DirecTV Now: Cord Cutter’s Dream or a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing?

By Chris Brantner

With the addition of DirecTV Now, the satellite TV company’s new entry into streaming television, there’s yet another cord-cutting option on the market, making it easier to cut cable TV and save some much needed money. But can DirecTV Now actually save you money in the long run? Or is this just another way for Big Cable to trick you into handing over your hard-earned money?

First let’s take a look at the positives:

  • For a limited time, you can get the $60, 120-channel DirecTV Now package at an introductory price of $35 a month. If you sign up for the introductory price, you’ll pay the $35 a month as long as you remain a member.
  • If you sign up and pre-pay for three months, you’ll get a free Apple TV (4th generation).
  • And, despite the FCC stepping in, for now, if you’re an AT&T mobile customer, you can watch as much DirecTV Now as you want without it counting toward your data allowance.
  • You can get HBO as a $5 add-on.

It all sounds great, right? Especially with the average cable price sitting at $100 per month.

But is it worth it in the long run? Well, that depends. If you sign up for the introductory price, you’ll pay the $35 a month as long as you remain a member, which sounds like a pretty good deal. But if you don’t get in while the getting’s good, the 120+ channel package will be $60, and there will be a smaller, $35 package available.

On top of that, there’s a decent possibility that the AT&T-owned service will follow the path of traditional cable and raise prices as it feels necessary. During the launch event, Brad Bentley, executive vice president of marketing, mentioned the potential for a price hike, saying, “These packages will be subject to price increases down the line.”

That doesn’t bode well for a service that’s already being accused of seeming a bit too much like the cable TV we all love to hate.

And it doesn’t sound like the mantra of Dish Network-owned Sling TV, which is sticking with its $20 price point for its basic package, and offering multiple add-on bundles for other channels.

Speaking of that $20 Sling TV price point, that’s still the cheapest skinny bundle of cable channels you’ll find anywhere — meaning you can save $15 per month if you opt for that service over DirecTV Now, even at the cut-rate introductory price.

However, you’re going to get significantly fewer channels, and you’ll only be able to stream shows on one device at a time with the basic Sling TV package. For multi-device streaming, you need to step up to the $25/month Sling Blue package — which still is $10 less than DirecTV Now’s introductory offer.

While there are a few channels available on DirecTV Now that Sling TV and PlayStation Vue don’t offer, for the most part, the packages are fairly similar. The one difference seems to be with DirecTV Now’s $70 package, which has a whopping eight different Starz channels included in the bundle. Of course, at $70 a month, it’s fair to say that you should have just kept cable instead.

So is DirecTV Now the right choice for someone looking to drop cable and save a bit of money? Or are you better off going with a cheaper service like Sling TV? There’s not a clear answer, but here’s how you can decide for yourself.

  • Determine how many people need to watch the service at once in your home.
  • Decide which channels you can’t live without.
  • Compare your needs to the different services (here are good overviews of DirecTV Now and Sling TV to get you started).

Oh, and one other thing to consider: DirecTV Now is not currently available on Roku devices. So if you’re a Roku user, you might need to wait before you try out DirecTV Now, which means you might miss the introductory deal. Decisions, decisions.

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Chris Brantner is founder of CutCableToday, where he helps people cut the cord and find the programming they want. Follow him on Twitter (@CutCableToday) for more cord-cutting tips.

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