AT&T TV vs. AT&T TV Now vs. HBO Max and more: AT&T streaming services explained

As you probably know, there are already too many streaming services. AT&T is making things worse. The telecommunications giant, which owns everything from DirecTV to the Warner Bros. film studio, has seven different streaming solutions either on the market or on their way. Some of them have similar names. Many of them cover the same markets. How is a cord cutter supposed to keep it all straight?

By reading our guide, of course. Here’s everything you need to know about AT&T’s various streaming services — for now. At this rate, who knows where it will end?

Live TV

AT&T TV

In July 2019, AT&T announced a new service called AT&T TV, which will stream live television over the internet. The service comes with a set-top box that can stream in 4K resolution. In addition to live television programming, the AT&T TV device gives you access to over 55,000 on-demand titles, smart home controls, a cloud-based DVR with 500 hours of storage, a Google Assistant-enabled remote, and on-demand streaming apps like Netflix and Pandora (subscriptions to third-party streaming services cost extra).

In addition to the AT&T TV streaming box, you can watch AT&T TV on your mobile devices using the app of the same name. According to Cord Cutters News, you can also use the AT&T TV service through the app on streaming boxes like the Amazon Fire TV and the Apple TV, but only after you sign up for a second AT&T TV device, which costs an extra $10 a month (or a one-time $120 fee, if you plan on keeping the second AT&T TV device forever).

AT&T TV has five different subscription tiers. The cheapest, Entertainment, offers around 70 channels and costs $60 a month for the first year of service. The most expensive, Ultimate, is $80 a month for the first year, and includes about 140 channels. Prices go up dramatically after the first year — Entertainment will set you back $93 a month from year two onward, while Ultimate costs $135 from that point forward — which is important, because every AT&T TV subscription comes with a mandatory two-year contract.

You will also be charged a one-time $20 “activation fee” when your AT&T TV service begins. Local networks and regional sports channels are part of the AT&T TV service, but availability depends on your location, so check AT&T’s channel listing tool before signing up. If you subscribe to AT&T TV’s Entertainment tier, its cheapest, you’ll need to pay an extra $9 to watch local sports networks.

All five AT&T TV subscription packages include HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, and Starz, but there’s a catch: The premium channels are only free for the first three months of the 24-month AT&T TV subscription period. In addition, you must cancel each channel manually. Otherwise, you’ll be charged $48 a month once the fourth month begins.

AT&T TV is currently available in 10 cities in California, Texas, Florida, Kansas, and Missouri. The service is expected to roll out to the rest of the United States by the end of the year.

AT&T TV Now

Despite having similar names and sharing the same app, AT&T TV Now is a totally different service from AT&T TV. Unlike AT&T TV, AT&T TV Now isn’t tied to a specific piece of hardware. Instead, AT&T TV Now is a totally app-based TV livestreaming service like Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, and Hulu+Live TV. (Confused yet?)

With AT&T TV Now, which was formerly known as DirecTV Now, you don’t need an AT&T-made device to watch television. AT&T TV Now runs on major streaming boxes like Roku and Fire TV devices (though it won’t work on Android TV devices), as well as PCs, phones, and tablets.

AT&T TV Now’s six packages contain between 40 and 125 channels and cost between $50 and $135 a month. The more you pay, the more channels you get. AT&T TV Now’s flagship packages, Plus and Max, come with free HBO, and all subscriptions include a cloud-based DVR. You can add access to individual premium networks and services like Epix starting at $6 per month.

WatchTV

AT&T’s third and (we hope) final live TV streaming solution is for budget-minded customers. WatchTV only costs $15 a month, and it’s free for AT&T wireless customers who have unlimited data plans, but it also has a limited amount of content. WatchTV contains a mere 35 channels, most of which are WarnerMedia subsidiaries. That means subscribers can access channels like CNN, TNT, and TBS, as well as a few Viacom and AMC offerings, but won’t get any broadcast networks or sports channels.

Also, while you can access WatchTV on most streaming devices, its premium add-ons tend to cost a little more than they do on other services. For example, HBO costs $18 on WatchTV, while it tends to run $15 elsewhere. There’s also no DVR functionality, either. Lately, AT&T hasn’t talked about WatchTV much, leading to rumors that the service is on its way out. For now, however, it’s still around. And if you’ve got an AT&T unlimited data plan, it’s well worth taking advantage of the service.

On-demand

HBO Max

HBO Max is much, much bigger than HBO. Expected to launch in spring 2020, HBO Max is a full-fledged on-demand streaming platform that will combine original programming with shows and movies from WarnerMedia’s decades-old content library. Think Netflix, Disney+, CBS All Access, or whatever NBC Universal has in store, but with a Warner Bros. focus.

HBO falls under the WarnerMedia umbrella, so all of the premium network’s shows, including new series such as His Dark Materials and Watchmen, are expected to be available on HBO Max. In addition, Friends will also stream on HBO Max — and only HBO Max — as will the complete run of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. New CW series such as Batwoman and Kathy Keene will arrive on HBO Max as soon as their time on the CW’s app is up. And that’s not all.

Big-name creators such as J.J. Abrams and Joss Whedon are developing original content for the service. New and classic Warner Bros. movies will be available on HBO Max, too, with many expected to be exclusive to the service. That includes superhero movies from WarnerMedia’s DC Extended Universe, including Wonder Woman and Justice League.

HBO Max won’t have everything that WarnerMedia controls, however. Previous licensing deals mean that older CW shows like Arrow and The Flash, will continue to stream on Netflix. NBC Universal has dibs on the Harry Potter franchise until 2025, and we still don’t know how many DCEU films will make the cut. Still, if the service becomes available at the rumored $17 monthly fee, HBO Max’s mix of classic and original content could make it a legitimate Netflix competitor. Keep an eye on this one. It could be big.

But wait, there’s more!

HBO Now

If you only care about HBO, and if you don’t have an existing cable or satellite subscription, there’s HBO Now (at present, anyway). While HBO Now doesn’t include HBO Max’s extended WarnerMedia programming, it does let you stream everything on the premium network for $15 per month.

That includes both HBO’s rotating selection of Hollywood films and (almost) all of its original series. New episodes of shows such as Euphoria and Succession arrive on HBO Now as soon as they air on television, while HBO Now’s ever-growing on-demand library makes it easy to catch up on Veep, The Sopranos, and more.

That said, assuming HBO Max’s rumored $17 price point proves true, there’s not much reason to stay with HBO Now. In fact, given that HBO Max will likely offer all of HBO Now’s programming and more, we wouldn’t be shocked if AT&T eventually shuttered the service. For now, however, it looks like it is sticking around.

HBO Go

Functionally, there’s not much difference between HBO Go and HBO Now. They offer the same content. They run on the same devices. They look almost identical. So, what’s the difference?

HBO Now is for cord cutters who don’t already have HBO. HBO Go is for HBO customers who already subscribe to the channel through a satellite or cable company. If you have an existing HBO subscription but you want to watch Game of Thrones on your phone, tablet, or streaming box, HBO Go is for you. You’ll need to log in using your cable or satellite credentials, but after that, you’ll be able to stream as much HBO content as you want.

DC Universe

Finally, AT&T also runs a specialty streaming service aimed specifically at superhero fans. It’s called DC Universe, and it’s full of content starring Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and the other characters on DC Comics’ roster.

DC Universe has a handful of original series, including Titans, Doom Patrol, and an upcoming animated comedy featuring Harley Quinn. It also has several old TV shows and movies featuring DC characters. On DC Universe, you can stream every episode of Batman: The Animated Series, the complete run of the superhero rom-com Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, the ’90s Flash series, Zack Snyder’s Watchmen, and more. If you’re looking for something to read, DC Universe also has a huge digital comic library that contains almost every book that DC has ever published, including comics that are only a year old.

It’s a niche service, but if you’re a die-hard DC Comics fan, it’s probably worth $8 a month. If not, don’t worry. WarnerMedia has already said that DC Universe’s most popular show, Doom Patrol, will also stream on HBO Max. If DC Universe comes up with another big hit, expect that series to follow suit.

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