The rise of the cord-cutting trend has witnessed an increasing number of people switching from pay-for-TV cable service to streaming services. Many people looking to cut the cord lean towards video streaming service providers such as Amazon Prime Video, fuboTV, Sling and DirecTV NOW rebranded to AT&T NOW.
Streaming services often fall short of providing a comprehensive viewing experience due to inadequate tie-ups with telecasting companies. Thus, the traditional audience still don’t fancy the idea of switching to streaming services as they were not willing to pay for each individual network. This outlook has led to families seeking a sweet spot that acts as a middle ground between Cable TV and Streaming Service and that’s satellite TV.
Many readers might feel that satellite streaming is not prevalent in today’s time due to the rise of streaming services. However, I’d like to inform you that 93 million Americans beg to differ, and that’s evident in DirecTV’s user base of 21 million.
How does satellite streaming work?
Chances are that you already know about how it works but in case you don’t – ‘Technicians mount satellite dish on the roof of your house and do the basic in-house wiring. This allows your TV to receive signals which make watching TV possible without hefty cables.’
DirecTV is a California based direct broadcast satellite service launched in 1994. DirecTV, acquired by AT&T in 2015, transmits digital satellite to all 50 states in the United States along with Latin America and the Caribbean.
As of Q1 2017, AT&T’s DirecTV has over 21 million subscribers which has helped the Telco giant generate revenues in excess of $12 billion this past year. AT&T acquired DirecTV is a deal supposedly worth around $67 billion. Since the acquisition, AT&T launched DirecTV Now which has now been renamed to AT&T Now – A streaming network that competes with the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu in the United States.
Design & User Interface
DirecTV received its last user interface upgrade in 2017, which took six years to arrive. I am not a big fan of the cable or satellite TV interface as its quite bland. But once again, we have to see it from a television perspective and not pure website streaming. Thus, when I see it from a DVR point-of-view, DirecTV’s interface doesn’t feel all that bad.
From thick letters and vivid backgrounds to thin white lettering on a solid and gray background does make the UI look fresh. In addition, the latest update introduced a well-organized program guide and menu. I’m not asserting that the old menus didn’t work well but the update just gave it an extra edge.
If you’re a DirecTV subscriber, you probably have a Genie DVR with which you can get the best DirecTV experience. The 2017 update introduced new screens and menus more suitable to the contemporary audience. The basics have been reworked and it’s not just some change in shape and color.
DirecTV has made recording across multiple channels quite easy and even finding channels less cumbersome. You no longer need to dive deep into menus and can watch your favorite program within a few clicks. Overall, it offers an immersive experience with redesigned UI and a program guide.
Unlike streaming service reviews where I dive deep into the content format, there’s not much to discuss here. DirecTV has a strong content line-up that offers over 200 live HD channels along with 4K movies and shows on demand. 4K Ultra HD Definition is like a USP offered by most of these service providers across all networks.
I love DirecTV as its not slacking when it comes to providing cutting-edge TV viewing experience. I have a 4K TV and thus most of the time, I love watching 4K content. Similar to streaming and other satellite service packages, DirecTV follows a tier-package system.
Its content tiers are bifurcated into 6 packages – SELECT, ENTERTAINMENT, CHOICE, XTRA, ULTIMATE and PREMIER. Each of these plans have a varying number of channels specifically designed to fulfill your viewing needs. I have a PREMIER plan because I bought DirecTV as a cord-cutting alternative. However, there are two content buckets which are primarily the reason for me switching to DirecTV.
1. DirecTV Premiums
HBO and STARZ are two of my most beloved premium channels. Under PREMIER PACKAGE, you get 7 STARZ channels, 10 HBO channels, 8 SHOWTIME channels and 8 CINEMAX channels which is a premium offering on Hulu as well.
2. DirecTV Sports
It’s a major attraction. Don’t believe me? Check out their homepage. It’s literally the first thing you’d see. If you’re a sports fan, DirecTV, hands-down is the best choice for you. It offers NFL SUNDAY TICKET which comes as a free inclusion from CHOICE package. Apart from that, you get a variety of free add-ons such as:
• NBA League Pass
• Fox Soccer Plus
• NHL Center Ice
• MLB Extra Innings
• DirecTV Sports pack including ESPN Classic, beIN SPORT, Universal Sports Network to name a few.
If I happen to miss the premiere of my favorite show, I never have to wait for the bits and pieces to be posted online. Why? Because with the HD DVR, I can immediately watch any program that aired in the last 72 hours. Another excellent feature that I love about DirecTV is the Restart feature which allows you to restart a live show instantaneously.
Yeah, streaming’s great but having a satellite TV connection has its own perks. Especially with DirecTV’s Genie HD DVR, you can record up to 200 hours of HD movies and shows. In addition, you can start a program in your living room and continue watching it in your bedroom. Content can be synced on up to eight televisions in your house, which brings us to our next point – Capabilities of DirecTV’s DVR.
With DirecTV, you can connect up to eight TVs to a single DVR – Genie. The Genie set-top box and Wireless Genie Mini allow you to share content to multiple TVs from a single DVR. Thus, as I mentioned earlier, you can start the show in the living room and can finish it in your bedroom – as per your convenience.
I agree that Genie isn’t as great as Dish’s Hopper 3. However, it does a commendable job of allowing up to 5 recordings at once and is capable of storing over 200 hours of HD content. Well, if that’s not enough, Wireless Genie Mini enables you to access content on the go.
Plans & Pricing
DirecTV’s first year pricing is great. However, it ties you up into a contract period of 2-years with prices rising in the second year. Thus, this approach often rubs potential customers in the wrong way. Though its massive content library does overshadow its shortcomings. I’d like to share a 12-month comparison between the first and the second-year pricing for your understanding.
There are six plans you can choose from – SELECT, ENTERTAINMENT, CHOICE, XTRA, ULTIMATE, and PREMIER. The entry-level plan DirecTV SELECT offers 155+ channels at $59.99/mo. Based upon the plan you choose; prices may vary. However, if you choose the flagship plan, you may have to cough up to $134.99/mo. which is the ceiling for the first-year cost. Want to see the hike difference between both the years?
Suggestions I have for Direct TV
The hike in the second-year charges is a huge turn-off for potential customers. If I was writing this review like 3 years ago, trust me, I’d hardly have much positive to say. The initial years after AT&T took over were frustrating. There were major issues that weren’t being addressed let alone fixed. Minor troubleshooting issues would take too long to be solved. DirecTV under AT&T has always seemed like it is more focused on the software side of things which is cool but please don’t take another 6 years to revamp the interface.
If you’re a sports addict, it certainly doesn’t get any better than DirecTV in the USA. With that said, in no way am I playing down its content library boasting over 300+ channels including 4K HD television? All I’m saying is that if it fits the bill, you should probably go for it. If you’re not a sports fan, instead of subscribing to its premium plan, you can get Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu’s Premium membership. So, I’ll leave the decision part for you.