DIRECTV NOW Review 2019: The good, the bad, the essential

DIRECTV NOW recently changed up their packages. They’re still a great alternative to DIRECTV NOW, but we don’t like the higher price-to-channel ratio.

Overall Rating

Pros

Cons

If you’re looking to downsize from DirecTV’s full cable package, or even one of their competitors, DIRECTV NOW — AT&T’s internet streaming service — might be the best thing for you. You’ll get most of the top channels of other TV services included in the basic package, and premium channels are priced better than any other streaming service.

But, DIRECTV NOW recently changed their packages from 4 to 6 offerings that are more closely aligned with DIRECTV’s package names. Alongside this came some changes in the channel and pricing lineups. We wanted to find out if they’re still any good.

Read on to find out in our updated DIRECTV NOW review.

DIRECTV NOW Packages and Pricing

Plans Number of channels Price View Plans
PLUS 40+ $50/mo. View plans
MAX 50+ $70/mo. View plans
ENTERTAINMENT 65+ $93/mo. View plans
CHOICE 85+ $110/mo. View plans
XTRA 105+ $124/mo. View plans
ULTIMATE 125+ $135/mo. View plans

Which should I pick?

So which plan is going to be right for you? Well, that just depends on what you want out of it. Here’s the plans at a glance – read on for more in-depth breakdowns of the specific channels.

PLUS MAX ENTERTAINMENT CHOICE XTRA ULTIMATE
  • Includes top networks
  • Great for casual users
  • Comes up short on some Sports and News channels
  • Adds more Sports and News channels, and Cinemax
  • Adds even more Sports and News
  • More Family channels
  • Adds more Movies channels
  • Adds more sports and cooking channels
  • Adds even more specialty sports, like NBA TV and NHL, as well as more movie channels
    Adds Starz Encore channels
  • Has most variety of channels of all plans

DIRECTV NOW’s Channel Lineup

As with any provider, the channels you get vary depending on the package you select. That being said, even with the Live a Little package, you get access to more than 60 networks, including sports, entertainment, and local channels — which puts it squarely ahead of even Sling TV’s highest plan (just 48 channels, with no locals).

Package Channels
PLUS Local live channels, HBO, HBO Family, HBO Latino, ABC, AccuWeather, Audience, BET, Boomerang, Bravo, Cartoon Network, CBS, Cheddar, CNBC, CNBC World, CNN, Comedy Central, CW, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD, E!, ESPN, ESPN2, Fox, Fox Business Network, Fox News Channel, Fox Sports 1, Freeform, FX, FX Movie Channel, FXX, Hallmark Channel, HLN, MSNBC, MTV, My Network TV, Nat Geo WILD, National Geographic Channel, NBC, NBCSN, Nick Jr. Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite, Ovation, Revolt, SYFY, TBS, TCM, Telmundo, TNT, TruTV, Universal Kids, USA Netwrok, VH1,
MAX Many of the previous channels, plus Regional sports networks, Cinemax, BTN, CMT, ESPNEWS, ESPNU, Fox Sports 2, Golf Channel, Longhorn Network, MSG, MSG+, Olympics Channel, Paramount, SEC Network, TV Land, YES Network
ENTERTAINMENT Many of the previous channels, plus A&E, AMC, Animal Planet, AXS TV, BabyFirst, BBC America, C-SPAN, C-SPAN2, DIscovery, Food Network, Galavision, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, HGTV, History, Investigation Discovery, Lifetime, Motor Trend, MTV2, One American News, REELZ, RFD-TV, TeenNick, TLC, Univision, Viceland, WE tv
CHOICE Many of the previous channels, plus more regional sports, A Wealth of Entertainment, BTN, ComedyTV, Cooking Channel, Fuse, Fusion, Game Show Network, IFC, Justice Central, MLB Network, Nicktoons, OWN, Pop, Science, SNY, SundanceTV, Tennis Channel, Travel Channel, TV One, UniMas, Up, The Weather Channel
XTRA Many of the previous channels, plus more regional sports, American Heros, Aspire, BBC World News, BET Her, CBS Sports Network, Destinaion America, Discovery Family Channel, Discovery Life, DIY Network, FM, FX Movie Channel, fyi, LMN, Logo, MTV Classic, Nat Geo WILD, NBA TV, NHL Network, Sportsman Channel, TVG, Universal Kids, Universo
ULTIMATE Many of the previous channels, plus more regional sports, El Rey, STARZ ENCORE Action, STARZ ENCORE Black, STARZ ENCORE Classic, STARZ ENCORE East, STARZ ENCORE Family, STARZ ENCORE Suspense, STARZ ENCORE West, STARZ ENCORE Westerns, Univision Deportes Network,

Sports fans rejoice!

If you’re a sports fan — rejoice. DIRECTV gets the gold medal for streaming services. With channels included like ESPN (1-3; amongst other ESPN channels), the Big Ten Network, and CBS Sports and more — including the NFL Network, beginning at the “Just Right” tier — DIRECTV is hard to beat.

Package Channels
PLUS ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports 1
MAX The previous sports channels, Regional sports networks, ESPNEWS, ESPNU, Fox Sports 2, Golf Channel, Olympics Channel, SEC Network
ENTERTAINMENT The previous sports channels
CHOICE The previous sports channels, plus more regional sports, MLB Network, Tennis Channel
XTRA The previous sports channels, plus more regional sports, CBS Sports Network, NBA TV, NHL Network, Sportsman Channel, UniMas
ULTIMATE The previous sports channels, plus more regional sports, Univision Deportes Network
Premium add-ons CINEMAX, SHOWTIME, STARZ

Plus, NFL Sunday Ticket is available in a generous handful of areas — which is likely to expand in the future:

  • Boston
  • Hartford
  • LA
  • Louisville
  • Philadelphia
  • Phoenix
  • San Antonio

Spanish-language sports -- try DIRECTV NOW Deportes

Going with the XTRA and ULTIMATE DIRECTV NOW packages, you’ll cover most sports channels for Spanish, too. But for a handful — Univision, FOX, and ESPN Deportes, as well as beIN sports — you’ll want to to grab the add-on DIRECTV NOW Deportes pack for an additional $5 per month.

Or, you can go with the Optimo Mas package, which includes 50+ Spanish channels and 40+ English ones.

Movie junkies -- DIRECTV NOW is for you!

If you love movies, DIRECTV NOW won’t disappoint. At the PLUS level, you’ll get access to channels like FX, FXX, TNT, and Turner Classic movies, as well as Boomerang. On the other end of the spectrum with the ULTIMATE package, you’ll get those and also other coveted channels like the Lifetime Movie Network, Starz Encore, and Boomerang — all as part of a 125+ channel package for just $135 per month.

Package Movie Channels included
PLUS HBO, HBO Family, HBO Latino, Boomerang, Bravo, Cartoon Network, CBS, Cheddar, FX, FX Movie Channel, FXX, Hallmark Channel,
MAX Many of the previous channels, plus Cinemax
ENTERTAINMENT Many of the previous channels, plus Hallmark Movies & Mysteries
CHOICE Many of the previous channels
XTRA Many of the previous channels, plus American Heros, FX Movie Channel
ULTIMATE Many of the previous channels, plus STARZ ENCORE Action, STARZ ENCORE Black, STARZ ENCORE Classic, STARZ ENCORE East, STARZ ENCORE Family, STARZ ENCORE Suspense, STARZ ENCORE West, STARZ ENCORE Westerns

But if you’re hungry for more, DIRECTV NOW has some of the lowest prices around for add-ons: if you choose a plan without them, CINEMAX, SHOWTIME, AND STARZ are just $11 per month extra each. Since these adds usually run in the range of $15-$20 extra per month with other services, that’s a solid deal.

Don’t forget locals!

While some other streaming services (ahem, Sling TV) cut local channels out to keep their costs down, DIRECTV keeps local affiliates in its lineup. So if you want to watch broadcast networks like ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC — carriers of big shows like This Is Us and Modern Family — DIRECTV NOW will have you covered.

But an indoor HDTV antenna is a good idea

That said, availability of local channels varies. So if you’ve checked and are worried about being able to keep watching those local networks — just pick up an antenna for cheap ($20-40, typically).

Plus, regardless of your type of TV service — whether cable, streaming, or satellite — it’s a good idea to have a backup around. With an antenna, you can always have free HD channels waiting on deck just in case your internet starts running slow, something that’s not unusual.  

In any case, we strongly suggest the ClearStream Eclipse Antenna — it’s easy to install and has  a large 35 mile radius. With a clean design and an easy-grip system, you can put it just about anywhere in your house and it’ll blend into your decor.

If you live in a rural area and want a stronger one, we’d recommend the ClearStream 2V Antenna (60 mile radius).

Equipment, features, and device compatibility

Because DIRECTV NOW offers few extras and features, they’re able to offer cheaper prices than DIRECTV and many other competitors.

DIRECTV NOW also works on a wide variety of devices. You can watch it on a computer using browsers, like Google Chrome or Safari (iPhone/Mac) , through your TV using an Amazon Fire TV, Roku TV, or either company’s media streamers, as well as others. It’s also available for most iOS and Android devices.

It’s also worth noting that DIRECTV NOW 4K support is lacking… in that it doesn’t support 4K content currently. AT&T has talked about it, but it’s been awhile since they first promised it without any follow through.

DIRECTV NOW Device Compatibility

TVs/Devices Mobile devices Web browsers
  • Amazon Fire TV
  • Amazon Fire TV streaming player
  • Amazon Fire TV Cube
  • Amazon Fire TV Stick
  • Apple TV
  • Chromecast -- built into TV
  • Chromecast -- built into Android, iOS devices and Chrome browser
  • Roku TV
  • Roku Streamer
  • Samsung Smart TVs
  • Android phones (version 4.4 KitKat and up)
  • iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touch (iOS 10 and up)
  • Chrome
  • Safari

Individuals subscribing to AT&T’s wireless service can also use DIRECTV NOW on their mobile data without having it count against their data cap. There’s also a free 7-day trial, and no contract. Finally, a big one for some people — DIRECTV NOW is only available in the United States.

Sadly, you won’t find DIRECTV NOW Xbox One support, or PS4 support, for that matter. The PS4 seems to be a hopeless cause thanks to their PS Vue service, but there are somewhat legitimate rumors that Xbox One will get a DIRECTV NOW app.

DVR (free cloud storage)

With DIRECTV NOW, you also get a free DVR, no matter the plan, for no additional cost. While this is nice, with only 20 hours of storage that lasts for 30 days, that comes in feeling a little skimpy and doesn’t quite measure up to competitors like YouTube TV (unlimited storage for 9 months), or even Sling TV (50 hours of cloud storage). But, as DIRECTV NOW’s DVR service is free with every plan, 20 hours can’t be complained about too much — unless you really like to record things.

As another downside, with DIRECTV NOW’s DVR, you can’t record on-demand content to save for later — any on-demand videos you grab have to be watched before they’re pulled from the library.

DIRECTV NOW user experience

DIRECTV NOW’s user interface — and by extension experience — is alright. Not bad, but not the best that’s available. Much like their DirecTV, the channel-based guides for DIRECTV NOW is a grid-based format in alphabetical order that shows programming for the next 2 hours prior to any  scrolling.

Highlighting a program gives you a thumbnail and brief description of the episode, and you can filter the guide by your favorite channels, genre, or jump to a specific day. When it comes to grid-formatted guides, no other streaming service does it as well as DIRECTV NOW.

DIRECTV NOW’s DVR menu is alright, giving you a list of recorded shows and allowing you to quickly delete individual episodes or whole series. It also allows you to view a list of your scheduled recordings in chronological order.

DIRECTV NOW’s experience starts failing after that. Scrolling through some of their categories, you get little personalization — just generic, trending programs and pics. Their “Continue Watching” section on the home screen only shows individual episodes or movies you’re partially through, too, so no picking up quickly where you left off in “Friends” if you let the episode finish while out of the room — you’ll have to hunt it down with multiple clicks.

Finally, if you want to navigate the interface while watching a video, the audio continues to play in the background, but there’s no mini-screen of the guide or picture-in-picture mode — and in some places, the interface completely covers the video you’re watching.

DIRECTV NOW on-demand: a work in progress

DirecTV’s on-demand programs are scattershot. While on-demand content is offered, it’s handled poorly. Some channels offer it, others don’t. Amongst the channels that do have offerings, it’s often just a few, scattered episodes.

And movies are treated much the same: a few dozen available at once, but with no clear logic behind their selection and for how long they’ll be around. And as mentioned earlier, you can’t DVR any of these — so nabbing ones you’d like to watch a little later just isn’t practical.

So while on-demand content is included with DirecTV, it’s certainly not a great selling point.

Customer service

Customer service for DIRECTV NOW is solid: great, knowledgeable representatives, fast response times, and quick on-site visits. If they can’t fix your problem over the phone or web chat, they’ll send someone out to take care of things in person.

Recap: How good is DIRECTV NOW?

So with all those features gone through, what’s the verdict? How good is DIRECTV NOW? Is it worth the money?

The good

DIRECTV NOW is a more affordable version of DIRECTV with the same network quality. Great shows, a wide variety of sports channels, and excellent movie channels make it a high-quality service. And their premium add-ons are the cheapest in the industry.

You can also get local channels most places, there’s no contracts or hidden fees, and you get excellent customer service.

The bad

But on the other side, other than the channels you get in your package — there’s not much else.

The free DVR is nice, but only provides 20 hours of storage that can be kept over only 30 days. It can also be buggy at times. The interface can feel clumsy, especially while watching a video. Finally, if DIRECTV doesn’t have a local affiliate in your area, you’ll have to get an HD antenna.

Other options

DIRECTV NOW Sling TV YouTube TV Hulu with Live PlayStation Vue
Base price $50/month for 40+ channels $25/month for 30+ channels $40/month for 60+ channels $45/month with 60+ channels $45/month with 55+ channels
Local channels Yes, many places Fox and NBC only in select cities Yes, many places Yes, many places Yes, many places
Video on-demand from locals Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Step-up packages with more channels $70/month, $93/month, $110/month, $124/month, or $135/month Yes, an extra $5/month for each No No $50/month, $60/month, or $80/month
Simultaneous streams 2, with 3rd for $5 1 or 3 3 2, with an unlimited option for $15 5
User profiles Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Pause/Rewind/Fast forward Yes Yes, minus Disney and ESPN channels Yes Yes Yes
DVR Yes Yes for $5/month, but can’t record Disney or ESPN channels Yes, and stores for 9 months Yes, 20GB kept for 30 days Yes, stored for 28 days
Fast-forward/skip through commercials on DVR Yes Yes No, unless pay $15 add-on Yes Yes
DVR show replaced by on-demand version No No No Yes No
Free trial Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Final Thoughts

While not perfect, DIRECTV NOW has the channels that most people want from a service like this at a great price for the quality and volume of channels. You can also watch shows on demand or recorded. The interface may be clunky at times, but it does its job well where it matters most.

So if you’re leaving a bigger, more expensive service, or miss local channels on your current streaming provider, DIRECTV NOW just might be the option for you — but if you’re looking for extra perks, then you’re better off going with DirecTV.

FAQs

How does DIRECTV NOW Work?

That’s easy. DIRECTV NOW is an internet streaming service. In this way, it is more like Netflix than traditional DIRECTV because you only need internet, a device that is compatible with the app (covered below), and a subscription (ie, you need to pay for it) to use it. There’s no installation or cable box. If you get done reading this article and instantly want it, then it is at your fingertips.

However, unlike Netflix, it has the traditional channels we are accustomed to with normal cable providers instead of a bunch of shows and movies you randomly choose.

What’s the difference between DIRECTV NOW and DirecTV?

DIRECTV NOW in plain terms is like a baby brother to DirecTV. Stripping away the “nice to have” features that DIRECTV pushes, DIRECTV NOW focuses on being more affordable by providing only the essentials — great for people who like to watch TV, but maybe not too much. Like DirecTV, DIRECTV NOW is owned by AT&T.

Plus, whereas DIRECTV is a satellite cable service, DIRECTV NOW is completely separate and streamed from an internet server. That means you can access it from a mobile device, your laptop or desktop computer, a media streamer, or your TV.

DirecTV DIRECTV NOW
  • 145 - 315 channels
  • HD DVR with 1TB storage
  • 72-hour replay
  • DIRECTV app
  • HD channels
  • Physical hardware required (TV, Genie box, satellite dish)
  • 4K options
  • 50 - 135+ channels
  • Free DVR with 20 hours of cloud storage
  • HD channels
  • No contracts
  • No extra fees
  • No 4K; only True HD
Luke Pensworth Written by: Luke Pensworth

Luke is the managing editor and site manager of Dailywireless. As a wireless enthusiast/consumer, he reviews a lot of services based on his own experience. Disgruntled as he may be, he tries to keep his articles as honest as possible.

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