After much anticipation, AT&T on Monday unveiled its long-rumored internet TV service, DirecTV Now. Like rivals Sling TV and PlayStation Vue, DirecTV Now will provide streaming of skinny bundle channel packages for various monthly prices. With the launch date of November 30 just a day away, what can potential customers expect from the service?
While the unveiling event made the service seem like a groundbreaking service like nothing ever seen, the truth is that it's pretty similar to its competitors. But that being said, it still isn't the cord cutting savior the proponents make it out to be, as there are a handful of shortcomings that were glossed over in the presentation.
The basic package begins at $35 per month. This is more expensive than both Sling TV's ($20/month) and PlayStation Vue's ($29.99 per month). Granted, that comes with "60+" channels, more than either Sling or Vue, which begin at 31 and 47, respectively. But for those looking for the least strain on their budget, DirecTV Now might not be an option.
But if $35 per month sounds doable for you, then you might be in luck. For a limited time after launch (though exactly how long AT&T isn't saying), DirecTV Now will offer its $60/month package, which features over 100 channels, at the $35 price point. If you get in while the getting's good, you'll be grandfathered in and keep the special deal until you choose to cancel.
However, pricing could end up becoming more of an issue as DirecTV Now comes of age. "These packages will be subject to price increases down the line," Brad Bentley, Executive Vice President of Marketing, said during the launch event. It's a statement that might raise red flags to those in the cord cutting movement, especially since DirecTV Now has already been accused of trying to use tricks from the cable TV playbook.
But unlike cable, DirecTV Now won't offer a DVR, at least not until some point next year. As Sling TV undoubtedly learned (and is in the process of rectifying), this could be a sticking point for potential subscribers. For the time being, Vue remains the only internet TV service with a fully functioning cloud DVR across all devices.
As for device availability, DirecTV Now seems to support pretty much every major device except Roku, which won't be supported until Q1 2017. So Roku users will need to stick with Sling TV or PlayStation Vue (although the Vue interface is abysmal on Roku).
You'll be able to stream on up to two devices simultaneously, more than the Sling Orange $20 package allows, but less than other Sling packages which offer streaming on three devices at a time. It's also significantly less than Vue, which allows streaming on five devices at a time.
As for mobile viewing, AT&T customers may find DirecTV Now particularly attractive as streaming the service won't affect your data usage. This is similar to what T-Mobile has done with its Binge On app, which allows customers to stream certain streaming services (like Sling TV) without incurring data overage charges. While it seems like a great deal for customers on the surface, it's raising net neutrality concerns, as providers are beginning to give preferential treatment to certain services.
To be fair, both Sling TV and PlayStation Vue have improved quite a bit since launch, so it may make sense to expect DirecTV Now to do so as well. However, there's also the other possibility... that this is the beginning of turning internet television into the cable service everyone is trying to get away from.