DirecTV Now Review: A Cord-Cutting Alternative?
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We’re big fans of cutting the cord. The average cable bill is $110 per month, and with the number of streaming options available today there is no sense to waste that amount of money. One of the more popular streaming options is DirecTV Now.
Ironically enough, DirecTV Now is a service provided by the satellite giant DirecTV. The traditional DirecTV platform does require a contract, but DirecTV is a contract free way to get much of your content at a significantly lower cost.
If you want to cut the cord and looking for a replacement, our DirecTV Now review shows what you can expect with the platform.
What is DirecTV Now?
DirecTV Now is an online streaming service provided by DirecTV. They’re both now a subsidiary of AT&T, so you may see promotions offering bundled services combining DirecTV Now with a service from AT&T.
DirecTV Now was launched in 2016. The streaming provider lets you get cable content without needing a satellite dish and is contract free. This means you can cancel at any time you wish without fear of a cancellation fee.
You can watch DirecTV Now on virtually any device, including TVs and online – I’ll cover this later in the post. I’ve tested the DirecTV Now several times and there is a lot to like about the platform. No streaming provider is perfect, so important to keep that in mind as you consider what platform to select.
How Much Does DirecTV Now Cost?
Since we canceled DirecTV three years ago, we’ve loved the extra $90 in our budget each month. We’ve tried a number of cord cutting options but have said “No” to most, if not all, of the options we’ve tried as it’s just not worth the cost.
The first thing we look at when considering a new option is cost and if we’ll receive value from it.
DirecTV Now offers two different pricing plans. Those plans start at $50 per month and go up to $75. Below are the two main packages, with cost:
- Plus – $50 per month for 40+ channels
- Max – $70 per month for 50+ channels, including HBO and Cinemax
The platform offers four other packages which I detail later in the post. DirecTV Now does offer a free seven-day trial to let you try out the service.
I like the flexibility offered by having four plans. However, if you choose either of the top tier packages you give up a significant amount of the savings from cutting the cord.
How Can I Stream DirecTV Now?
One nice thing about DirecTV Now is you don’t need to have them install some nasty satellite dish or box. You simply sign up through the DirecTV Now site or through your smart TV.
All you need to enjoy DirecTV Now is an Internet connection and a device to access the platform.
You can stream DirecTV Now through the following devices:
- Amazon Fire TV – here’s our Amazon Fire TV review
- Amazon Fire TV Stick – here’s our Amazon Fire Stick review
- Android smartphones and tablets
- Apple TV
- Google Chromecast
- Google Cast on supported Vizio and LeEco TVs
- Internet Explorer
As you can see, there are plenty of options to stream DirecTV Now, both at home and on the go.
I will also add that you can stream DirecTV Now on two devices at the same time.
I tested the platform on Google Chrome, Safari and our Fire TV and Stick and all worked great. I was able to watch two programs at once, and when I started a third viewing option, I was instantly kicked out of one of the other viewing platforms.
DirecTV Now Channel lineup
One of the most important features of a streaming service is its channel lineup and how much you must pay to receive those channels. Nearly as important is how much it costs to upgrade the service.
DirecTV Now offers a decent range of channels. I particularly like that you can get channels like ESPN and CNN in the base package, plus some other popular channels.
Instead of using a screenshot to show the DirecTV Now channels, I’ve put them below. Here is the DirecTV channels list for each package:
Entertainment: A&E, ABC, AMC, Animal Planet, Audience, AXStv, BabyFirst, BBC America, BET, Bloomberg Television, Bavo, CBS, C-SPAN, C-SPAN2, Cartoon Network, CMT,CNN, Comedy Central, The CW, Discovery, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD, E!, ESPN, ESPN2, Food Network, Fox, Fox Business, Fox News, Fox Sports, Free Form, FX, FXX, Golovision, Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, HGTV, history, HLN, ID, Lifetime, MSNBC, MTV, MTV2, National Geographic, NBC, NBC Sports, Nick Jr. Nick, OAN, Reelz, RFD TV, Spike, Syfy, TBS,TCM, TeenNick, Telemundo, TLC, TNT, TruTV, TV Land, Univision, USA, Velocity, VH1, Viceland, WE tv, WeatherNation. $93 per month
Choice: Live a Little plus AWE, Big Ten Network, Comedy.tv, Cooking Channel, ESPN News, ESPN U, Fuse, Fusion, GSN, IFC, Jusic Central, MLB Network, Nicktoons, Science, ESPN SEC Network, Sundance TV, Tennis Channel, Travel Channel, ONE, UniMAS, The Weather Channel minus Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. $110 per month
Xtra: Just Right plus American Heroes Channel, BBC World News, CBS Sports, Centric, CNBC World, Destination America, Discovery Family, Discovery Life, DIY Network, FM, FS2, FXM, Golf, Logo, MTV Classic, Nat Geo Wild, NBA TV, NHL, Olympic Channel, Revolt, Universal Kids, and Universo. $124 per month
Ultimate: Go Big plus Boomerang, Chiller, El Rey, StarzEncore Action, StarzEncore Black, Starz East, StarzEncore Family, StarzEncore Classic, StarzEncore West, StarzEncore Suspense, StarzEncore Westerns, and Univision Deportes. $135 per month
As you can see, there is plenty for everyone to like in each of the four DirecTV Now packages. You can upgrade to add additional sports options, which is an important consideration for many. Just keep in mind it will eat into the savings from cutting the cord.
You can also customize the DirecTV Now packages by adding premium channels for an additional cost. Those are listed below:
- Cinemax – $5 per month
- HBO – $5 per month
- Showtime – $8 per month
- Starz – $8 per month
Each of the are cheaper than what you will find at Sling TV. We pay $15 per month for the standalone HBO Now service, so there is value in the premium offerings with DirecTV Now.
DirecTV Now vs. Sling TV
Sling TV is one of the other major players in the streaming space; in fact, it was one of the first. In light of that, it’s important to compare DirecTV Now vs. Sling TV if you’re looking to cut the cord.
Here are some of the key things to compare when looking at Sling TV vs DirecTV Now:
- Cost is pretty much equal when you take the add-ons at Sling TV into consideration.
- Both offer limited access to local channels, with Sling TV offering it in a bit more locations.
- Sling TV offers one device streaming with basic packages, or three at the higher tiers; DirecTV Now offers two with all packages.
- Sling TV offers parental controls; DirecTV Now does not.
- Both Sling TV and DirecTV Now have no contract requirements and can be canceled at any time.
- Sling TV has had buffering issues in the past, but has improved a lot over the past year – here’s our Sling TV review for a full breakdown of their service. DirecTV Now, on the other hand, has good from good at the beginning to having more buffering issues.
Taking a look at DirecTV Now vs Sling TV, Sling TV wins the comparison in my opinion. Another great option to consider is Hulu with Live TV. Hulu Live offers 60+ channels for just $44.99 per month, with no contract.
DirecTV Now Promotions
Most every streaming platform offers a free 7-day trial to test their service. DirecTV Now is no different. DirecTV Now also regularly offers promotions for free devices. A common DirecTV Now promotion is a free Roku device when you sign up for service.
Promotions frequently change, so keep that in mind when signing up for service.
DirecTV Now – The Good
There are a number of things to like about DirecTV Now; here are some of them:
The channels load relatively fast. Whenever you change a channel on DirecTV Now it takes about 1-2 seconds to change. Compared to Sling TV that is pretty fast; I didn’t feel like I was waiting for channels to change.
They have a simple to use guide. This is another feature somewhat lacking in Sling TV that DirecTV Now improves upon. As you can see in the picture below, they list out the channels.
If you want to watch something, you simply click on it. If you want to see what’s on later, you click the arrow buttons in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. You can also find out what’s on one specific channel by simply clicking its icon on the far left of the screen.
You can create your own guide. If you look at the above picture, you’ll see a heart symbol to the left of each channel. When you click on that symbol, it goes to a “Favorites” guide you can use instead of scrolling through 60, 80 or 100+ channels.
This is great, I loved it, if there’s only a handful of channels you like to watch.
There’s no contract. This is a huge plus in favor of DirecTV Now as you can cancel at any time.
New cloud-based DVR. DirecTV Now recently added a beta version of a cloud-based DVR. We’ve not had a chance to test it out, but the DVR is available for Android, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV (second generation), Chromecast, and Safari and Chrome web browsers.
The one drawback is it only allows you to record and store up to 20 hours of content. You can also store shows for 30 days. It is possible to upgrade to get 100 hours per month, but it costs $10 per month.
You can watch and search at the same time. If you like to scroll through channels, you don’t need to get out of what you’re watching to find something else. The guide simply overlays what you’re currently watching so you can still watch and listen to the program.
The platform is smart. When you turn off the DirecTV Now platform, it saves the channel you were watching. So, when you turn the platform back on it goes right back to that channel.
Sling, on the other hand, starts you back at the beginning.
Searching is relatively simple. DirecTV Now currently offers several dozen on demand movies you can watch. They’re categorized, sort of Netflix-style, making it relatively simple to find a movie.
DirecTV Now – The Bad
There are a number of things I really like about the DirecTV Now platform but there are also a several things not to like – such as:
The cost. The average cable bill is $110 per month. As ridiculous as that is (and it really is), you want to be careful what cord-cutting options you choose as they can quickly add up.
At $50 per month right out of the gate, DirecTV Now is no different. They’re on the more expensive end, relative to other streaming providers, but if you throw in any other services like Netflix or Hulu that only adds to the cost – getting you close to the average cable bill and defeating the purpose of cutting the cord.
If you go with the highest cost service, you put yourself back in the same situation. This really isn’t specific to DirecTV Now as the other major streaming platforms offer similar pricey upgrades.
You likely still can’t watch local channels live. Several platforms fall short on this and DirecTV Now is no different. The only way you can watch local TV without cable is if they’re run directly by the network.
However, if they’re run by an affiliate, and a lot are, you’re out of luck – as was I here in Omaha. In that case, you have to wait a day to watch your shows like with Hulu. If that’s important to you, do yourself a favor and spend $6 per month on Hulu and save your money.
You can also buy a Mohu Leaf antenna to get locals, which is what we use.
The platform doesn’t let you know when the next episode is on. This is specifically for a series. While the guide is really helpful, they don’t let you know when the next episode is on – so you must know or you’ll be out of luck.
Limited pause, rewind and fast-forward options. I was able to pause a number of different live channels, but could not rewind. I tried the same on a number of movies and could do some pausing, rewinding or fast-forwarding but it was very limited.
They do warn you that it’s limited when watching something on demand.
No access to NFL Sunday Ticket or Red Zone. I’m imagining they may add this in the future, but it’s going to come at a cost. If access to either of those options is important to you, you’ll again be out of luck with DirecTV Now.
**Additional tip: Love NFL football but don’t know how to watch your favorite team without cable? Here’s how to watch NFL without cable and still catch all the action!**
You won’t be able to access football on local channels. This could be another biggie for many people. Thanks to the local channels restrictions, it’s very likely you won’t be able to watch football and other sports on local channels.
You’ll see this with other major players, so it’s not really specific to DirecTV Now.
DirecTV Now FAQs
We receive questions about DirecTV Now on a regular basis. Below are some of the more commonly asked questions:
What speed do you need to watch DirecTV Now?
DirecTV Now is a streaming provider, so you do need Internet access to get the platform. DirecTV Now recommends a speed of 2.5 to 7.5 Mbps to stream content.
Do you have to have AT&T to get DirecTV Now?
No. While AT&T would love for you to get a variety of services through them, it’s not required to sign up for DirecTV Now.
Is DirecTV Now better than DirecTV?
They are two separate platforms. If you prefer a cheaper service with no contract, DirecTV Now is better than DirecTV.
Do you get DirecTV Now if you have DirecTV?
No. They’re two different, standalone services. You also would not need both at the same time.
Is DirecTV Now free with AT&T?
No. AT&T does run deals offering DirecTV Now at a discount, depending on the services you have. It is typically not offered for free by AT&T.
DirecTV Now Review – Our Take
I love seeing another player in the streaming space as that gives us additional options to ridiculous, high-priced cable contracts. We’ll only continue to see growth in the space that will force new products and a better overall service.
I love a lot of what DirecTV Now has going for it but we ultimately decided not to keep it as we couldn’t justify the cost. Yes, $50 is relatively cheap for the channels they provide, but you won’t get local channels as a part of that cost.
In all fairness, you will find that drawback with numerous other cord cutting options.
With that in mind, what good options are out there, besides DirecTV Now, for someone who wants to cut the cord and save money? Here are a few of the top options we’ve used to cut the cord, plus a few extras:
- Hulu – $5.99 per month, or $11.99 if you don’t want commercials
- Amazon Fire TV Stick – $39.99 one-time cost which gets you access to content on Amazon plus a wide variety of different free apps.
- Amazon Fire TV – $69.99 one-time cost, this is the same basic thing as the Fire TV Stick but is a small, set-top box with additional features.
- Amazon Fire TV Recast – $229 one-time cost. This is a set top box DVR that allows you to record over-the-air TV with your Fire TV.
- Mohu Leaf 50 antenna– varies in price, but is currently $69.95 and works great to get all your local channels. There are many other digital antennas you can use, here’s a list of the best ones on Amazon.
- Roku Streaming Stick – varies in price and works much like the Amazon Fire TV Stick.
There are many other options available to help you save money on cutting the cord; these are just some of the few we own or have tried. As you can see, you can get much of what you want for a lower monthly cost, or a relatively small one-time cost that still allows you to shed that high monthly cost of contract cable or satellite TV.
What are your thoughts on DirecTV Now? What streaming services have you tried to save money? Do you still have cable, why or why not?
John is the founder of Frugal Rules, a dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry whose writing has been featured in Forbes, CNBC, Yahoo Finance and more.
Passionate about helping people learn from his mistakes, John shares financial tools and tips to help you enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. One of his favorite tools is Personal Capital , which he used to plan for retirement and keep track of his finances in less than 15 minutes each month.
Another one of John's passions is helping people save $80 per month by axing their expensive cable subscriptions and replacing them with more affordable ones, like Hulu with Live TV.