DirecTV Now Review + Free Apple TV or Fire TV Stick Promotions

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dtvnow0Attention cord-cutters! DirecTV has gone live with their new streaming TV service called DirecTV Now. This join existing competitors Sling TV and Playstation VUE. Here’a an image that breaks down the $35/$50/$60/$70 per month tiers (click to enlarge). HBO and Cinemax can be added on for $5 a month each. Below are a list of current promotions as well as brief pros and cons.

dtvnowplans

Current Promotions.

  • Free 7-day trial for everyone. Credit card is required, they will auto-bill you at the end of the 7 days.
  • “Go Big” Package is $35 a month for a limited time. Regular price is $60 a month. Here is their exact wording on future pricing: “Customers who sign up for this offer will continue to enjoy this special price for as long as you keep the package, subject only to future reasonable programming price increases applicable to all packages.”
  • Free 4th-gen Apple TV ($149 retail) with 3 months pre-paid of any DIRECTV NOW package. You’d basically be paying $105 for 3 months of service and an Apple TV.
  • Free Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa ($40 retail) with 1 month pre-paid of any DIRECTV NOW package.

Pros.

  • Competitive price, more niche channels. The channel line-up does differ from Sling and VUE – check this CNET table for a specific network. DirecTV in general includes more niche channels in its packages.
  • Simplicity. No installation fees, satellite dishes, annual contracts or credit checks required.
  • Cancel anytime. You can cancel or pause your subscription online without calling in.
  • AT&T Wireless customers get free app streaming that won’t use up mobile data limits. This is a handy feature if you have AT&T service already, but such favorable treatment is not good for net neutrality.

Cons.

  • Limited local network broadcasts. Depending on where you live, you may not get live local network broadcasts from ABC, FOX, or NBC. However, you can see some network shows on demand the next day. CBS is not included anywhere.
  • No DVR capabilities. You can’t pause live TV or record anything. DVR features are supposed to arrive “sometime in 2017”. To mitigate this, DirecTV has added in video on demand from many networks after a 72-hour delay. In other words, you can still watch a bunch of shows later on at your convenience, but not everything.
  • Sling TV has a basic $20 a month level. Sling TV’s lowest tier includes 30 of the more popular cable networks (ESPN, CNN, TNT, TBS, Food Network, etc) but is only $20 a month. The lowest tier for DirecTV Now is $35 a month.
  • DirecTV Now limits you to two simultaneous streams on different devices (ex. TV + iPad). Sling and Playstation limit you to three simultaneous streams. This may or may not affect you.

Compatibility. Works with the following for now. Notably, Roku boxes and Samsung Smart TVs are not yet compatible.

  • Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick
  • Android mobile devices and tablets
  • iPhone, iPad and Apple TV
  • Chromecast (Android at launch; iOS in 2017)
  • Google Cast-enabled LeEco ecotvs and VIZIO SmartCast Displays
  • Internet Explorer, Chrome and Safari web browsers

Commentary. A little preview of the future. DirecTV differentiates itself with volume, offering more channels than streaming competitors. The current promotions basically get you a free streaming unit from either Apple or Amazon. The free data allotment for AT&T customers is unique and ideal for those who watch TV away from WiFi. (AT&T now owns DirecTV.) If I’m going to cut the cord, $35 a month is probably close to the max I’d pay for live content given I’m likely also paying for NetFlix. Personally, the lack of DVR capabilities continues to be a deal-breaker for me.

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Comments

  1. I haven’t had cable for a few years now. I recently tried SlingTV during their Halloween 3 day free trial. It didn’t work very well. Lots of pausing and seeming lockups on programs. I’d have to exit and go back in (this was on my Roku 2). And once you get used to binge watching on your own schedule without commercials, it is really hard to get used to not being able to watch what you want, when you want. And this is coming from someone that actually pays for Hulu and endures commercials. I think I’ll be sticking with Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu.

  2. What these companies don’t get is why people are cutting the cord. Changing the delivery method won’t make me to switch back to whatever this is. The problem is not the pricing but the content. I am willing to pay $35 for the channels I want not the channels they sell. $35 / month for a package where I need only 6 channels? I need to be able to hand pick every channel. I don’t want Hallmark, A&E, CMT, TCM, TLC and BET and etc.
    What DirectTV Now is doing is selling me exact same crap that I can get with cable box for $5 cheaper.
    This deal is not for cord cutters, it’s for cable box haters.

  3. The Frugal Millionaire says:

    I agree. I probably only watch 20 channels per month. But, the only provider that offers those channels is my beloved cable company (Comcast), who makes me pay for about 120 channels to get my preferred 20. Hey Comcast, nobody in my household watches ESPN, and nobody here speaks Spanish, either; so we’re tired of paying for those channels. I’m just waiting for the day when somebody intelligent comes along with a cafeteria style menu that lets you completely customize your channel/network choices. Something like, “Pick all the channels you want for $1 each per month”. Sign me up!

  4. As much as I’d like to blame the cable companies for this, I don’t think it is their fault. My understanding is that all these channels that everyone says they don’t want (but somebody must want, or they wouldn’t exist) are owned by the big media companies, who also own those channels that people DO want. Those companies require the cable companies to carry (and pay for) those niche channels if they want to carry the popular ones. I also believe that many of these companies also require certain channels to be carried on the main tiers of packages, which is why I don’t think The Frugal Millionaire can get a package that doesn’t include ESPN, unless you go to the bare bones “local channels only” type package.

    • Here’s what I have… let’s say Comcast now pays $3 per subscriber for ESPN alone. ESPN knows that not everyone will watch their stuff, they’ve already taken that into account when negotiating that $3 per month. So if you want ESPN to sell you access a la carte, now you’d probably have to pay something like $10 a month. Consider that if you only watch say 10 channels and want to buy it a la carte, it may end up costing you nearly as much as the big bundle.

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