Since it derives from one of the titans of traditional satellite TV, DirecTV Now is likely one of the main online TV services that prospective cord-cutters are considering. But is that name-recognition going to pull them down the wrong path in a market that's now crowded with alternatives?
All reviews panned DirecTV Now for its lack of a DVR, but that will soon be remedied. While some critics think the product has improved since its rocky launch, most point out that it needs to fill gaps in its on-demand content. This issue aside, do the critics think DirecTV Now is worth buying?
Over a span of two reviews (First; Second), Tom's Guide editor Marshall Honorof explained that DirecTV Now's biggest issue is its inconsistent quality. While he encountered fewer errors in his follow-up review, there were still too many to find the service worth recommending.
"The channel selection is both broad and deep, the price is fair (at the higher tiers, anyway), and the navigation is admirably straightforward."
"Fortunately, DirecTV Now does offer some on-demand content."
"Unfortunately, it's handled very poorly. Some channels offer it; some don't. You can get a handful of episodes from Fox, for example, but nothing from ABC. Nickelodeon has a few episodes available to stream, but Disney doesn't."
"Some live channels stuttered every few seconds, while on-demand content frequently stopped to buffer, even on a rock-solid Ethernet connection. DirecTV Now also had trouble maintaining HD resolutions." [from the follow-up review]
"DirecTV Now has an enormous problem: It doesn't offer any DVR capabilities. The company does plan to add this option sometime next year, but for the moment, unless you're an expert screen-capture software wrangler, and have all the time in the world, you won't be able to record anything to watch later."
Gizmodo Reviews Editor Alex Cranz didn't mince words in her review, which is titled "DirecTV Now Is Just Another Failed Attempt at Streaming Live TV."
"In testing, DirecTV streamed just fine to my laptop,"
"but when I tried to cast the content from my laptop to my TV it choked"
“We’re here to play,” is what they want to say. Unfortunately “we’re here to ruin your night of TV” is all I, and many frustrated users, have heard.
"If you haven’t cut the cord don’t let DirecTV be the service to entice you, and if you have cut the cord and need a good live TV streaming service then run towards Sony’s inviting embrace."
In a review updated in the summer of 2017, Jared Newman at TechHive explained that DirecTV Now is a dish best served to AT&T subscribers.
"DirecTV Now’s strongest feature is video quality. The service is consistently crisp at 720p for live broadcasts, with 60 frames per second video on every sports, news, talk, and reality TV show I tested."
"AT&T has also eliminated the glitches that dragged down the initial launch. User complaints seem to have died off, and I’m no longer seeing the error codes that once prevented me from getting through on-demand episodes."
"DirecTV Now has one glaring omission: There's no way to record shows for later. That might've been excusable last year when DVR was the exception, not the rule, in streaming bundles, but today DirecTV Now is the only streaming bundle that lacks a DVR feature."
"Navigation, for instance, is fraught with contradictions and redundancies. To see the main program menu, you must press or swipe up. But to scroll through that menu, you must change direction and press or swipe down. If you press or swipe down while watching a video, you'll get a different and altogether less useful menu, whose only unique function is access to the app's settings."
While Cnet's David Katzmaier started his review raving about DirecTV Now's amazing offer of 100 channels for $35 per month, he later explains that this price was an introductory offer. Katzmaier also seems to have gotten the best streaming quality experience of the reviewers.
"While DirecTV Now has nixed its original promo rate of $35 per month for 100 channels, it’s sweetened the deal for AT&T wireless subscribers with streaming TV plans starting at just $10 per month when bundled with an unlimited data plan."
"Another big deal is the ability to add HBO or Cinemax for just $5 extra (each) to any package. That's a substantial discount ($10) off the normal premium channel rate."
"Unlike a service like HBO Go however, not every episode of every HBO series is included on-demand."
"There's no DVR (yet) so you can't record programs to watch later or skip commercials. You'll have to depend on the service's on-demand offerings for non-Live shows, and while DirecTV claims they're substantial, they're not comprehensive."
In his hands-on review, Engadget senior editor Devindra Hardawar appreciated DirecTV Now's image quality, but noted that DirecTV Now doesn't add anything novel to the market.
This was already a concern back when Sling TV and PlayStation Vue were its only competitors, but the recent additions of YouTube TV and Hulu with Live TV make this an even more pressing concern. He even points out the lack of Roku support.
"And it won't count DirecTV Now streams against AT&T wireless customers' data caps,"
"It appears that DirecTV Now also has more on-demand offerings than Sling, at least based on what I've seen available on CNN, HGTV and FX."
"Like the competition, it'll let you stream live TV and on-demand content across a wide variety of devices -- all you need is an internet connection. But right now, on the day of DirecTV Now's launch, that's pretty much all it does."