DirecTV Stream Review Premium Live TV Streaming Service

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Review

DirecTV Stream offers a reliable live TV streaming experience through regional sports networks and enhanced DVR options. However, its plans are pricier compared to competitors’ offerings.

Starting at $79.99 per month

Starting at $84.98 per month + tax, no annual contract DirecTV Stream Click to see

Pros

  • Reliable streaming performance observed in testing
  • Supports up to 20 concurrent streams on home network
  • Lineup includes RSNs from Comcast, Sinclair, and Spectrum
  • Includes parental control options

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Some interface quirks

DIRECTV Stream Specs

Starting Price : $79.99 per month

DVR Storage and Retention :  20 hours or unlimited, nine months

Concurrent Streams :  20 (at home) and 3 (on the go)

4K Live : No

Sports Coverage : International*, national, and regional

On-Demand Movies and TV Shows : Yes


As the number of video streaming services focused on live TV (such as DirecTV Stream, formerly known as AT&T TV) continues to grow, cutting the cord with cable providers has become easier than ever. This cable-replacement service performs well, offering plenty of channel options and loosening some strict DVR restrictions. However, despite the improvements, the revamped service remains relatively expensive compared to competing live TV streaming options.

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DirecTV Streaming Costs

DirecTV Stream’s lineup of packages is simpler now as the company has done away with the two-year contract requirement. Now, like all other live TV streaming services we’ve tested, DirecTV Stream operates on a monthly basis. DirecTV Stream allows you to cancel your subscription and get a full refund within the first 14 days of service, but you can’t cancel on your own; you must contact a customer support representative through DirectTV’s website chat tool.

DirecTV Stream offers four monthly packages: Entertainment, Choice, Ultimate, and Premier. The only difference between the plans is the number of channels you get. We prefer services like Hulu + Live TV and YouTube TV that offer simple, single-package lineups. Fubo and Sling TV also annoyingly segment their plans into several different tiers.

The Entertainment package, with 75 channels, is the cheapest option at $79.99 per month. This plan includes all local broadcast affiliates for ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC, as well as news channels such as CNBC, CNN, CNN International, C-SPAN, FOX Business, FOX News, and MSNBC. Entertainment and lifestyle channels include Animal Planet, Discovery, Disney Channel, Food Network, FX, HGTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount, SYFY, TBS, and USA. You can also watch sports channels like FS1, ESPN, ESPN2, NBC Sports Network, and TNT. You won’t get Regional Sports Networks (RSNs) at this level.

The Choice plan, at $108.99 per month, bumps the channel count to around 105. You can watch all the channels in the Entertainment package, plus Cheddar, CNBC World, Cooking Channel, Fuse, Game Show Network, Nick Jr., Nicktoons, OWN, Science, Tastemade, The Weather Channel, and Travel Channel. You’ll also get additional sports networks like ACC, ESPNews, ESPNU, MLB Network, NBA TV, and Tennis Channel.

The biggest advantage of the Choice plan (and each higher-priced package) over the Entertainment plan is that you get RSNs. RSNs are crucial for sports fans who want to watch local MLB, NBA, and NHL games, which air on RSNs owned by one of three media networks: Comcast (NBC Sports), Sinclair (Bally Sports), or Spectrum (SportsNet). Check each RSN’s page to see which one carries games for your local teams.

The Ultimate package, at $119.99 per month, expands the channel lineup to 140. You get all the channels in the Choice package, plus American Heroes Channel, Aspire, BBC World News, CBS Sports Network, Discovery Family, Discovery Life, DIY, FS2, FX Movie Channel, Golf Channel, Logo, MTV Classic, Nat Geo Wild, NHL Center Ice, Olympic Channel, Oxygen, multiple Starz Encore channels, Smithsonian Channel, and Universal Kids.

To get even more channels, you can opt for the Premier package at $164.99 per month, which includes 150 channels. The most significant additions to this lineup are HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, and Starz.

Like most other services, DirecTV Stream allows you to subscribe to add-on packages. For example, you can add premium channels like Max ($16 per month), Cinemax ($11 per month), MGM+ ($6 per month), Showtime ($12 per month), and Starz ($11 per month). There are also Brazilian (two channels for $30 per month), Korean (11 channels for $30 per month), and Vietnamese (nine channels for $20 per month) package options. The $15 per month Español add-on package includes 15 channels such as CNN en Español, Discovery en Español, ESPN Deportes, Fox Deportes, Telemundo, TUDN, and Univision. The Deportes option for $5 per month includes a sports-focused subset of the Español add-on (ESPN Deportes, FOX Deportes, TyC Sports, and Univision Deportes). Note that some add-ons may not be available because they’re already included in your streaming package.

Can you watch sports events on DirecTV Streaming?

The main advantage for sports fans with DirecTV Stream is that it’s one of the few live TV streaming services we’ve reviewed that offers Regional Sports Networks (RSNs) from Comcast, Sinclair, and Spectrum. Note that AT&T exited the RSN business after its merger with WarnerMedia. DirecTV Stream also has all the local broadcast affiliates you might want (ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC) and many popular sports channels. One issue is that you’ll need to pay more than with other services to get access to all these channels. For example, you only get access to RSNs with the Choice level and above, and Golf Channel and NHL Center Ice are limited to the Ultimate package.

For NFL fans, a perk is that DirecTV Stream’s packages now include NFL Network, a feature also offered by Fubo, Hulu, Sling TV, and YouTube TV. Similarly, both Direct TV and other services offer add-on services for the NFL RedZone channel. However, you can no longer enjoy NFL Sunday Ticket. After the 2022-2023 football season, DirecTV lost its exclusive rights to NFL Sunday Ticket, a near 30-year hold, which Google has now acquired for YouTube TV.

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DirecTV Stream Pricing Comparison

All plans offered by DirecTV Stream are on the expensive side. For instance, Sling TV’s Orange and Sling Blue plans are only $40 each per month, while the combined Sling Orange and Blue plan costs $60 per month. YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV, and Fubo start at $72.99, $76.99, and $79.99 per month, respectively. They all provide more channels than DirecTV Stream’s base plan. Philo’s package of 63 channels is $25 per month, offering a similar number of channels as DirecTV Stream’s Entertainment package, but at only a fraction of the price, albeit lacking news, sports, and local broadcast channels.

Apart from streaming DirecTV Stream online, you can also download the app on media streaming devices (Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, and Roku) and mobile devices (Android and iOS). Noteworthy in this lineup are PlayStation and Xbox gaming consoles. Both Hulu + Live TV and YouTube TV support these gaming consoles.

Watching DirecTV Stream Online

DirecTV Stream’s web interface is not as visually appealing as those offered by competitors, with lots of blank space and uniformly designed lists. However, it’s easy to navigate, and we didn’t encounter any page freezes or crashes during testing. Nevertheless, we’d like to see a dark mode option, as the bright, light color scheme might be a bit uncomfortable in low light conditions.

The top navigation menu is divided into four options: Watch Now, My Library, Discover, and Guide. There’s a search bar and a gear icon for account settings in the top right corner. The search function provides basic functionality but does a decent job of finding movies, shows, and networks. One useful thing is that you can filter results by content type. For example, when we searched for football, we could filter results by TV shows and sports. YouTube TV’s search function is more advanced as it allows you to combine multiple terms in your search, such as genre and year. In the “Account Settings” section, you can manage subscription settings, enable parental controls, and toggle subtitle display options. Strangely, an option to “Start playing live TV on launch” cannot be turned off online.

The “Watch Now” main screen highlights some popular content available on the service and is organized into horizontally scrollable lists such as Action Movies, Featured TV, New This Month, Kids Zone, and Trends. A top section is dedicated to playing any channels you last tuned into, but it annoyingly hangs down from the top of the screen and persists as you scroll down and effectively obstructs part of the interface. The “Discover” tab is similar. In this section, you can browse shows, movies, and networks or any pre-made collections. The Guide section works as expected; you can browse a list of programs by channel or select content types (like movies, sports, or kids) to see what’s currently airing. The “My Library” section is where your favorite channel DVR recordings and bookmarks reside.

To watch live TV programs, simply click on the thumbnail to start streaming live. Selecting thumbnails for on-demand content brings up a dedicated page with more details, including which episodes and seasons of that show are available for viewing.

Mobile Apps

DirecTV Stream offers both Android and iOS apps. We tested the DirecTV Stream app on an Android 11 device, and logging into our account was seamless. The mobile app looks consistent with the desktop experience but isn’t particularly impressive. One annoyance is that you can’t disable the picture-in-picture view within the app, so it eventually covers part of the interface.

You can navigate the app via three menu items at the bottom of the screen: “Watch Now,” “My Library,” and “Discover,” or you can also access the guide via an icon in the top left corner. You can’t update subscription settings from within the app, but you can change closed caption settings, set streaming quality preferences (Good, Better, and Best), and enable parental control restrictions.

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Streaming Experience and DVR

DirecTV Stream’s web player looks clean and provides all the expected playback features. In addition to standard playback controls, you also get 15-second rewind and fast-forward buttons (on select channels), DVR recording button, restart button (on select channels), basic channel info, options to move to the next or previous live channel in your lineup, and closed captioning options.

DirecTV Stream supports up to 20 simultaneous streams per account on the same home network and up to 3 remote streams. YouTube TV defaults to supporting three concurrent streams, but add-ons allow you to stream on an unlimited number of devices on your home network. Fubo and Hulu + Live TV allow three and two simultaneous streams by default, respectively, but both offer add-ons to expand these limits.

Top live TV streaming services we’ve reviewed (like Hulu + Live TV and YouTube TV) support 1080p/60fps live channels on some platforms. A representative from DirecTV Stream stated that the service uses adaptive bitrate to achieve maximum bitrate in HD. We couldn’t confirm the exact resolution of DirecTV Stream’s HD channels, but they don’t seem to reach 1080p, and frame rates appear to be locked at 30fps on the devices we tested. Fubo is the only service we tested that supports 4K streaming without any add-ons. YouTube TV has a 4K Plus add-on that unlocks 4K streaming on select channels, ability to download DVR recordings for offline viewing, and unlimited simultaneous streams on home networks.

DirecTV Stream’s DVR storage feature is now closer to competitors. The service offers unlimited storage, allowing you to record up to 30 clips and retains these recordings for up to 9 months, rather than just 90 days. YouTube TV has no storage limits on your recordings and keeps them for nine months. Hulu + Live TV and Fubo, by default, retain up to 200 hours and 250 hours of content, respectively, as long as you subscribe. Sling TV, by default, can retain up to 50 hours of content as long as you subscribe. Fubo, Hulu+Live TV, and Sling TV all allow you to upgrade DVR storage capacity.

DirecTV Stream offers two excellent streaming features: Lookback and Restart. The Lookback feature allows you to watch select programs from up to three days ago. This is particularly useful for sports fans who may have missed games from the previous day or so, though it seems few sports channels support it. You can find a full list of channels compatible with Lookback by searching the term on DirecTV Stream’s support site.

On the other hand, the Restart feature allows you to start a live program from the beginning. More channels, including A&E, Bloomberg, CNN, Food Network, FOX Sports, Travel Channel, and UniMas, seem to support this feature, but again, it depends on individual programs. You can also find a full list of channels compatible with Restart by searching the term on the support site. One drawback is that once a program has been restarted, you can’t start recording it from the beginning, which seems like a missed opportunity. Philo also allows you to restart program streams, while Fubo offers similar Lookback and Start Over features.

For streaming live TV, DirecTV Stream recommends a minimum internet speed of 8Mbps per stream. We tested DirecTV Stream over a home Ethernet (200Mbps), and as expected, encountered no streaming difficulties. Watching NFL playoff divisional games during our last test, the video stream quickly ramped up to full quality, and audio remained synced with video. We didn’t notice any noticeable stutters. Both the Lookback and Restart features worked well during testing.

DirecTV Stream and VPN

You should use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to protect your online activities, even though many video streaming services (like DirecTV Stream) might block you from using their services. Sometimes, video streaming services block VPN traffic to enforce regional broadcasting restrictions. For instance, DirecTV Stream is only available to residents of the United States.

For testing, we connected desktops and smartphones to Mullvad VPN servers located in Sweden and the United States. We encountered no issues on either device when connecting to a VPN server in the US, but the service stopped working when we switched to a VPN server in Sweden.

Even if your VPN and video streaming service are currently working fine, it doesn’t mean they will continue to do so. Many video streaming services constantly look for new ways to detect and block VPN traffic. You can always temporarily disable your VPN, so we recommend choosing a VPN based on its privacy and security credentials rather than whether it’s compatible with all your video streaming services.

Should DirecTV Stream be your live TV provider?

DirecTV Stream is a reliable live TV streaming service, and we like its Lookback and Restart features. It’s worth noting that it’s also the only live TV service we’ve reviewed that offers RSNs from all three major providers. However, even with DirecTV’s improved default DVR functionality, its plans are still priced higher than competitors.

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