Hands on with DirecTV Now, AT&T’s new streaming service starting at $35

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*Update 1/11/2017: DirecTV Now’s $35 for 100 channel promotional plan has been discontinued.*

Internet TV services continue to spring up, offering a clear alternative to traditional pay TV, and AT&T’s new over-the-top streaming service DIRECTV Now just jumped into the fray.

DIRECTV Now will launch on November 30 with four channel packages priced between $35 and $70 a month for dozens of channels in a promising, if not wholly revolutionary product. The smallest channel package from DIRECTV Now is $35 a month for more than 60 channels. This is a considerable drop from the 100 channels for the same monthly price, a rumor we’ve been hearing about since last month. However, AT&T has a limited-time-offer of those 100 channels for $35 a month, and those users will be grandfathered in once the promotion ends.

Here are the four channel packages that will be offered at DIRECTV Now’s launch:

HBO will not be a part of any of the channel packages, but it can be added for $5 per month. That’s one-third the price Sling TV charges to add HBO to your channel package, a possible benefit of the impending AT&T merger with Time Warner. Controversially, those with AT&T service won’t be charged data to watch DIRECTV Now on their mobile devices, something that has raised some concerns about fair online practices from the newly minted megacorp. Premium channels and packages such as Showtime and NFL Sunday Ticket will not be folded in with DIRECTV Now’s launch, however, and Verizon’s deal for exclusive streaming rights of NFL games on mobile devices means you’ll only be able to watch games on broadcast networks via devices other than your smartphone.

Supported devices for the service at launch include Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick; Android mobile devices and tablets; iPhone, iPad and Apple TV; Chromecast, though the service will only work for Android at launch, with iOS support coming in 2017; Google Cast-enabled LeEco TVs and VIZIO SmartCast Displays, as well as Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Safari web browsers. Samsung TVs, Amazon Fire tablets, and Roku streaming players and Roku TV models will have compatibility with the service in 2017.

AT&T knows you have to lead viewers to the stream before they consume, so the company is offering some enticing free products for those willing to pay for DIRECTV Now in advance. Prepaying three months of DIRECTV Now will make you eligible for a free Apple TV. You can opt for an Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote if you prepay for one month of DIRECTV Now.

DirecTV Now
Digital Trends/Keith Nelson Jr.
Digital Trends/Keith Nelson Jr.

On the flip side, you can also get free DIRECTV Now service by purchasing products from TV and smartphone provider LeEco. Purchasing the Le S3 and Le Pro3 ecophones or Super4 X43 Pro ecotv gets you 3 months of DIRECTV Now for free, while the purchase of a Super4 X55 or Super4 X65 ecotv will get you six months of service. For a full year of DIRECTV Now for free, you will need to pony up for LeEco’s new uMax8 ecotv.

AT&T first announced providing three new options for streaming DIRECTV video content in March. DIRECTV Mobile and DIRECTV Preview were the other two options announced along with DIRECTV Now. DIRECTV Mobile was renamed to Fullscreen, the streaming service with made-for-digital content and a focus on mobile TV viewing which AT&T purchased in April. DIRECTV Preview has been renamed to FreeView and is an ad-supported free version of DIRECTV Now which offers new content every week.

DIRECTV Now is entering a skinny cable bundle market that is taking notice of its entrance and adapting. Earlier today, Sling TV unveiled its new cloud DVR feature promising no restriction on your recordings. DIRECTV Now is not launching with DVR functionality but reps for the company announced full DVR functionality is coming in 2017. You won’t be able to record your favorite shows in advance, but DIRECTV Now will include DIRECTV’s 72-hour rewind feature, which lets you watch any show that aired in the last 72 hours, for participating channels and shows.

AT&T already has original programming debuting for DIRECTV Now in the coming weeks. Taylor Swift Now is a thirteen-part video series offering candid, behind-the-scenes footage of Switf’s career, featuring commentary from the multi-platinum singer, which reps for AT&T promise will add more parts over time. Reese Witherspoon’s new production company, Hello Sunshine, promises to provide female-driven comedy on the new platform as well.

DIRECTV Now in the flesh

The DIRECTV Now experience on mobile and connected devices such as Amazon Fire TV Stick and Apple TV is very similar and pretty streamlined. The service offers curated lists of programs under specific themes, which AT&T reps promised will be customized as the service learns from your viewing habits. The set-top version overlays your live TV viewing with a translucent TV guide of channels and curated lists of programs by simply clicking down on the controller of your Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV controller. You can also play live TV in the background as you channel surf. Your finger is also the remote as switching through channels is as easy as swiping across either the Apple TV or Fire TV Stick remote.

For iOS and Android devices in portrait mode, a video stream plays at the top when you click on a piece of content, instead of taking you to a separate screen. You are able to either scroll through the curated lists of programs or click guide and search through a drop down menu of what’s playing currently. You can flip through channels similarly to how you can on connected devices, by swiping the screen where the video is playing to toggle through channels in alphabetical order.

While the DIRECTV Now experience is smooth, there are a few spots that need immediate improvement. You will not be able to search for content of any kind through voice search on the Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa or the Apple TV with Siri functionality, something users will surely forget when screaming into their remotes for the latest episode of Insecure on HBO.  You can not get episode information overlaid on the screen, so you have to go to a separate screen away from the stream in order to find out what the latest episode of Westworld is all about. For mobile, while you can click on content, when you select content you have searched for through the the search bar it makes the content full screen, instead of putting it in portrait mode for you to search more content.

You can get more information on DIRECTV Now here. Choose your bundle wisely.

See DIRECTV offers here

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