Yesterday, I signed up for AT&T’s DirecTV Now! streaming television service. I had read about it via Clark Howard emails a couple days earlier and yesterday was the launch date.
For $35/mo I get a lot of channels. What matters is that my wife says there are 12-14 channels she’s interested in in that mix and we don’t get any of those via our OTA HD (antenna) television programming.
And, for early adopters, they throw in an Apple TV 32GB 4th generation (current model) if you prepay for three months of service. That’s something like $118 bucks. The Apple TV costs $150 retail and I already want the streaming TV service for my wife. This is a no-brainer.
For the price, worth it. But how is it?
The user interface lacks polish. I’m quite disappointed that I have to watch the majority of shows at a certain time. The following things immediately seem missing to me:
- Ability to rewind.
- Ability to watch an entire show later.
- Ability to choose a show scheduled for the future and have it record so I can watch it when I want to.
- Ability to choose a show and have all future episodes of it recorded so I can watch them in the future.
I read here on The Verge that AT&T is saying they’ll have a DVD/recording feature in 2017. I hope that’s added to my service tier, with no additional expense.
I’m also quite disinterested in watching commercials. I watch almost zero television (antenna) programming these days, though my wife does record a ton of shows she likes on two TiVos. But I don’t watch them.
I do turn on Netflix (via my Apple TV) here and there to watch a documentary, some stand-up comedy, a biography or a war history show. But as a result I’m really not used to commercials anymore. When I watch the very rare television show with my wife, we just zip through the commercials since they’re always pre-recorded.
The only non-time-shifted television I watch these days are The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (which I do not like actually) and… wow, I think that’s it. I’m sure there’s something else, but nothing comes to mind.
What is good about DirecTV Now! presently? The price, the selection of channels/networks, the speed at which the shows start when chosen and the quality of the images on my wonderful 720p Panasonic plasma television.
I’m looking forward to DVR-related additions to the DirecTV Now! Service in the future.
Update: In the first few days of service, they took away a click. Previously, when clicking on a running show in the guide, it would bring up a more or less unnecessary page showing that show (without little or no detail about it not shown already in the guide) and the shows following that one on that channel/network. Then you had to click again to actually play the show. Getting rid of this page for running shows was a good user experience improvement. I haven’t checked, but maybe it still shows if you pick a future show, which makes sense for now since it doesn’t let you do anything useful with future shows, such as set them to record.
19 January 2017 update: I hate my DirecTV Now service. I can’t stand it. The commercials are too frequent. And I can’t fast-forward through them. I signed up for commercial-free ($12/mo) Hulu a few days ago. The plan is to get the wife her cable shows that way, instead of via DirecTV Now. Also, sometimes our antenna has difficulties while we’re recording a particular show, so my hope is that Hulu will be able to fill in those gaps.
The product itself is also irritating. The guide makes it easy too easy to un-favorite a channel. Too many clicks are required to get certain things done. There’s no subtitles (important for us with noisy children and adults in the house).
The menus aren’t fully refined. They seem to be designed inconsistently. The service has occasional mid-show outages that fix by re-starting that show. No fast-forward (in the “live” programming, no rewind. Unpausing after a certain (unknown by me) amount of time fast-forwards to present time. I can’t just pause a show? That sucks, basically.
But the problem is the commercials. I can’t handle them. I don’t even watch much recorded (TiVo) television. Every once in a while I’ll watch the next episode of The Designated Survivor. That’s about it. I don’t have it recording anything for me anymore and I don’t mind one bit.
Final update: I canceled DirecTV Now before my initial, prepaid three months was up. The commercials were more than I would bear. And the service was so buggy and inconsistent, giving errors, feeling flakey, etc. Good riddance. Now we use my HD antenna to two TiVos (works very well), Netflix for four devices concurrently, and I recently signed up for the $12/mo commercial-free Hulu subscription with my wife loves.