Life on the Frontier (of DIRECTV NOW)

and/or Playstation Vue :)

***UPDATE as of January 2017***

My bad. DIRECTV NOW turned out to be kinda terrible.

Great price. Great channel selection. But very limited TV Anywhere app access, which was the primary driver of my pre-service excitement in the post below. The interface was clunky and the performance was very unstable- basically a deal-breaker. And without TV Anywhere app access, the lack of a DVR service became another deal-breaker.

I was forced to flee to the more expensive, less extensive, but more mature Playstation Vue service. At the same time, Apple release its TV app for iOS and tvOS. Those two offerings combined helped to realize my early, lofty DIRECTV NOW dreams without needed DIRECTV NOW. The only issue with the Vue service is the lack of Viacom programming (Nick Jr., Comedy Central, and MTV specifically). Everything else is fast, intuitive, and comprehensive (read: near complete TV Anywhere app access).

The experience: TV app for exploration combined with Vue for live TV and DVR, is amazing. The cherry on top will be when Apple adds Playstation Vue as one of the supported “single sign-on” services for tvOS. But right now that’s just a one-time, set-up cost (in the form of your time logging into most of the channel apps individually) that’s easily made up for in the convenience and Siri search functionality.

I ended up on a slightly different frontier in the end, but it’s truly surpassed my expectations in only a few weeks. Now on to the next frontier, actually getting through the Comcast defense to cancel my tv service…

***End Update***

There have been a lot of less-than-stellar reviews of the new DIRECTV NOW “cord-cutting” television service from AT&T, which launched this Wednesday (11/30/16). I don’t work for AT&T and have no real vested interest in DIRECTV NOW other than to see it, or a similar service, improve. But the snide dismissiveness of the reviews has been annoying me (Christina Warren providing the only helpful, fact-based coverage).

Thus, I will be shouting my thoughts into the void of silence that is Medium for no real benefit to anyone or to myself. And for those Medium fans and Redditors who aren’t comfortable with that phrasing, think of this as yet another “open letter” to no one. Anddddd scene!

Haters Gonna Hate Hate Hate Hate Hate Hate

Initial reviews of DIRECTV NOW rightly point out that there is no DVR functionality yet, there is no CBS (apologies to fans of Chuck Lorre’s vanity cards), only two simultaneous streams (a problem if you have multiple teenagers and/or a stay-at-home millennial or two), violations of “net neutrality” by favoring AT&T wireless customers (cry me a river, nerds), and a few UX and performance hiccups like any other brand new service. All true.

What these reviews don’t seem to focus anywhere near enough on, in my opinion, is the overwhelming value for content access of the service. DIRECTV NOW offers a ridiculous amount of channels (more than I get now with my $120/month Comcast service) for $35/month. I had never even considered any previous cord-cutting options because they simply did not provide anywhere near the scope and breadth of quality channels as I had with a mid-tier cable subscription.

I don’t watch much television, but when I do I want to see quality shows — not just having moving pictures and sounds in the background to drown out the misery of modernity. So I actually care about what channels and shows I get unlike these reviewers. And, frankly, I am sick of paying a lot for that muffler.

Curated Content Cornucopia

With DIRECTV NOW, you get live streaming for lots of channels (which really just matters for sports in my world). But more importantly you get ON DEMAND ACCESS TO CONTENT. Even if DIRECTV NOW does or does not have all the On Demand shows you or your kids want, it allows you to access all the apps (on AppleTV or Android TV or on iOS/Android) that each major channel now provides. Each of those channel apps then provides specialized interfaces, other shows, other episodes, and bonus features. Your DIRECTV NOW subscription is the login key to access that additional content, as well as providing its own direct content access.

Using “supplemental” channel apps like that, or various consolidating services, will likely be how many of us will watch television going forward- not just flipping through channels or spending time programming a proprietary DVR system to (attempt to) record shows for you. It’s about immediate access to curated, small batch, artisan, farm-to-table content. Just the way you hipsters like it.

You’ll likely use television the way you use Netflix or Amazon Video Prime, looking through point-in-time content categories or “channels” and seeing what’s available at that moment which meets your mood, fulfills an interest, or will simply soften the screams of out-of-control children. Using an aggregating search capability like Siri on AppleTV or Alexa on Fire TV, you can even avoid the inherent difficulty of single channel or category-based browsing.

I’m Just Gonna Save Save Save Save Save Save

Furthermore, there are additional cost savings. If you sign up as an early adopter, you can “loosely” lock into special pricing giving you the third highest tier of content for $35 vs. $60/month. I’m not sure how AT&T will handle the early adopter grandfathering of pricing, but even if they break that promise in the future the lower tier content plans are still really good. Stronger that what you can find on Playstation Vue or Sling TV and at a lower price.

You can also get HBO for $5/month. Which translates into HBO GO for $5/month. Which is half the price of the best deal currently going anywhere.

Then there are the introductory hardware discounts. To get DIRECTV NOW on your television (if you just have a laptop, tablet, or desktop, you can just watch via a DIRECTV NOW app or a web browser), you’ll need a Chromecast, a Google Cast-enabled TV, an AppleTV (for Airplay mirroring, or a new AppleTV version 4 for the native app), or an Amazon Fire Stick. If you’ve been on the fence about getting, say, a new AppleTV version 4 like I have, you can pre-pay for 3 months of DIRECTV NOW service and receive a 32 GB one for “free.” In other words, you will pay $105 for a $150 device and 3 months of DIRECTV NOW service. And, as most of us know, $105 is less than $150.

For those scoring at home, you’ll note that for $120 dollars, you can potentially get:

  • A 32 GB AppleTV 4 ($150 anywhere else)
  • 3 months of HBO ($30 dollars anywhere else)
  • 3 months of comprehensive cable content (for me, that equals $360)

= $540 of content savings and hardware value

Picture Me Rolling (My Own Coax)

If I keep my cable over this period, which I’ll likely do just to be safe (see earlier comment re: screaming children), I’ll still have pocketed $60 in savings just to try it. In other words, AT&T has given me $60 to try their service (after I instantly cancel my $10/month HBO add-on) for 3 months.

If they incorporate DVR in 2017- currently the big missing piece of the service that every review rightly focuses on- I will definitely choose to “cut the coaxial Comcast cord” (and deal with a very painful and haggling call to their Customer Service and Account Retention Departments). It’s a no brainer for me. I will be saving >$120/month over what I pay now for comprehensive cable content which includes all the kids channels, non-junk channels, HD fees, DVR fees, and multiple set-top box fees. I’ll have even more access to on-demand content, my children will be seen rather than heard, and I can watch live sports.

I’ll take your silence as agreement. Scene.