For the past year or so, two services, Sling TV and PlayStation Vue, have dominated the conversation amongst cord cutters, people so fed up with paying through the nose for cable or satellite TV that they've said goodbye to all that. In just a few weeks, however, AT&T-owned DirecTV will give cord cutters yet another option to choose from with a streaming service of its own called DirecTV Now.
What follows is a brief primer on what we know and don't know about this service.
What we know:
We know, for a fact, that the service is called DirecTV Now, and that it's an over-the-top streaming service. "Over-the-top" merely means all content is delivered via your internet connection without the needed for any other cable or satellite subscription. It's coming next month
We also know the service will launch next month and will carry 100 channels at a cost of $35 per month. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, still glowing from his $85 billion deal for Time Warner over the weekend, admitted as much during a media and technology conference yesterday.
As far as cold hard facts are concerned, that's all AT&T has confirmed so far.
What we don't know:
Here's where things get interesting, and what my fellow cord cutters are discussing the most.
For one, while we know that the service will carry 100 channels, we don't know what channels those are exactly. "This isn't the junk that nobody wants," Stephenson said, later describing the channels as "premium content." Variety has reported, however, that deals are in place with the likes of Disney, NBC Universal, and Viacom, which theoretically means the service would likely carry channels like ESPN, USA, and Comedy Central. AT&T declined to confirm a channel lineup when I asked.
Another thing we don't know: if that $35 price tag will be available to everybody or if that's merely a bundled price available only to AT&T's existing wireless and cable (U-verse)customers. (One of the big selling points to consumers for the AT&T-DirecTV deal was that it would lead to lower prices if you subscribed to multiple AT&T services.) At $35 for 100 channels, DirecTV would represent a better value than Sling TV, which starts at $20 per month for 25 channels, and PlayStation Vue, which starts at $40 per month for 60 channels. (And these are live channels, of course, without any sort delay: If you want to watch Monday Night Raw on PlayStation Vue you're looking at an 8pm USA Network appointment.) Both Sling TV and PlayStation Vue include vital channels like ESPN and the ability to add HBO as an additional option, so I'd expect much the same from DirecTV Now.
We also don't know what, if any, bells and whistles DirecTV Now will come with. For example, PlayStation Vue is a little more expensive than Sling TV, but PlayStation Vue also includes a cloud-based DVR, meaning you can record your favorite shows to watch them later. (To be fair, Sling TV has limited on-demand programming, but its selection isn't the best in my experience.) Will DirecTV Now offer the same capability? Just another unanswered question at the moment.
The last big unknown is device support. While we can assume DirecTV Now will support all the usual suspects like Android, iOS, and Amazon's Fire TV, we don't know for sure. Considering Randall Stephenson has stressed that DirecTV Now is aimed at the 20 million US households that don't currently have cable or satellite, he has every motivations to support as many devices as possible.
For now, though, it's a case of hurry up and wait, with a skeleton website for DirecTV Now offering the ability to sign up for an email newsletter—or "the deets," as the not out-of-touch-at-all behemoth puts it.
Update, October 27 at 12:30pm ET: After this story was published the morning of October 27 the website for DirecTV Now was briefly updated, offering a few more details of the service. (The updated website was quickly taken down but I've embedded some screenshots below.) For one, the website specifically mentions Apple TV and Fire TV (Amazon's streaming box) as being supported, with Chromecast and Fire TV Stick support to follow. The updated website noted that customers would be able to add HBO and Cinemax to their subscription (I also noticed a Nickelodeon logo on one of the pages), and that there are "no annual contracts." A free seven-day trial, which is part for the course for these streaming services, will also be offered, according to the now-taken down website.