AT&T WatchTV Arrives: What $15 Gets You

Staff Writer
Updated

AT&T's WatchTV service, plans for which leaked during the AT&T and Time Warner merger hearings, is finally live. And while the $15 per month service is the cheapest paid live TV service out there, you really get what you pay for.

For starters, WatchTV's 30-plus channel lineup could be described as rather paltry or as "just enough," depending on your needs. Also, there's no DVR feature for watching shows on your own schedule, so you're relying on its on-demand video library if you need to catch up. Still, WatchTV is $10 less than Sling TV's cheapest packages (and it's now included as part of AT&T's unlimited data plans for wireless customers). So how does AT&T WatchTV stack up? 

MORE: Hulu Live vs. YouTube TV vs. Sling vs. Vue vs. DirecTV Now: Face-Off!

WatchTV vs The Rest


AT&T WatchTV
Philo
Hulu with Live TV
YouTube TV
DirecTV NOW
PlayStation Vue
Sling TV
Starting Price (per month)  
$15 (free for AT&T Unlimited &More subscribers)
$16
$40
$40
$35
$40
$25
Channels (in entry-level package)
31
40
More than 50
More than 50 plus YouTube Red Originals
More than 60
More than 45
32
DVR
No
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
$5 extra
On-Demand
Yes
No
Yes
YesYes
Yes
Yes
Device Support
Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android, Chromecast, Chrome browser, iOS, Samsung Smart TVs (2017, 2018 models) and Safari browser.
Roku, iOS, Android and web browsers. Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, Android, Apple TV, Chromecast, Computers, iOS, LG Smart TVs, Nintendo Switch, Roku, Xbox One, Xbox 360,
Android, Apple TV, Chromecast & Chromecast-enabled TVs, Computers, iOS, Roku and Xbox One and smart TVs from LG and Samsung. Apps for Sony Smart TVs coming soon. Amazon Fire, Android, Apple TV, Chromecast, Chromecast-enabled TVs, Computers, iOS, Roku
Amazon Fire, Android, Apple TV, Chromecast, Chromecast-enabled TVs, Computers, iOS, PS3, PS4, Roku
Amazon Fire, Android, Apple TV, Chromecast, Chromecast-enabled TVs, Computers, iOS, Roku, select LG and Samsung Smart TVs
Simultaneous Streams
1
3
2
32
5 (1 PS4, 1 PS3, 3 total iOS, Android and web)
1 (with Orange), 3 (with Blue)
4 (in the $40 per month Orange/Blue)

WatchTV Channels: Skinny, but not bad

Leaning heavily on Time Warner-owned channels such as CNN, TBS and TNT, this roster omits popular networks such as Bravo, ESPN and USA. WatchTV doesn't have any major broadcast networks — Sling, YouTube TV, PlayStation Vue, Hulu With Live TV and DirecTV Now (also owned by AT&T) all do.

But WatchTV packs news (CNN, BBC World News, HLN), kids programming (Boomerang and Cartoon Network), culture (Food Network, Discovery) and movies (IFC, TCM), it's possible that someone could survive with this allotment. The service even has even got channels that you might not expect to find on a cheaper bundle, such as Lifetime and Lifetime Movies, Sundance TV and Viceland.

WatchTV's 31-channel count is only 1 shy of the 32 channels in Sling's $25 Orange package, but most of the other streaming services, (even the $16 per month Philo) offer between 40 and 60 channels. AT&T says WatchTV will gain 6 more channels, which include BET, Comedy Central, MTV2 and VH1 "soon."

Special Features: Small bill, small perks

While nearly every streaming service (even the $16 per month Philo) includes a Cloud-based DVR these days, WatchTV has nothing to help you record programming. Hopefully, its video-on-demand library (AT&T claims it has 15,000 movies and shows) will include recently broadcast programming.    

Also, WatchTV only lets you watch on one device at a time. Most rival services provide two (Hulu, DirecTV Now) to five (PS Vue) simultaneous streams, though Sling only includes one in its $25 per month Orange package.

Device Availability: Missing a major player

You can get WatchTV on your TV, provided you own an Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast or a 2017 or 2018 Samsung Smart TV. It's also available on iOS, Android, Chrome and Safari.

Roku owners will notice that WatchTV is missing support for that popular platform, which all competitors support.

So, who is this for?

If you're on AT&T, this service isn't a bad alternative. It's potentially free, as AT&T is bundling WatchTV into its recently announced Unlimited & More wireless plans. Otherwise, WatchTV is probably best for those whose TV-watching needs fit its short, select list of channels, as well as those subscribers who aren't tied to specific programs, as much as those who just want something to watch.

Also, if you're a DirecTV or DirecTV Now subscriber, AT&T will likely offer this service to you, if you try to cancel your service.