DIRECTV NOW Review - Live TV Streaming Service

DIRECTV NOW

DIRECTV NOW is a live TV streaming service with 2 plans. The $50/month PLUS plan includes HBO, local channels, and 18 of the top 35 cable channels. The $70/month MAX plan adds Cinemax, your local RSN, and College Sports Networks like BTN and SEC Network.

Both plans also include their 20 Hour True Cloud DVR and the ability to stream across a wide variety of devices like Apple TV, Roku, Fire TV, Chromecast, iOS, Android, and your Computer.

Previously, the service offered the four most comprehensive plans: Live a Little ($50), Just Right ($65), Go Big ($75), Gotta Have It ($85). All plans included local channels and 34 of the top 35 cable channels, higher priced plans included your local RSN and additional sports channels.

The plans have been discontinued and will be continued to offered to existing users with a $10 price hike.

$50 PLUS

  • 40 Channels
  • Local Channels
  • 18 of Top 35 Cable Channels
  • Sports Channels
    • Major Channels: 6
Sign up Now
directvnow.com

$70 MAX

  • 50 Channels
  • Local Channels
  • 18 of Top 35 Cable Channels
  • Sports Channels
    • Major Channels: 7
    • Includes RSNs
    • College Networks: 5
Sign up Now
directvnow.com

Want a Cheaper Option?

Philo

If you want to save, Philo is a more affordable plan that includes top entertainment channels like A&E, AMC, BET, HGTV, MTV, Discovery, Comedy Central, & Nickelodeon.

 

Features

Cloud DVR

20 hrs

2 Device Streams

Watch on up to 2 devices at the same time.

On Demand

Most channels have on demand content.

TV Everywhere Apps

App logins provided for up to 37 apps.

Parental Controls

Only available on Apple TV & iOS

Tech Specs

HD Video

720p / 1080p
60 fps
Stereo / Surround

Streaming Reliability

Average

On Demand Reliability

Below Average

Live Delay

20 seconds

Channel Switching

2.5 seconds

Optional Add-Ons

Cinemax

$11

HBO

$15

Legacy Subscribers

Showtime

$11

Starz

$11

7-Day Free Trial

DIRECTV NOW offers a 7-day free trial. Your subscription is month-to-month and you can cancel at any time.

Review

We tested DIRECTV NOW and five other live TV streaming services for more than 100 hours. DIRECTV NOW is compatible with Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, and Roku TV devices; Android, iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch mobile devices; and computer browsers.

User Experience

  • Channel guide is very familiar to cable and satellite TV services.
  • Recently watched shows and favorites are easily accessible.
  • Search finds content well, but doesn’t highlight live or on demand content very well. Too many future shows (which cannot be viewed, scheduled, or recorded) appear in search results.

Home Screen

On phone and tablet devices, the DIRECTV NOW app’s home screen has a live stream of your most recently watched channel, a list of recently viewed shows, your favorite shows “watchlist”, and other popular live shows.

On television devices, the DIRECTV NOW app launches to your most recently watched channel. A list of popular live shows is accessible by swiping up on your remote.

TV Guide

The DIRECTV NOW standard channel guide lists all available channels alphabetically. You can also limit the guide to show only your favorite channels.

Shows that offer 72-Hour Rewind have an ↩ icon next to the title.

Search

DIRECTV NOW allows you to search by video title or channel name. Search results are separated into “From the Guide,” “On Demand,” and “Channels” sections.

Search results could be improved. Upcoming episodes make up most of the search results, so it’s hard to access shows you can watch right now.

Show Details

The show details page displays a poster image for the current item, as well as other episodes available on demand.

Playback

Although you can briefly pause live TV, you cannot rewind or fast-forward live TV content.

For certain on demand shows, you can skip forward/backwards by 15-second increments or fast-forward to later portions of the show.


Features

20 hrs Cloud DVR

DIRECTV NOW includes a cloud DVR that can store 20 hours of recording time for 30 days — which is less than most services. You can record individual episodes, all new episodes, or all episodes of a series. The recording starts when you hit record, not when you tuned in.

Unlike some services, you can skip commercials on recorded shows by either fast forwarding or skipping ahead 15 seconds.

You can start watching recorded content while the the show is still recording. There is no way to pad recordings, so make sure you extend your recordings to include the next episode so you don't miss anything.

You will be able to upgrade to 100 hours of recording time for $10/mo. later this year.

Very Finicky On Demand

Almost all of the channels offer on demand content, with just a few exceptions (like Animal Planet) having no VOD content.

You won’t be able to fast-forward through on demand content, but you can continue watching where you left off.

We had lots of playback issues with DIRECTV NOW’s on demand content: videos would often fail to load or freeze during playback. It seems to have improved a bit with their latest app update.

2 streams Simultaneous Viewing

This service allows for two simultaneous streams (among TV devices, smartphones, tablets, and computers).

For an additional $5 / month, you can increase the maximum simultaneous streams to 3 devices.

37 apps TV Everywhere

Similar to traditional cable and satellite subscriptions, DIRECTV NOW includes “TV Everywhere” logins for various channels’ apps (including CNBC, Disney XD, WatchESPN, Fox Now, NBC, and USA).

All TV Everywhere Apps

Mind the Kids No Parental Controls

There are no parental controls for DIRECTV NOW. Only Hulu and Sling have parental controls.


DIRECTV NOW offers two unique features: "72-Hour Rewind" and "Channel Surfing".

72-Hour Rewind

72-Hour Rewind allows you to access shows that aired in the last 72 hours. It is available on over 30 channels (mostly cable networks). However, it has similar restrictions as on demand content (you cannot rewind or fast-forward).

Channel Surfing

Channel Surfing allows you to flip through channels with your remote. DIRECTV NOW is the only streaming service that made it easy to change channels like you are watching traditional cable/satellite TV. It takes about 2.5 seconds to switch channels, which is slightly better than average.


Tech Specs

  • High definition video is similar to other streaming services.
  • Live streaming works fine, but on demand content can have trouble loading.
  • Live content is about 20 seconds behind cable TV, which is faster than half of the other services.

1080p / 60 FPS HD Video

Most video streams are 1080p 60 fps, which is the best to expect with live TV streaming services. Some channels like ESPN stream at 720p due to the max resolution of the source.

When you are streaming on your smartphone or tablet, streams are limited to 480p (standard definition) on cellular and 720p on Wi-Fi. Since the device sizes are relatively small, the stream quality still looks good.

To reduce playback interruptions, DIRECTV NOW will adapt the stream quality to match your network connection.

Average Connection Reliability

DIRECTV NOW’s live stream stability has improved since their initial launch. While we occasionally had issues starting a stream, once a channel started streaming there was rarely an interruption.

Their on demand content still has playback problems. On demand video would sometimes freeze (with just audio playing) until stopping and re-playing the video.

Stereo/Surround Audio

Most live, DVR, and on demand content has Dolby Digital 5.1 on Amazon Fire and Apple TV devices. On other devices, most live TV content has standard stereo audio.

20 SECS Live Delay

Live content is about 20 seconds behind cable TV, which is faster than half of the other services.

2.5 SECS Channel Switching

It takes about 2.5 seconds to switch between channels, which is faster than half of the other services.


Devices and Apps

Device Compatibility

DIRECTV NOW is compatible with Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Roku, Web Browser, iPhone/iPad, and Android Phone/Tablet.
All Compatible Devices

DIRECTV NOW is not compatible with Android TV, PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo.

TV App

On television devices, the DIRECTV NOW app launches to your most recently watched channel. Similar to the DIRECTV NOW mobile apps, you can access a channel guide, search, and your library of shows recorded to your DVR.

You can also easily flip between channels by swiping left or right—a feature other services don’t have.

Phone & Tablet Apps

On phone and tablet devices, the DIRECTV NOW app’s home screen has a live stream of your most recently watched channel, list of popular live shows, list of recently viewed shows, and access to your library of recorded shows.

The app lets surf between channels by just swiping left or right, taking about 2.5 seconds for the next channel to load.

The DIRECTV NOW standard channel guide lists all available channels alphabetically. You can also limit the guide to show only your favorite channels.

Computer

You can watch DIRECTV NOW on Mac or Windows computers, with Chrome or Safari. You can watch live programming in PIP while browsing shows.


Channels

Local Channels

All DIRECTV NOW plans offer the same set of local channels, including CBS, NBC, FOX, ABC, Telemundo, and Univision.

“PLUS” “MAX”
Free Trial Free Trial
$50 $70
ABC
CBS
Fox
NBC
Telemundo
The CW
Univision - -

Live local channels are available only in certain markets. However, on demand content is available in all areas the following day.

Local Channel Restrictions

You can only access local channels and regional sports networks when you are in your home market. For example, if you live in San Francisco and travel to New York, you will not be able to stream any local channels or RSNs.

Popular Local Markets

These popular markets have live local channels on DIRECTV NOW.

For complete local availability, check the DIRECTV NOW Channel Lookup tool.

Top Cable Channels

DIRECTV NOW offers the least comprehensive selection of top cable channels. The PLUS plan offers 18 of top 35 cable channels.

The top 35 cable channels are listed below. For a list of channels in each tier, look at DIRECTV NOW’s full channel lineup.

“PLUS” “MAX”
Free Trial Free Trial
$50 $70
A&E - -
AMC - -
BET - -
Bravo
Cartoon Network
CNN
Comedy Central - -
Discovery - -
Disney Channel
Disney Junior
E!
ESPN
Food Network - -
Fox News
Freeform
FX
FXX
Hallmark
HGTV - -
History - -
Investigation Discovery - -
Lifetime - -
MSNBC
MTV - -
Nickelodeon - -
Paramount Network - -
Syfy
TBS
TLC - -
TNT
Travel Channel - -
truTV
USA Network
VH1 - -
WE tv - -

Sports Channels

National Sports Channels

On the base tier, DIRECTV NOW includes national sports channels like ESPN, FS1, NBCSN, TBS, and TNT.

“PLUS” “MAX”
Free Trial Free Trial
$50 $70
ESPN
ESPN2
Fox Sports 1
Fox Sports 2 -
NBC Sports Network
TBS
TNT

Regional Sports Networks (RSNs)

You will need to upgrade to at least the $70 MAX plan to get access to regional sports networks (RSNs), which are generally from Fox and NBC/Comcast.

Besides fuboTV, they are the only other service to offer MSG & MSG+ for New York Knicks, New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders and Buffalo Sabres games.

“PLUS” “MAX”
Free Trial Free Trial
$50 $70
Altitude - -
AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh - -
AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain - -
AT&T SportsNet Southwest - -
Fox Sports Arizona -
Fox Sports Carolinas - -
Fox Sports Detroit -
Fox Sports Florida -
Fox Sports Indiana - -
Fox Sports Kansas City - -
Fox Sports Midwest -
Fox Sports New Orleans - -
Fox Sports North -
Fox Sports Ohio -
Fox Sports Oklahoma -
Fox Sports Prime Ticket -
Fox Sports San Diego -
Fox Sports South -
Fox Sports Southeast -
Fox Sports Southwest -
Fox Sports Sun -
Fox Sports Tennessee - -
Fox Sports West -
Fox Sports Wisconsin -
LA FC Sports Network - -
Longhorn Network -
MASN - -
MASN2 - -
MSG -
MSG+ -
NBC Sports Bay Area -
NBC Sports Boston -
NBC Sports California -
NBC Sports Chicago -
NBC Sports Northwest - -
NBC Sports Philadelphia - -
NBC Sports Philadelphia+ - -
NBC Sports Washington -
NBC Sports Washington+ - -
NESN - -
Orlando City SC Sports Network - -
Root Sports Northwest - -
Seattle Sounders Sports Network - -
Spectrum SportsNet - -
Spectrum SportsNet LA - -
SportsNet NY -
SportsTime Ohio -
YES Network -

You should check the DIRECTV NOW RSN lookup tool before subscribing to make sure it has the regional networks you need.

Pro Sports

Unlike DIRECTV's satellite service, the DIRECTV NOW streaming service does not offer pro sports networks including NFL Network, NFL Sunday Ticket, or RedZone Channel.

“PLUS” “MAX”
Free Trial Free Trial
$50 $70
MLB Network - -
NBA TV - -
NFL Network - -
NFL RedZone - -
NHL Network - -

College Sports

Big Ten Network, ESPNU, and SEC Network are available on the $70 DIRECTV NOW MAX plan. DIRECTV NOW does not offer Pac-12 Network.

“PLUS” “MAX”
Free Trial Free Trial
$50 $70
ACC Network - -
ACC Network Extra - -
Big Ten Network -
CBS Sports Network -
ESPNU -
Fox College Sports - -
Longhorn Network -
Pac-12 Network - -
SEC Network -

Other Sports Channels

ESPNEWS, Golf Channel, and the Olympic Channel are available on the $70 DIRECTV NOW MAX plan.

“PLUS” “MAX”
Free Trial Free Trial
$50 $70
beIN Sports - -
Eleven Sports - -
ESPNEWS -
Fox Soccer Plus - -
Golf Channel -
Olympic Channel -
Tennis Channel - -

Premium Channels

While HBO is included in both plans, Cinemax is included in the DIRECTV NOW MAX plan. You can add Showtime ($11) and Starz ($11) to either plan.

“PLUS” “MAX”
Free Trial Free Trial
$50 $70
Cinemax -
EPIX - -
HBO
Showtime - -
Starz - -

The Streamable Pages