AT&T TV NOW Review 2020 (Formerly DIRECTV NOW)
The streaming service formerly known as DIRECTV NOW rebranded as AT&T TV NOW in the summer of 2019. Try saying that five times fast.
Around the same time, prices for the re-branded streaming service went up by at least $10 more a month while its packages and channels shuffled around. Needless to say, we were all left scratching our heads.
On the plus side, AT&T TV NOW still offers benefits if you’re switching from traditional cable or satellite TV. There are still no extra fees or contracts. But does that make it a good deal? Let’s find out.
AT&T TV NOW (formerly DIRECTV NOW) packages and pricing
Refreshed packages, but higher prices.
AT&T tried to distract us from recent AT&T TV NOW price hikes with shiny premium channels like HBO and CINEMAX. Ok, sure, you can get some premium channel love even in a few of its lower-tier packages, we’ll give it that.
But currently, AT&T TV NOWs base package is one of the most expensive out of any we’ve reviewed. Its only contenders for the title of “most expensive starter package” are YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV, and fubo Standard.
|Plan||Price||TV channel count||Details|
|AT&T TV NOW PLUS||$65||45+||View Plan|
|AT&T TV NOW MAX||$80||60+||View Plan|
|AT&T TV NOW ENTERTAINMENT||$93||65+||View Plans|
|AT&T TV NOW CHOICE||$110||85+||View Plans|
|AT&T TV NOW XTRA||$124||105+||View Plans|
|AT&T TV NOW ULTIMATE||$135||125+||View Plans|
|AT&T TV NOW OPTIMO MAS||$86||90+||View Plans|
Channel availability and pricing may vary by location.
Unlike Sling TV’s pricing structure, AT&T TV NOW makes sense because the more you spend, the more you’ll get without losing channels in lower-priced packages.
Except for those premium channel freebies.
PLUS and MAX both include HBO (and MAX also includes CINEMAX), so you can keep up with Succession.
But if you upgrade to the ENTERTAINMENT package or beyond, you lose out on HBO, unless you pay $15 per month extra for the HBO add-on. (The CINEMAX add-on is $11 per month extra.)
Our recommendation: AT&T TV NOW PLUS
We like that the lowest-priced plan, PLUS, includes ESPN, Cartoon Network, TNT, and other top channels. It even includes HBO (which is usually $15 per month or more), but it still comes at a high price compared to other streaming services’ base packages.
Despite that,AT&T TV NOW can still be a great alternative to cable or satellite TV. You get DVR and video on demand, and there’s no contract to sign.
It’s a decent deal, but we still aren’t happy about those recent package price increases in exchange for fewer channels.
What AT&T TV NOW package is best for you?
AT&T TV NOW PLUS
You’ll get the best value for the price with PLUS, the lowest-priced package. It includes HBO and most popular channels. It’s missing AMC, Discovery, Food Network, and some other favorites, but it’s almost half the price of the ENTERTAINMENT package, which includes these.
AT&T TV NOW MAX
MAX includes more sports networks than PLUS and still includes HBO. You’ll also get CINEMAX. These additions may warrant the extra $20 a month for some sports and movie fans, but it’s still spendy.
AT&T TV NOW ENTERTAINMENT
This is the first package that includes a lot of popular channels like AMC, but for its price, we’re not sure it’s worth it compared to other streaming providers.
What about the rest? We have a hard time recommending the higher-tier plans for anyone besides the “Who cares about price? I want it all!” crowd.
Even the ULTIMATE package’s high price stands out only because it comes with STARZ ENCORE channels—which is not worth it, in our opinion.
AT&T TV NOW (formerly DIRECTV NOW) channels
AT&T TV NOW hooks you up with some of the best channels in the lowest-priced packages.
Most streaming services hold some of the most popular channels hostage on highest tier plans to get more people to spend more. It makes sense as a business move, but we appreciate that AT&T TV NOW (formerly DIRECTV NOW) includes heavy hitters HBO and CINEMAX in the lower-tier plans.
AT&T TV NOW scores points for catering to most people with its most affordable plans, but from a pure price point, it’s twice as expensive as Sling TV’s base packages that start at $25 per month. (But to get as many channels with Sling, you need to upgrade to $40 per month. And then add $5 for DVR use, and they’re nearly the same price.)
If you want, you can compare AT&T TV NOW to Sling TV, fuboTV, and Hulu + Live TV.
Since some streaming services lack local channels to keep costs down (like Sling TV), we’re glad AT&T TV NOW includes local affiliates.
|Network||Number of affiliates||Details|
Local channel availability and pricing may vary by location.
The broadcast networks like ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC carry some of the most popular shows in the nation, like This Is Us, The Bachelor, and Modern Family. And don’t forget the biggest viewership of all: NFL Sunday (and Thursday) Night Football.
We figure most people want their local channels, and AT&T TV NOW shouldn’t disappoint.
A quick note: AT&T notes that streaming can make figuring out your local channel access a tad more complicated.1 Traditional TV service serves up local channels based on your billing address, but the AT&T TV NOW streaming service serves up local channels based on the physical location of your streaming device.
Hands down, the best way to check your local channel access is to enter the ZIP code where you’re streaming.
You may still want an indoor HD TV antenna for local channels
If you’re worried about keeping your local channels after checking availability with AT&T TV NOW, you can always grab an antenna for $20–$40.
We recommend an antenna for just about everybody because you’ll always have free HD channels, whether or not you have a cable, satellite, or streaming service.
Here are the only things we don’t love about antennas:
- Switching inputs
- Finding the right spot for them
If these drawbacks aren’t a big deal for you, we recommend checking out the Clearstream Eclipse on Amazon, which is the best-working (and best-looking) antenna we’ve reviewed.
We like the inclusion of HBO on PLUS and MAX, but we’re kinda surprised to see the more expensive plans require a $15-a-month add-on to tune in for the next episode of Big Little Lies.
Still, these are pretty decent prices for channels that may cost $15–20 per month on other streaming and TV services.
|HBO||Included with PLUS and MAX, or $15/mo.||View Plans|
|CINEMAX||Included with MAX or $11/mo.||View Plans|
Channel availability and pricing may vary by location.
Even on the lowest-priced package, AT&T TV NOW (formerly DIRECTV NOW) includes ESPN and ESPN2, FS1, and TNT. But sports fans experienced a huge loss when the service dropped the NFL Network.
Yup, that means no more NFL SUNDAY TICKET on AT&T TV NOW—even though it was limited to only a few lucky people in the first place.2 However, it’s still available on DIRECTV or NFLSUNDAYTICKET.TV. Still, cue that sad trombone.
Here’s the full list of sports channels AT&T TV NOW offers (not including OPTIMO MÁS):
- BTN: MAX, CHOICE, XTRA, and ULTIMATE
- CBS Sports Network: MAX, XTRA, and ULTIMATE
- ESPN: All
- ESPN2: All
- ESPNews: MAX, CHOICE, XTRA, and ULTIMATE
- ESPNU: MAX, CHOICE, XTRA, and ULTIMATE
- FOX Sports 1 (FS1): All
- FOX Sports 2 (FS2): MAX, XTRA, and ULTIMATE
- Golf Channel: MAX, XTRA, and ULTIMATE
- MLB Network: CHOICE, XTRA, and ULTIMATE
- NBA TV: XTRA, and ULTIMATE
- NBCSN: All
- SEC Network: MAX, CHOICE, XTRA, and ULTIMATE
- Tennis Channel: CHOICE, XTRA, and ULTIMATE
While AT&T TV NOW covers a lot of bases even in its lower packages, to get TyC Sports, Univision Deportes, FOX Deportes, and ESPN Deportes, you’ll want to add the Deportes pack.
And if you’re looking for Univision, Estrella TV, Discovery Channel en Español, and Cinelatino, grab the Español package.
- AT&T TV NOW Deportes: $5/mo.
- AT&T TV NOW Español: $15/mo.
AT&T TV NOW (formerly DIRECTV NOW) DVR
We love AT&T TV NOW’s free DVR, but we want more than 20 hours of storage.
|DVR price||Storage hours||Length of storage|
|Included||20 hrs.||30 days|
Compared to YouTube TV’s unlimited storage for nine months, AT&T TV NOW’s cloud DVR isn’t impressive. However, it does get points for being free, as opposed to the $5-per-month charge from Sling TV.
We do like that you can record almost any channel with AT&T TV NOW’s DVR—though the fine print does mention recording isn’t available for all channels.
AT&T TV NOW user experience
We didn’t run into many problems, but it wasn’t perfect.
AT&T TV NOW’s interface is user-friendly and straightforward, and it provides a few different ways to find a show worth watching.
One of our favorite features is that you can keep watching your current show while you look through the catalog.
That way, you can listen to the soothing sounds of Jersey Shore while searching for Call Me by Your Name. And the ability to swipe left or right to change the channel brings home sweet memories of the days we used an actual remote. (To think!)
AT&T TV NOW has the following navigation tabs for browsing:
- Watch Now: This displays a theater view of what you’re watching, along with a splash page below with four or so options per row in different categories like “Top free movies” or “What’s on now.”
- My Library: This section contains your DVR recordings and Bookmarks (which are shows you want to watch but haven’t recorded or saved).
Discover: Discover lets you browse by shows, movies, and networks, and offers featured content grouped by genres.
- Guide: Channel-surf like you would on traditional TV with a timeline guide that includes show names, episode numbers, and titles.
There’s also a search function, which worked fine for everything we needed to find, including The Venture Brothers, Property Brothers, and Step Brothers—all the bro-shows you can handle, really.
You can’t keep the window in the smaller theater mode and use timeline controls. We assume you’ll be watching fullscreen most of the time, but it’d be nice to back up a few seconds to catch dialogue you missed while browsing. You can pause and play, however.
Another thing: it’s a little annoying that by hovering over the timeline, the whole screen gets taken up by the time controls (rewind, pause, fast-forward), especially since these playback controls don’t work for every show.
DIRECTV NOW will run into problems if you have a lot going on with your watching device. Like if you’re watching video on your laptop, but also trying to edit photos and read through 30 tabs of news articles, you may get a glitched-out video or even an error screen letting you know you need to slow your roll.
Of course, internet speed itself is a factor, as well as how many devices are using the same Wi-Fi network. For better performance, get a dedicated streaming device like this Apple TV on Amazon and connect it to your TV.
Is AT&T TV NOW (formerly DIRECTV NOW) compatible with your streaming device?
AT&T TV NOW works with most popular streaming devices:
- Roku Premiere
- Apple TV
- Amazon Fire TV
- Google Chromecast
- Samsung Smart TV
- Desktops, laptops, cell phones, tablets, etc.
Recap: Is AT&T TV NOW (formerly DIRECTV NOW) good?
AT&T TV NOW isn’t perfect, but you get the best channels in the lowest-priced packages.
We like the inclusion of HBO on PLUS and MAX, but we’re kinda surprised to see the more expensive plans require fifteen dollars cash extra a month to get all that HBO goodness.
And you hate to see the recent loss of NFL SUNDAY TICKET, even if access to it through AT&T TV NOW was limited.
Still, you get lots of sports love in each package, and the premium channel costs are on the low end of the price spectrum compared to some other streaming services. If AT&T TV NOW (formerly DIRECTV NOW) can bump up that itsy-bitsy teeny-weenie twenty-hour DVR storage limit and get NFL Network back in its channel lineup, we might start singing its praises again.