DirecTV offers a whopping five subscription packages to choose from, the most of any streaming service we tested. The least expensive gets you 65+ live channels, and the most expensive gets you 125+ live channels. A Spanish language package is also available. If live TV is important to you this service is ideal, but even the cheapest DirecTV plan is more expensive than any other website we tested by far.
DirecTV does have some avenues you can pursue if you're looking to save money. For instance, you could get a discount if you have a qualifying AT&T unlimited plan. During testing, DirecTV was even running a promotion where you could get your first three months for $10 per month; however, the price did increase to at least $35 per month after that. When we canceled our testing subscription we were also offered a discount as incentive for sticking with the company.
Adding on certain channels also costs extra, like HBO and Cinemax. Regardless which plan you pick, you also get 20 hours of DVR cloud space to record and save your favorite shows. We even got prompts for a free Roku streaming stick or free Apple 4K TV if we prepaid for three months of service, something none of the other streaming websites we tested offered.
We signed up for the package with the most channels for testing and soon realized this is a lot more like cable TV than, say, Netflix. A TV show automatically plays at the top of the screen and you can watch a lot of TV shows from a ton of different cable networks: TNT, Bravo, CNN, NBC and FOX, just to name a few. Similar to Amazon Prime Video, the video control buttons are large and intrusive when you move your cursor while you’re watching a show. The controls are too dark, restrict your view and are really annoying. That being said, there is a nifty button that lets you skip forward or backward 15 seconds in your show.
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There is a mobile app for watching your shows on the go that is cohesive and easy to use, but we’ll admit no matter the platform it was hard to find ongoing live TV to watch, as titles aren’t sorted that way. Instead, you have to search by channel and go from there. This is the only streaming service where you can get ESPN, so sports fans will love this option. There are also a lot of commercials, making it almost comparable to traditional TV. As one of our testers put it, “Ads, blegh.”
Only three of the six testers who used streaming services were able to log in to DirecTV NOW, an issue we were never able to resolve even though they were using the correct login and password. Of the testers who could access the account, one lamented the service seemed to be lacking in older content. Another didn't like that content continues to play in a banner when you exit out to search for something else to watch. There are no parental controls, so your kids have access to everything you do. There also doesn’t appear to be a recommendation algorithm; shows and movies are displayed because they’re currently playing, trending or featured, not because you’re likely to enjoy them. For that, this service received a D for ease of use. Essentially, DirecTV NOW is a streaming service that’s just like traditional cable.