DirecTV Now: Everything you need to know

how to watch nfl games online version 1505344142 directv now logo white

With subscribers increasingly growing frustrated by cable and satellite packages, a flurry of live TV streaming services have launched online in an attempt to offer a cable alternative. Dish Network was first to market with Sling TV, followed by a slew of others, including its biggest pay-TV competitor, DirecTV, which launched DirecTV Now in November of 2016.

DirecTV Now might have launched later than many of its peers, but the service has caught up quickly. It is currently one of the most popular services of its kind, even in the face of competition from Google in the form of YouTube TV and Hulu in the form of, well, Hulu with Live TV. While those services aim to provide a new way to watch live TV, DirecTV Now leans toward a more traditional feel, which seems to be working.

Is DirecTV Now right for you? We’ve got the answer to all your questions about the live TV streamer below.

What is DirecTV Now?

As mentioned, where some competitors aim to offer services that differentiate from cable or satellite, DirecTV Now very much aims to replace your cable or satellite subscription. You’ll get a ton of channels and a very similar interface, complete with the sort of programming guide you’d see on your cable box. The main difference — apart from the service existing solely online — is that there is no equipment to rent or yearly contracts to worry about.

direct tv now att streaming time warner directv

As with PlayStation Vue, when DirecTV Now first launched, many wondered how customers would respond to something that was so close to the cable and satellite services cord cutters were fleeing. Now that the service has gained a foothold, AT&T’s plan with DirecTV Now seems to be paying dividends. Unlike Dish Network, DirecTV Now is pulling in enough new customers that it is more than making up for the satellite subscribers it is losing.

Supported devices

When it comes to supported devices, DirecTV Now casts a wide net. Roku models all the way from the old Roku to the Roku Premier+ and Roku Ultra are supported, alongside the fourth-generation Apple TV and Apple TV 4K. The Amazon Fire TV is supported from the second generation on up, including the Fire TV Cube, and this goes for the Fire TV Stick and Amazon Fire TV Edition smart TVs as well. Google’s Chromecast and Chromecast TVs are supported as well, with the primary glaring omission being support for Android TV.

what is directv now devices

As you’d expect, iOS and Android devices are also supported, including support for iOS 9 and up (iPhone 5 or newer). Android devices running Android 4.4 and up are supported, and this includes Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets. For computers, Chrome 50 and up and Safari 8 and up are the supported browsers.

While that’s a lot of supported devices, as we’ll see later on, the experience isn’t the same on every device.

Features

Cloud DVRs are a big deal when it comes to streaming services, and it was an even bigger deal that DirecTV Now launched without one, when many of the service’s competitors already had their own in place. Fortunately, DirecTV Now is catching up with its own True Cloud DVR. You’ll sometimes still see this listed as being in beta, but it’s generally functional at this point (more on that in the Viewing Experience section).

As with many competitors, DirecTV Now has limits on both. You’ll get 20 hours of DVR time as part of your subscription, and anything older than 30 days will be automatically deleted. You can pause and rewind live TV, as well as restart shows in progress, but this is limited depending on the channel you’re watching and the device you’re using. The True Cloud DVR is listed as an Extra on your DirecTV Now account page, but there is currently no option to pay for more storage. We wouldn’t be surprised to see that change in the future.

what is directv now 2

When it comes to simultaneous streaming, a basic DirecTV Now plan lets you watch on up to two devices at once. You can pay $5 extra per month for an additional stream, but when competitors like PlayStation Vue offer up to five streams out of the box with no extra fees, this feels like a weak offering.

DirecTV has always had a major advantage over Dish Network for sports fans in the form of NFL Sunday Ticket, and in 2018 this feature came to DirecTV Now as well, though it is currently extremely limited. For the time being, NFL Sunday Ticket is only available in a very small number of markets: The greater Los Angeles area; Boston; Philadelphia; Phoenix, Arizona; San Antonio, Texas; Hartford, Connecticut; and Louisville, Kentucky. In order to access the feature, you’ll need to have at least the $55 per month “Just Right” plan. (More on that below.)

Channels and pricing

Keeping its theme of mimicking cable or satellite services in design, DirecTV Now offers an extensive channel count if you’re willing to pay up. The service tops out at more than 120 channels, which is more than most people will need — and that count doesn’t include the music channels cable and satellite providers use to bump their channel counts up.

Depending on where you live, you might be able to get a fair number of your local channels through DirecTV Now as well. DirecTV Now offered more local channels in our testing area than competing services. To see whether this is the case for you, DirecTV Now provides this handy tool that lets you search for your zip code to see which local channels are available in your area.

There are four base packages available, plus a Spanish language package. The Live a Little package is the cheapest at $40 per month for more than 65 channels, while Just Right is next in line at $55 per month for more than 85 channels. Go Big offers more than 105 channels for $65 per month, while the Gotta Have It package tops out at $75 per month for more than 125 channels. Finally, Todo y Más offers over 50 Spanish language channels and more than 40 English language channels for $45 per month.

The full channel lists for each package can be found below.

Live a Little, $40 per month
what is directv now channels 1 september 2018
Just Right, $55 per month
what is directv now channels 2 september 2018
Go Big, $65 per month
what is directv now channels 3 september 2018
Gotta Have It, $75 per month
what is directv now channels 4 september 2018
Todo y Más, $45 per month
what is directv now channels 5 september 2018

Add-ons

In addition, a number of add-on packages and premium channel options are available to supplement the base packages, which are listed below.

HBO $5 per month:, Includes HBO, HBO Family, HBO Latino, HBO GO access, and on-demand content.

Cinemax, $5 per month: Includes Cinemax, MAX GO access, and on-demand content.

Showtime, $8 per month: Includes Showtime, Showtime On Demand

Starz, $8 per month: Includes Starz, Starz Encore, Starz Kids & Family, Starz On Demand

DirecTV Now Deportes, $5 per month: Includes TyC Sports, Univision Deportes, Fox Deportes, ESPN Deportes

DirecTV Now Español: Includes Univision, Discovery Channel Español, Estrella TV, Cinelatino

Viewing experience

best streaming TV service

DirecTV Now boasts a pleasing user interface that works smoothly on devices like the fourth-generation Apple TV, but it suffers on older devices like the Roku 3. The service is also slow to launch on such devices, and even populating the guide can take a while at first. This seems to smooth out after you’ve been using the app for a while, but it’s something to keep in mind.

We tried DirecTV Now when it first launched, and compared to other services, the visual fidelity left something to be desired, with a soft picture and some noticeable visual artifacts. This seems to have improved over time, as the service now boasts sharp visuals across all channels, at least assuming the content was produced well in the first place. We haven’t encountered any stuttering or sudden buffering either, which was a big problem when the service first launched. This may vary in your area, depending on your internet connection, but it seems that DirecTV Now has taken some solid steps forward here.

DirecTV Now’s True Cloud DVR works especially well on an Apple TV, complete with the ability to pause and rewind shows, but the same can’t be said across all devices. While choosing shows to record and playing them back on a Roku device worked fine, channels that could be paused on the Apple TV often couldn’t on the Roku. That said, DirecTV Now still refers to the DVR as being in beta, so we hope to see this get fixed.

Our take

If you’re looking for a replacement for traditional cable or satellite TV but want the flexibility a live TV streaming service brings, DirecTV Now is a solid choice. It even seems to handle local channels better than some of the competition, especially if you don’t live in a major metropolitan.

The closest competitor when it comes to user interface and channel count is PlayStation Vue, but DirecTV Now offers more channels and a more traditional cable-style interface than even that service. DirecTV Now has some catching up to do when it comes to its DVR features, but the service has come a long way since its somewhat rocky launch, and we’re much more likely to recommend it now than we were back then.

DirecTV parent company AT&T also currently offers AT&T WatchTV, a lighter service that comes free with some AT&T wireless plans and only costs $15 per month on its own. WatchTV offers a dramatically smaller channel count, but if DirecTV Now seems like overkill, it may be worth a look.

Before making your decision, we highly recommend checking out our comprehensive live TV streaming guide that pits all the major services against each other, feature by feature. If you’re curious about DirecTV Now, a seven-day free trial is also available so you can evaluate the service without needing to pay right away.

Product Review

Simple and reliable, Apple's AirPods are among the best fully wireless earbuds

Apple’s AirPods wireless headphones have dominated the market essentially since they hit stores in December 2016. Though not without some faults, they cracked the connectivity code to rank among the best fully wireless earbuds you can…
Smart Home

Protect yourself: Here are some of the best home security systems

Looking for the best home security systems for your house? These systems offer the best mix of devices, smart features, monitoring services, and fees that you can afford (plus good customer service reports).
Movies & TV

No TV? No problem. Here's how to watch the Final Four online

Whether you want to watch the Big Dance on your phone or on your smart TV, we have the lowdown on all the ways to watch March Madness you can handle. Grab your foam finger and some nachos.
Movies & TV

Netflix confirms it won’t be a part of Apple’s new video-streaming service

Netflix has confirmed that subscribers to Apple's new video streaming service won't have the option to view Netflix content on it. Apple is set to unveil its new TV service next week.
Home Theater

Still listening on tinny, muffled TV speakers? Try one of our favorite soundbars

You no longer have to sacrifice sound for size when selecting home audio equipment. Check out our picks for the best soundbars, whether you're looking for budget options, pure power, smarts, or tons of features.
Home Theater

Here are some common AirPods problems, and how to fix them

Apple’s AirPods are among the best fully wireless earbuds we’ve seen, but they’re not perfect. If you’re having trouble, take a look at our guide to the most common problems and what you can do to fix them.
Home Theater

There isn’t a single good reason to buy Apple’s new AirPods

After nearly a three-year wait, Apple has finally announced a new version of its popular true wireless headphones, the AirPods. We had high hopes for vast improvements, but that's not what we got.
Home Theater

ESPN Plus scores the exclusive rights to UFC Pay-Per-View events

If MMA is your game, then ESPN Plus is now a very important player. The Disney-owned service locked up the exclusive rights to UFC Pay-Per-View events, a deal that will last through 2025 in the United States.
Home Theater

Dish TV customers can access up to 13 NCAA March Madness games in 4K

If you're a basketball fan looking to get your fix of NCAA Championship action in 4K, Dish TV will be airing up to 13 of the tournament games in the ultra high-def format, starting on Tuesday.
Home Theater

Cheer for your favorite NCAA team and Xfinity will respond with matching lights

Screaming at your favorite team just became a lot more rewarding thanks to Comcast's Xfinity voice remote and some special NCAA commands that set your smart lightbulbs to your favorite team's colors.
Deals

Amazon slashes prices on UE Boom and MegaBoom 3 Bluetooth speakers

With just the right combination of great sound, a rugged design, and an overall sleek aesthetic, the UE MegaBoom 3 is our favorite Bluetooth speaker. And Amazon is offering a rare discount on it right now.
Movies & TV

Stranger Things season 3 is coming! Here’s everything we know so far

With a sophomore season as strong as its first, Stranger Things is now moving on to season 3. Here's everything we've learned so far about the Netflix series' upcoming third season, premiering in July 2019.
Home Theater

Here’s what’s new on HBO and what’s leaving in April 2019

Whether you're a cable lifer or a staunch cord cutter, there's never been a better time to get down with premium TV. April 2019 brings Game of Thrones season 8, BlacKkKlansman, and Crazy Rich Asians to HBO.
Home Theater

Tipping point? Streaming subscribers outnumbered cable in 2018 for first time

2018 was a very good year for the entertainment business as a whole, but it was especially good for streaming companies like Netflix and Amazon, says a new report by the Motion Picture Association of America.