AT&T is shaking up how consumers can watch live television, diving headfirst into the streaming business with their new DirecTV Now service. It is a move that is bound to make waves through the TV industry. The company is joining a crowded marketplace, but they are going out of their way with the new product to pull in consumers who might not have tried live-streaming services yet.
DirecTV Now is getting in on the game and making a quick name for themselves by offering viewers a deal that almost sounds too good to be true. DirecTV is a particularly sweet deal considering the modest price tag, offering more than 100 channels for only $35 a month. But the sweetest part of the deal, the proverbial icing on the cake, is that $35 will also get you unlimited mobile data for TV viewing on your smartphone or tablet.
How sweet is that?
It is all enough to give established streaming providers like Sling TV a run for their money. In fact, it has gotten our attention and now has us taking a closer look to ask the big question: DirecTV Now or Sling TV? Which delivers the bigger bang for your buck?
Both DirecTV Now and Sling TV are allowing viewers to watch live television over the internet wherever they are. These are great options for the millions of Americans who are fed up with traditional subscription television, typically delivered through a cable box or satellite dish.
The idea that customers have to sign a long-term contracts for television service from a company that makes them wait hours for a scheduled technician is starting to seem so 20th century. Needless to say, service providers are nervous about the future landscape for how content is distributed and how they can cash in on it. But AT&T has so much faith in its new platform, the company expects that by 2020 it will become the primary way most of customers watch TV. So let’s get to the meat of the argument. How do the two live-streaming platforms differ, and what do they offer in terms of value?
AT&T is asking $35 a month for DirecTV Now, a reasonable enough price considering industry norms for live-streaming TV. Some of the other services out there can get pretty expensive, especially to get the content you want. But at this price point, DirecTV Now is giving you a whopping 100+ channels and setting a high bar for the rest of the competition. There are, of course, options to add more channels , like premium movie channels, if you are willing to fork over a few more bucks.
Dish Network owned Sling TV is currently the most popular option in the streaming industry, delivering 25+ channels in its introductory package for $20 a month. Sling TV offers packages of up to 50 channels for $40 a month, and a slew of genre-specific specialty packages that tack on another handful of channels for an additional $5. Those include options such as Sports, Comedy, Movies, News, Kids, and Spanish-language programming.
So how does the actual content compare between the two competing platforms?
DirecTV Now is offering channels from all of the big networks in an attempt to provide the widest selection of programming it can. Disney (ABC, ESPN), Fox, NBCUniversal and Viacom, as well as Scripps, A&E Networks, Discovery, Starz and HBO can all be found through DirecTV Now. Viewers will also have access Univision networks, HDMet Movies, the Sony Movie Channel and the Hallmark Channel.
Sling TV, meanwhile, offers two basic packages, Sling Orange and Sling Blue. For $20 a month, Sling Orange gets you 25 channels, including ESPN, ESPN2, AMC, TBS, TNT, CNN, and more. Sling Blue gives you a slightly different selection, including FS1, FX, NBC and 40+ channels total for $25 a month. For the viewer who has to have it all, one can even choose to double up on both packages for $40 and more than 60 channels. Customers can, again, add small, genre-specific packages for $5 a month (Sports, News, etc.) and premium movie channels (HBO: $15, Showtime: $10) as well.
Both DirecTV Now and Sling TV will offer local channels in most major markets. This is probably the greatest advantage live-streaming services offer over traditional on-demand service. The two platforms also offer a few cool features like 72-hour recall, allowing you to go back and watch live programming from three days ago on most channels provided.
If you still haven’t tried live-streaming television, this is a great time to give it a shot. Both of these companies are offering incentives to try them out with little or no risk. For customers. You can try both DirecTV Now and Sling TV for a 7-day trial period without commitment to any kind of contract. After the trial period, DirecTV Now will downgrade your access to a free, ad-supported version, while Sling TV will automatically charge you for the next month. But Sling is also offering a special discounted rate of 30% off for T-mobile customers for up to a year. That, too, is offered without any kind of commitment from the consumer.
But AT&T is bringing out the big guns for customers who are in it for the long haul. If you agree to at least three months of paid service, you will be able to get a free Apple TV as part of a promotion. Not too shabby. Viewers who are willing to buy one month up-front will get a free Fire TV streaming stick. Both these devices would be more expensive in a store than what you’ll pay AT&T for DirecTV Now. So don’t miss that golden opportunity.
One thing that can’t be overstated with the DirecTV Now platform is the free data for TV on mobile devices. Imagine the freedom! You can now take live television with you, in the palm of your hand, wherever you go. And there’s no worrying about paying for data. Picture yourself at a ball game with your phone, watching the game on TV and in person. Ok, so maybe that would be a little over the top.
This could be the best time yet to try out a streaming service, if you still have not taken the plunge. Millions of Americans are cutting the cord and ditching their old cable and satellite providers. Luckily, it seems those providers are still reaching consumers on their computers and mobile devices, and at more reasonable prices without long-term contracts. Could it be that the age of mobile technology has actually shifted some power back into the hands of consumers? The success of DirecTV Now is one indicator, but only time will tell for sure.