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ByBrian Robson Insurance and Finance Ronin

Brian Robson is one of the main Reviews.com refresh specialists. He specializes in finance and insurance pieces.

AT&T TV NOW Review

When we originally reviewed live TV streaming services back in January 2018, we wrote that “DIRECTV NOW has the best lineup of any streaming service, and it’s not particularly close.” Since then, DIRECTV NOW has rebranded to AT&T TV NOW and it’s not fared so well compared to the other TV streaming services on the market. One of the biggest saving graces, however, is that AT&T TV NOW offers more plans to choose from than most of the other streaming services we looked at. Depending on your needs, you could pay a lot less for the television channels you know you’re gonna watch instead of paying more for dozens of channels you could care less about

AT&T TV NOW vs. Other Live TV Streaming Services

  AT&T TV NOW YouTube TV PlayStation Vue Hulu + Live TV Sling Orange + Blue fubo
Our review Our review Our review
Price starting at $50/mo. $50/mo. $45/mo. $45/mo. $40/mo. $55/mo.
Total number of channels* 55 - Plus
71 - Entertainment
73 - Max
97 - Choice
125 - Xtra
136 - Ultimate
102 51 - Access
78 - Core
98 - Elite
100 - Ultra
69 53 106 - Standard
106 - Family
175 - Ultra
App Store rating 4.6/5 4/5 4.5/5 4.7/5 4.6/5 4.6/5
Google Play rating 3.0/5 3.8/5 3.8/5 4/5 3.9/5 4.3/5
DVR storage 20 hours (stores for 30 days) Unlimited Unlimited (stores for 28 days) 50 hours 50 hours (for $5/mo.) 30 hours - Standard
500 hours - Family
500 hours - Ultra
Simultaneous streams 2 3 5 2 1 for Orange, 3 for Blue 2 for Standard, 3 for Family and Ultra
View plans View plans View plans View plans View plans View plans

*Varies by location

AT&T TV NOW's Claim

AT&T TV NOW purports to allow users the ability to "stream TV live and on demand — anytime, anywhere, all on your favorite devices."

Is it true?

In part. There are certainly a large number of devices compatible with AT&T TV Now, but the "anytime" aspect more accurately translates to "any time your family hasn't already tied up both simultaneous streaming options."

AT&T TV NOW Pros

✓ Wide array of plan options
✓ Versatile device interoperability

AT&T TV NOW Cons

✗ Not ideal if you keep a big DVR backlog
✗ Not for families who can't agree on what to watch

AT&T TV NOW Compatible Devices

Whether you’re using a Roku or a Samsung Smart TV, AT&T TV NOW proved quite versatile. Note that the standard with most of these devices requires televisions that feature an HDMI port. There are, however, ways around this for older television sets, including the purchasing of adapters which feature composite cables compatible with older TV sets.

Roku

So long as your television has an HDMI port, you’ll be able to access AT&T TV NOW through the following devices. The streaming players come with HDMI cables and certain ones, like the Express+, come with composite cables for older television sets.

  • 4K Roku TV (model: 7000X)
  • Roku non-4K TV (model: 8000X)
  • Roku Streaming Stick (models: 3600X, 3800RT, 3800RW, 3800X)
  • Roku Streaming Stick+ (models: 3810RW, 3810X)
  • Roku 4 (model: 4400)
  • Roku Premiere (model: 4620)
  • Roku Premiere + (model: 4630)
  • Roku Ultra (models: 4640X, 4660RW, 4660X)
  • Roku Express (models: 3900RW, 3900X)
  • Roku Express + (models: 3910RW, 3910X)

Apple TV

As with Roku players, the Apple TV devices come with HDMI cables for newer television sets. They also feature ethernet ports but work best on WiFi networks (who wants to deal with extra cords and wires when you don’t have to?)

  • Apple TV (4th Generation)
  • Apple TV 4K (5th Generation)

Amazon Fire TV

Both the Fire TV Sticks and the streaming devices that come with cables will require a television with an HDMI port. If you are in the market for a new television and want Amazon Fire TV, there are actual branded Smart TVs with Amazon Fire TV already set up.

  • Amazon Fire TV (2nd Generation or higher)
  • Amazon Fire TV Stick (2nd Generation or higher)
  • Amazon Fire TV Edition Smart TV (2nd Generation or higher)
  • Amazon Fire TV Cube

Google Chromecast

Similar deal with Amazon Fire: you can buy a TV with built-in Chromecast or purchase a stick with an HDMI output.

  • Chromecast Built-in TV
  • Chromecast (2nd Generation and higher)

Samsung Smart TV

If you have a Samsung Smart TV, you access AT&T TV NOW via the app which you can search for on the TV’s hub or you can search the app store.

  • Samsung Smart TV (2017 and 2018 models)

Apple and Android Mobile Devices

  • iPhone iOS 11+
  • iPad iOS 11+
  • iPod Touch iOS 11+
  • Android™ phones 5.0 and higher
  • Android tablets 5.0 and higher

Internet browsers

If you have an account and a compatible Internet browser, you can also watch AT&T TV NOW programming on your computer. Just log in with your user ID and password. (You may have to enable Flash.)

  • Chrome 58+
  • Safari 10+

How We Evaluated AT&T TV NOW

For the most part, there’s not a lot separating live streaming services today. They all carry most of the same channels, have most of the same perks, and work with most of the same devices. The best one for you comes down to a few personal preferences. Is HBO a necessity? Do you want to catch your local baseball team’s games? How important are kids channels?

To see how AT&T TV NOW stacked up to other options, we relied on the same methodology that we used in our review of the best live TV streaming services. Originally, when we compared the channel lineup for AT&T TV NOW, we leaned heavily on research from TiVo’s Q4 2017 Video Trends Report, which asked over 3,000 respondents, “Which channels would you be interested in including in your TV package?” At the time, AT&T TV NOW received our lowest score when we tallied up available channels, and while this has improved in recent years, some things have not.

Stingy DVR storage and simultaneous streams

AT&T TV, back when it was DIRECTV NOW, was one of the last live TV streaming providers to add cloud DVR storage back in May 2018, and it’s been one of the least generous from the get-go. You’ll only be able to store 20 hours of video at a time, and it all deletes 30 days after it originally airs. That might seem like plenty, but it’s significantly behind other services in its weight class: Both YouTube TV and PlayStation Vue offer unlimited storage, while Hulu goes up to 50 hours.

AT&T TV NOW also skimps on how many streams you can have going at the same time. You’ll only be able to use it on two separate devices at once, compared to three for YouTube TV and five for PlayStation Vue. This won’t be a problem for a lot of people, but if you’re in a home that wages war over the remote, those extra streams come in handy.

Ultimately, these aren’t the things that make or break a streaming service. But with AT&T TV NOW’s higher starting price, we would have liked to see it dole out a little more with these extra perks.

Wider selection of packages

AT&T TV NOW offered more packages than any other streaming service we looked at. While the packages differ in price and channel offerings, they allow for more variety and choice for the customer. Don’t think you’re going to spend a lot of time watching the premium or high-end networks on the Ultimate package? Save some money and drop down to a cheaper plan with fewer channels

Average user experience

To get a sense for how it felt to use AT&T TV NOW, we tested it on three devices: an Amazon Fire TV, a Roku Streaming Stick, and a MacBook Pro. Overall, channel-surfing AT&T TV NOW didn’t feel much different than browsing a traditional cable TV package — par for the course for most live TV streaming services.

The first thing you see is a guide with all of the channels in your package. As you browse on a Roku or Fire TV, the audio of the channel you’re currently on keeps playing in the background, while the TV schedule takes up the full screen. On a browser, the video is minimized to the corner of the screen while you browse. Neither of these were perfect solutions — we preferred them to Hulu’s one-show-at-a-time guide, but not YouTube TV’s elegant program-preview feature — but they weren’t particularly frustrating, either.

We preferred YouTube TV’s program-preview feature (bottom) to AT&T TV NOW’s traditional interface (top).

The Bottom Line

If local channels and more package options are a must-haves for you, AT&T TV NOW might be a good value. Even still, many users would be better off choosing another service and adding HBO separately for $15 per month. If you need more in the way of simultaneous streams and DVR storage, there are better ways to go (and better channel offerings, as well).

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