package of sports networks. Included were ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, Fox Sports 1 and 2, Golf Network, NBA TV, NBC Sports, NHL Network, SEC Network, and the Tennis Channel. This is not as extensive as some cable packages, yet seems to cover most of what sports fans would like to watch.
With the exception of games that are shown on local networks. You won’t be able to stream those, unless you’re in the correct region for live streaming. Meaning you could miss out on big championship games.
The DirecTV Now app is pretty decent but it could also use some improvements. When you first open it there is a video player at the top for live TV. You can disable auto play thankfully, except that doesn’t seem to always work. If you were watching a show and you pause it, leave the app, and then reopen it the show starts playing again.
There is a guide button at the top for browsing what’s on live TV. Plus you can swipe side to side to change channels while streaming Live TV. At the bottom you have your categories for Home, Shows, Movies, and Networks. It would have been better with a hamburger menu in the top left corner with these menu options. Instead of having it on the main screen at the bottom.
If you start browsing deeper into the app going into networks and browsing what is available. Returning to the main page to watch live TV takes several clicks. A simple hamburger menu with the option to go back to the main screen, or other options would make navigating much quicker and easier.
Something from the Xfinity app that I always enjoyed is how it shows you a list of what was aired the previous night. This would be a huge improvement for the DirecTV Now app. Allowing you to quickly and easily watch on demand what you missed the night before.
Most of the time I found myself simply using the search box at the top to find what I wanted. It was the quickest way to get me to the content I wanted to see. When searching you get a list of live TV, movies, networks, and on demand offerings.
One option I would like to see added is setting reminders for programs. The results in the guide provided me with upcoming times for shows I was interested in. However I couldn’t set a reminder for when it came on. I would have liked to have an option to be notified when the show was on live.
There are a few things to like about DirecTV Now. Such as no contracts, streaming doesn’t count against your data cap on AT&T wireless, live streaming of premium networks, freedom to watch when and where you want, and the price. That is until it was increased recently the introductory rate of $35 for 120 channels has ended. The price has jumped up to $60 for that package for new subscribers, and possibly current ones.
Sadly there is also much to dislike about DirecTV Now. No streaming of local channels in many regions, missing episodes of TV shows, no Android TV support, no access to CBS, The CW, or Showtime. While overall I was left underwhelmed with the DirecTV Now service, it’s good to see more competition. This will only make cord cutting more appealing in the future, as each service grows and adapts to the market.