Hands On With DirecTV Now, AT&T’s new streaming service for cord cutters

This week, AT&ampT unveiled its new Television streaming service for cord cutters, who are not prepared to subsist totally on Netflix, YouTube and whatever else they can watch for free around the web. Launched on Tuesday, DirecTV Now offers access to over 120 reside Tv channels, in addition to on-demand programming, and the alternative to add on premium networks like HBO and Cinemax for just $ 5 a lot more per month.

With launch pricing of only $ 35 per month for the “Go Big” package of more than 100 channels (typically $ 60/month), and promotions that contain a cost-free Amazon Fire Television Stick or Apple Tv with prepaid service of 1 or three months, respectively, DirecTV Now is worth a appear if you’re in the market for a streaming Tv service.

But how effectively does it really perform?

Having only a couple of days with the service so far, it is as well quickly for a comprehensive overview. That mentioned, from this initial glance, it is fair to say DirecTV Now offers a compelling alternative to current rivals like Sling Tv or PlayStation’s Vue.

Pros: Pricing, Cheap HBO, Zero-Rated

Starting with the price, if you sign up at the $ 35 per month rate, you’ll be grandfathered in at that very same rate for as long as you use the service. If you miss the limited time promotional pricing, you’ll be able to select from 4 diverse packages:

Reside a Tiny – $ 35 / month (60+ channels)
Just Proper – $ 50 / month (80+ channels)
Go Huge – $ 60 / month (100+ channels)
Gotta Have it – $ 70 / month (120+ channels)

Even at the common pricing, $ 35 per month delivers a lot of channels with out resorting to add-on bundles like Sling, and even if you tack on HBO for yet another $ five, you are still coming in well under the average cable Television bill of $ 103.ten.

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HBO and Cinemax are more affordable on DirecTV Now at $ five per month. Sling Television, by comparison, charges $ 15 for HBO as does Vue, and Sling charges $ 10 for Cinemax.

In addition, AT&ampT subscribers can stream from the service to their smartphones and tablets with no tapping into their wireless data plans. (How the FCC will react to this remains unknown, even though.)

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Cons: No CBS, missing devices, no DVR, only two streams

The biggest drawback to DirecTV Now is that it only allows you to watch on two devices at the identical time. That is fewer than PlayStation Vue, which permits up to 5 total streams at a time. Meanwhile, Sling Television has two packages: Sling Orange only gives one particular stream, but Sling Blue gives up to three.

At launch, can use DirectTV Now on iOS and Android devices, Apple Television, Chromecast (Android for now), the internet, Amazon Fire Television and Fire Television Stick, and select Google Cast-enabled wise TVs.

Yes, there are some devices missing at launch, most notably Roku, Fire tablets and some wise TVs.

DirecTV Now event

But DirecTV Now already has plans to expand its device help next year, just like it also plans to upgrade its service soon after launch with more functions.

For instance, its cloud DVR function isn’t expected till subsequent year. PlayStation Vue has a cloud DVR and Sling just announced its DVR is in beta.

Lacking a DVR isn’t massive concern in terms of basically having something to watch, given that DirecTV Now is not only a live Tv service – it also consists of on-demand programming. At the begin, 15,000 on-demand titles are available for instant viewing.

A bigger worry, perhaps, is that DirecTV Now does not provide CBS and Showtime, though it is nonetheless attempting to make a deal to bring those to its service. (NFL games are an additional matter – they’re on CBS All Access, while Verizon still has the exclusive on mobile streaming.)

Channel Lineup

With DirecTV Now, the ability to live stream other broadcast networks like NBC, ABC, and Fox is restricted to select markets. But this doesn’t necessarily make it any worse than Sling Tv or Vue – neither of which prioritize reside streaming of broadcast Television. Those competitors also only make live broadcast streams available in pick markets, and Sling sells its “Broadcast Extra” as an add-on.

On DirecTV Now, you can nevertheless watch shows from networks like Fox, ABC or NBC – you just might have to watch them on demand. (A list of VOD vs reside channels is right here. To see if your city has nearby live channels, you can check this list as an alternative.)

The rest of the channel lineup is every little thing you’d count on from cable Tv, from life-style programming, to sports, to news, to educational channels, and children Television, like Nickelodeon and Disney.

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Plus, DirecTV Now has access to Viacom channels, including Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., Spike, MTV, Comedy Central, and other individuals, which PlayStation Vue just lost.

It has a ton of sports channels, as well, like ESPN and its connected networks, Fox Sports 1 and 2, Golf Channel, NBA Tv, NBC Sports Network, NHL Network, Tennis Channel, and other individuals, as effectively as some regional sports networks, based on availability.

AT&ampT is also bundling its its teen-focused Fullscreen network, and a handful of originals. Fullscreen is not a large promoting point, unless you have kids. And the originals are paltry and lower top quality than what you’d find on Netflix.

User Interface

One of the most significant selling points for DirecTV Now, at least in this cord cutter’s opinion, is the user interface. As an individual who has tried both Sling Tv and Vue, I found I considerably choose DirecTV Now’s look-and-really feel.

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Sling Tv is nonetheless a nightmare to navigate, but DirecTV Now is easier. There are only 4 tabs at the leading for moving by means of the content material: the homepage, “Shows,” “Movies” and “Networks.” Unlike cable Television where you are presented with a linear programming guide, DirecTV Now has a bit of a Netflix-like really feel to it.

In the Tv section, curated categories point you to different Television genres, and not just “drama” or “comedy,” either. As an alternative, there are groupings that feature suggestions like reality game shows, option cartoons, shows for teens, crime Tv shows, and much more. These collections have catchy titles like “Made You Think” (educational shows), or “Way Out There” (shows with the man vs nature theme).

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There are also rows that function DirecTV Now’s personal suggestions, new shows and returning shows. DirecTV Now claims its service will personalize itself to your interests more more than time. (As will its advertisements!).

The Films section is more simply organized by higher-level genre (Action, Family members, Drama, Comedy, and so on.).

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DirecTV Now could make it easier to add on to your service or upgrade your strategy, nevertheless.

On the “Networks” tab, it shows a list of “unsubscribed” channels beneath those you can access on your present program. Here, it doesn’t only tease with an HBO add-on, but also a couple of channels that are actually incorporated in the pricier tiers.

When you click “subscribe,” you’re informed you need to have to alter your program to gain access.

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But doing so signifies navigating to the Settings, clicking “User Account,” then “Manage My Plan.”

A a single-click upgrade appropriate from the Networks screen would be a lot simpler.

I’m also not a fan of it taking two clicks to see all a network’s Tv shows on a single web page – that must be the default right after you click on the logo. (Proper now, you have to click a “Show All” button.)

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If you’re a lot more interested in just watching what’s airing reside, the Property tab will direct you to those shows. Like Sling Tv, it ditches the text-only linear guide for rows of thumbnails you click by way of as the default encounter, but you can still click over to “Guide” if you choose a classic layout. Plus, the Home page also gives recommendations of other issues to watch, ranging from New Shows to Featured Films and other content collections.

Performance

Once more, in restricted testing, I ran into a couple of issues with faulty streams – errors when loading a video, or just slow loading. But some cord cutters did see far more error messages and even crashes. The interface also at times was slow to load content as you scrolled additional down the web page.

Some testers also ran into errors claiming they had gone over their number of permitted streams, though they hadn’t. Hopefully this, also, will be fixed quickly.

To what extent these are just launch week hiccups that will be worked out, versus a lot more critical underlying infrastructure problems can’t yet be determined.

Individual Decision

DirecTV Now is not the clear winner compared with Sling Tv and PlayStation Vue.

It will come down to what’s most essential to you: Pricing? A number of streams? Channels? Device assistance? Less expensive HBO? User encounter? And so forth.

But it is undoubtedly a service that is in the operating, provided the attributes it delivers today and these it has planned for the near future.

TechCrunch