After generating a lot of buzz about their upcoming app-based streaming internet TV service in the past year, AT&T finally detailed DirecTV Now at an event in New York earlier today. While the previously quoted price of $35 for 100 channels won’t be permanent, DirecTV Now looks to be very competitive on selection and price alone, although there are still some holes that need filling.
AT&T has secured over 120 channels for DirecTV Now, which can be streamed online to up to two devices at once. With that many channels, it’s easier to list the omissions — CBS and Showtime. AT&T is still negotiating with both, and while CBS would likely be folded into the base package prices, Showtime would cost extra, as HBO and Cinemax do ($5 per month extra for each). There are also restrictions on local affiliates for ABC, Fox, and NBC — in many major affiliate markets, users will get prime time television one day later. Mobile users will not be able to stream NFL games to their smartphones because of Verizon’s exclusive deal with the NFL.
DirecTV Now customers will also get exclusive content. The biggest one at launch is Taylor Swift NOW (exclusive to all of AT&T’s video packages), a video series that will feature behind-the-scenes footage and live concerts from Swift’s archives, something that both AT&T and Taylor Swift plan to continue for long after the initial offerings. Exclusive to both DirecTV Now and DirecTV will be content from Hello Sunshine, Reese Witherspoon’s production company. She’ll launch Hello Sunshine as an ad-supported on-demand channel sometime next year.
At launch, DirecTV Now will be available on iOS, Android, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, PC, and Mac. The most conspicuous omission there is Roku, which AT&T says will come sometime next year. DirecTV Now will also be included with some LeEco products, which may have been the early-November content announcement LeEco teased but never delivered.
Besides the sheer number of channels, DirecTV Now will be a basic streaming TV option at the outset. The service will not have a DVR option, unlike PlayStation Vue and Sling TV, the latter announcing the introduction of a Cloud DVR beta program earlier today. It also won’t be possible to pause, rewind, or fast-forward channels, so it’ll be a basic television experience, albeit with a lower price and without the need to use a separate cable service.
One of the big draws for AT&T customers is that streaming content using DirecTV Now will not count against their data caps. Streaming television will require massive amounts of data, so that’s a huge plus for AT&T customers on any data plan. Zero-rating services in this way would appear to be in violation of net neutrality rules, which require service providers to supply web content at the same price and speed. However, T-Mobile’s Music Freedom and BingeON programs work in similar ways, so it appears that these sorts of zero-rated programs are being interpreted as allowable under the existing net neutrality rules.
DirecTV Now will be available starting November 30 and will be sold independently of AT&T’s other services, which includes their wireless service and existing DirecTV television packages. There will be four pricing tiers: 60+ channels for $35 per month, 80+ channels for $50 per month, 100+ channels for $60 per month, and 120+ channels for $70 per month, with Cinemax and HBO available for $5 extra each. For a limited time, the 100+ channels tier will be available for $35 price, with that price being locked in for the time being. In other words, if you want to lock in that $35 per month price for 100+ channels, you’re going to have to make your decision fast and trust that features like pausing and DVR will indeed come next year. If you’re interested, you can sign up for DirecTV Now here.
If you’re interested in trying the service for free, there are lots of ways to do it, but they all involve purchasing another device. Three months of DirecTV Now will come with purchase of the Le S3 and Le Pro3 phones and the Super4 X43 Pro television, six months will come with the Super4 X55 and X65 televisions, and a full year will come with the uMax8 television. One-month free trials will come with an Amazon Fire TV Stick and any Lenovo laptop running on an Intel Core i processor. New Apple TV buyers can get three free months of the service.