Update: DirecTV Now isn't the only new live TV streaming service on the block – YouTube TV should be here before you know it.
AT&T is finally getting into the alternative TV market, and has announced DirecTV Now, a cord-cutting service that offers 60 to 120-plus channels for as little as $35 per month. Considering the competition that’s out there at the moment, that’s not a bad price at all.
It’s ironic, really, that DirecTV Now is being released by AT&T – a bread and butter cable company that said a few years ago that cord cutters would never control the market. But besides being somewhat a somewhat comical twist of fate, AT&T’s switcheroo does highlight one thing: the world’s turning to streaming, and even the big cable companies can no longer ignore that.
Of course, DirecTV Now isn’t the only one on the market. Its main competition – Sling TV and PlayStation Vue – are both already on the market and offer similar deals. Heck, even YouTube is getting into the game with YouTube TV. So, which one’s best? And, more importantly, are any of them worth cutting the cord for?
We’ll take a look at the differences between the big three cord-cutters a little later. But first, let’s talk about what exactly DirecTV Now has to offer.
DirecTV Now bundles
There are a total of four different bundles you can subscribe to with DirecTV Now, and you’ll pick the bundle you want based on the channels you think you’ll watch. Here’s a quick rundown of the different bundles on offer:
(Editor's Note: the Go Big package is actually on offer right now for $35 per month – although that’s for an unspecified limited time only, after which it will go up to $60.)
We’re not going to list each and every channel here, but we will tell you that most people will be fine with the Live a Little package. All four of the packages offer local live channels if you live in a major city where the channel is operated by the network. The slightly larger Just Right bundle brings in channels like CNBC World, Comedy TV and Cooking Channel. The next step up, called Go Big, offers BBC World News and Destination America, while it’s only with the fourth and most expensive package that you’ll get Boomerang and El Ray. For a full list of the channels you’ll get with each package, you can .
Almost all of the channels allow you to watch TV live, while most of them also let you watch on demand, which is very helpful for those of us with busy schedules and a nice perk to anyone planning on supplementing this service with something like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video.
There are a few downsides to the service, however, including some downsides to the channel lineups. Most notable is the fact that none of the packages offer CBS or CBS-owned channels like The CW, so don’t expect to be able to watch The Big Bang Theory, Flash, or Jane The Virgin with these channels.
DirecTV Now vs. Sling TV vs. PlayStation Vue
Enough about what DirecTV Now has to offer – what about how it compares to the competition?
On one hand you’ve got Sling TV. It’s been around for a few years now, and has been growing with new channels every few months or so. On the other, PlayStation Vue is also a pretty serious contender, picking up DirecTV’s slack by offering CBS in a number of major cities.
Here’s a rundown of which service is best and for what:
The best service for the most channels
- For a full channel list for PlayStation Vue .
- For a full channel list for Sling TV, .
- Fora full channel list for DirecTV, .
As mentioned, the base package for the new DirecTV offers a total of 60+ channels for only $35 per month. That’s a pretty darn good price, especially against the competition. PlayStation Vue also offers four tiers of channels, however they’re a little more expensive than DirecTV’s lineup.
PlayStation Vue has four tiered categories – Access ($40 per month, 45+ channels), Core ($45 per month, 60+ channels), Elite ($55 per month, 90+ channels) and Ultra ($75 per month, 90+ channels, plus HBO and Showtime).
As you can see, the base package of PlayStation Vue is a good $5 more expensive than DirecTV with 15 channels less. Despite that, if you watch a lot of TV on CBS or CBS-owned channels, then PlayStation Vue is actually your only choice – neither Sling nor DirecTV offers CBS.
Sling TV is a little different than DirecTV and PlayStation Vue – it offers two base packages, called “Orange” or “Blue.” Orange offers 30+ channels for $20 per month, Blue offers 40+ channels for $25, and Orange+Blue offers all of the channels between the two packages.
On top of that, customers can pay $5 for add-on packages, such as “Sport Extra,” which offers a range of sports channels. Customers can also pay a little extra ($15 per month) for HBO.
Conclusion: All things considered, DirecTV Now actually seems like a pretty sweet deal. If you get all the channels you need from Sling TV, then it’s worth choosing Sling over the others to save a few bucks, but if not, DirecTV Now is a nice choice.
The best service for video quality
Got a fancy new 4K TV? Unfortunately, none of the services on offer officially support 4K resolution just yet, although that’s only partly those services’ fault – TV channels have to make the switch to 4K first. All of the services offer streaming of 1080p, which is pretty good, however that resolution will downscale depending on your internet quality.
The best service for compatible devices
All of the services are billed as allowing customers to watch their favorite TV shows on all of their platforms. But will you truly be able to watch on every device you want to?
DirecTV Now is compatible with a number of devices, but there are some gaping holes in that compatibility list. While the service works with the Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, it does not work with Roku – however it says Roku compatibility is coming in 2017. DirecTV is also compatible with Google Cast, Cast-enabled LeEco TVs, and the major internet browsers. Last but not least, you’ll be able to watch TV on your Android devices, and iOS is coming in 2017.
Last but not least is PlayStation Vue, which is also compatible with pretty much all major devices. That includes iOS, Android, Apple TV, Roku, PlayStation, PS4, and most major internet browsers.
The best service for multiple streams
This one’s pretty straightforward – not all services let you watch on unlimited devices at the same time. DirecTV Now clearly loses this one, only allowing for 2 streams at a time. Interestingly enough, Sling offers a different number of streams depending on the package – Orange offers 1 and Blue offers 3.
But it's PlayStation Vue that wins this category hands down, offering 5 concurrent streams at a time.
Which one should you get? It depends!
So which service is best? Well, it’s complicated. For those willing to deal with only streaming on two devices at a time, DirecTV actually seems to take the cake by offering the most channels for the price.
Sling TV is better for those who only really need a few specific channels and want to save a few dollars, while PlayStation Vue is great for families who need multiple streams or those who watch a lot of CBS.
Ready to join the 400,000 other subscribers on DirecTV Now? Head on over to AT&T's website to sign up for a free 7-day trial.