AT&T TV Now - A Review of the Plans and Service

AT&T TV Now

AT&T TV Now, formerly known as DIRECTV Now, is a re-branded launch of their popular online streaming service. AT&T, which of course owns DIRECTV, made their first foray into the over-the-top industry in late 2016. Being completely new, DIRECTV Now had its fair share of technical and user experience issues. To their credit, over the subsequent couple years patches were made, a cloud DVR was added and the program guide evolved for the better. To co-exist with their other brands, they re-named the service and consolidated programming into 2 plans. As always, you can still stream via ANY connected device (phone, computer, Roku, Apple TV, etc) and can be up and running in just a few minutes. Simplicity is the name of the game but as with most streaming providers there are often some trade-offs to consider. For example, compared to the traditional DIRECTV satellite service (which many AT&T TV Now customers will be transitioning from), here's a quick run-down:

Advantages

  • Month-to-month (you can cancel anytime)
  • HBO included free
  • 7-day Free Trial
  • Switch plans anytime
  • Easy set-up, no DVR involved

Disadvantages

  • No NFL Sunday Ticket (satellite plans only)
  • Cloud DVR capped at 20 hrs
  • No current 4K programming
  • 2 device streams (add more for a fee)
  • Half the channels vs satellite TV
Note: AT&T TV Now is NOT the same as AT&T TV, which is more like traditional cable TV and requires a 2-year contract.

Local Channels - good coverage with a minor restriction

Overall, AT&T TV Now includes all your major local channels, available in most cities. You'll get ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, Telemundo and the CW in all plans. Univision used to be included in DIRECTV Now's plans, but it was a casualty of the switchover. Your first step in checking your local channel coverage is to use their locals and RSN finder tool and enter your zip. The channels that pop up have been assigned to your area and you're guaranteed to receive at least those, provided AT&T can confirm your current location...

Speaking of which, AT&T uses two checks two deliver your local channels, the billing address on file and the IP address of your device. If both match, the locals will show up in your guide. If not, there's a good chance they'll get filtered out. Other streaming services like Youtube Live don't check your current location (eg, you can be at a business meeting in a different time zone and still get your home's local channels). For most customers, this'll only be a slight annoyance but something to keep in mind. Finally, Univision is not included in any AT&T TV Now plan so if live soccer is big on your list, you may need to supplement with a Univision subscription.

Two solid plans, others if you need more options

The original DIRECTV Now had 4 main plans ranging in price from $50 to $80 for 55-100 channels. AT&T TV Now includes two primary plans, PLUS and MAX. PLUS, their starter plan, goes for $50 (45+ channels) and has a good amount of base programming. MAX ($70, 60 channels), with its addition of Fox Sports 2, ESPN News and over 15 national, regional and college sports channels, is geared more towards the active or fantasy sports fan. If you end up needing even more programming, you can also upgrade to essentially DIRECTV's satellite plans (minus NFL Sunday Ticket) -- same price and lineup, you just don't need a rooftop dish and stream everything instead.

When it comes to premium movies, one of the biggest upsides of AT&T TV Now is that you get 3 HBO channels free for the life of your subscription (i.e., not as a trial offer). Both plans qualify you but only MAX also gets you Cinemax for free. So, if you have PLUS, you can still order Cinemax as an add-on but it'll cost you an additional $11/mo (same deal for Showtime and STARZ).

Here's a quick side-by-side of the two plans:

45+ Channels
$50 /mo
Regular: $50
What you get...
  • Over 45 Channels
  • 3 HBO channels included: HBO main, HBO Family & HBO Latino
  • Free local channels
  • Stream up to 2 devices
  • Cloud DVR up to 20 hours
  • No annual contract
50+ Channels
$70 /mo
Regular: $70
What you get...
  • Over 50 Channels
  • 3 HBO channels included: HBO main, HBO Family & HBO Latino
  • Cinemax included
  • Free local channels
  • Stream up to 2 devices
  • Cloud DVR up to 20 hours
  • No annual contract
  • 10+ more sports channels

How to watch Regional Sports Networks (RSNs) on AT&T TV Now

Similar to the locals described above, your coverage depends on your billing address and current location. If both sync up and RSNs show up in the finder tool linked above, you're good to go. RSNs are one of AT&T TV Now's strong suits, mostly because the company itself has pre-negotiated with ALL of the regional carriers for years and if they have it in their network, it's not a huge deal to pass them along to other services like this one. Remember you need the MAX plan to see any regional sports network -- here's a quick rundown of the biggest networks included:

Fox Sports [region] - from Arizona to Tennessee, there's a good chance you'll be close to one of the 20 FS regional networks. If so, expect plenty of local MLB, NFL, basketball and soccer coverage.
MSG/MSG+ Network - a rarity to find both of these in a streaming plan, New York fans will get their fill of games from the Knicks (NBA), Rangers (NHL), Devils (NHL) and Islanders (NHL)
NBC Sports [region] - similar to Fox Sports but with 9 regional networks instead, NBCSN brings you a ton of NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL coverage for your favorite local teams.
YES Network: owned by the New York Yankees, the YES Network is probably the premier place for insider info on the pinstripers.

Toss in a few other networks (like SportsTime) and this RSN pack gets VERY comprehensive. Bottom line, if the RSN tool reveals at least a few RSNs and you dig your local teams, it's probably worth upgrading to PLUS.

Wrapping up

Just a few years back streaming TV was deemed precocious as technology hadn't really caught up with the promise. Fast forward to 2019 and with a full-fledged cloud DVR, interactive user guide and myriad of different package set-ups, OTT is big business and definitely here to stay. There will always be advantages to having an actual DVR in your house (bigger/faster hard drive and less dependent on internet speeds) but that gap is slowly shrinking, especially with the evolution of fiber internet. AT&T TV Now (in all its forms) has made some major advances over the years and for folks that don't need a full-fledged programming line-up, this service might just check all the right boxes.

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