DirecTV vs. DirecTV Now: What’s the Difference? (2024)

DirecTV vs. DirecTV Now: What’s the Difference? (1)

Editor's Note: Yes, DirecTV Now is becoming Now, details here.

DirecTV Nowhas been up and running for more than a year, and customers have two important questions: What is it, and how is it different from regular old DirecTV? In the simplest terms, DirecTV is a satellite-TV subscription service, while DirecTV Now is an online streaming service that delivers live TV channels. Both are owned by telecom giant AT&T.

DirecTV vs. DirecTV Now: What’s the Difference? (2)

But if you want to know how each one works, which channels each one offers and which one — if either — is right for you, those questions are a bit harder to answer. We’ve gathered some of the most salient facts to help you make your own decisions.

Oh, and are you confused as to why your DirecTV Now app just changed its name to AT&T TV Now? Well, check out our explainer guide here (hint: it's about corporate ownership and brand awareness).

MORE: Hulu Live vs. YouTube TV vs. Sling vs. Vue vs. DirecTV Now: Face-Off!

Swipe to scroll horizontally

Row 0 - Cell 0 DirecTVDirecTV Now
How You Get ItSatellite dishInternet
Channels145 to 31560 to 120
Pricing$90 to $187 per month**Introductory prices: $50 to $125 per month$40 to $75 per month
Required HardwareTV, Genie box, satellite dishCompatible device (Android, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, iOS, Roku), TV* *Not necessary for Android/iOS devices
ProsMore channels; DirecTV sets it up for youRelatively cheap; No contract
ConsMore expensive than streaming; Long-term contractsSome performance bugs


Before you start looking into the pros and cons of a DirecTV or DirecTV Now subscription, you should probably check to see if DirecTV is available in your area. While DirecTV Now is available everywhere in the United States, DirecTV is a satellite service, so you’ll need a satellite dish. While the beauty of a satellite dish is that you can use it from just about anywhere, it does mean that you’ve got to start modifying the outside of your house. Apartment dwellers or people who belong to particularly strict housing associations can probably forget about it.

Channel selection and cost

DirecTV Now offers a variety of channel packages, ranging from Live a Little, with more than 60 channels at $40 per month, to Gotta Have It, with about 120 channels at $70 per month. This may sound like a lot, but even the most modest DirecTV satellite package offers a great deal more: The basic DirecTV package starts at around 145 channels, and the most extreme options range up to about 315 channels. There’s a flip side, though: The packages also range in price from $90 per month to $187 per month. (DirecTV offers considerable discounts to first-time subscribers, however.)

Giving an exact channel breakdown would depend on too many variables, including where you live and what kinds of packages you're willing to buy. However, no matter which package you invest in, you’ll get the basics: A&E, Bravo, CNN, Cartoon Network, Disney, History, Lifetime, Nickelodeon, Syfy and so forth. For both satellite and DirecTV Now subscriptions, the presence of local channels very much depends on both your location and on DirecTV’s standing with those channels.

Just bear in mind that DirecTV Now's DVR features are rolling out as a beta. By default, accounts come with 20 hours of recording capacity, and recordings last 30 days. In the summer of 2018, a more-expensive tier, — 100 hours of storage, with recordings that last 90 days — will launch for an extra $10 per month.

Necessary hardware

Of the two services, DirecTV Now has a lower barrier to entry. All you need is a computer, mobile device or streaming player (Android, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, iOS, Google Chromecast or newer Rokus). While the service isn’t available on Android TV or game consoles (but really should be), you can spend about $30 on hardware and be up and running within half an hour.

Not so for a DirecTV subscription, however, which requires both the aforementioned satellite dish and an HD DVR box known as the Genie. If you’re a new DirecTV subscriber, the company will install both the satellite dish and the Genie for you. The dish won't cost you anything extra, and the Genie fees (usually $7 per month) are included with newer subscriptions, unless you want five or more boxes.

MORE: Our Favorite 4K (Ultra HD) TVs Available Now

Mobile access

One bit of good news is that you can access your content on computers, mobile devices and streaming players, regardless of the service you use. The DirecTV (not DirecTV Now) app allows satellite subscribers to view programs on devices other than their TVs. DirecTV subscribers can download the app to both iOS and Android devices, then proceed to watch both live TV and content from their DVR boxes (provided that their Genie is connected to the Internet, of course).

DirecTV vs. DirecTV Now: What’s the Difference? (4)

DirecTV also sweetens the deal for AT&T mobile customers. If you’re a customer and you're out and about, you can stream DirecTV content to your phone or tablet, and it won’t count against your mobile data cap. While customers from other wireless providers can still use the app, they’ll probably want to do so on Wi-Fi connections; streaming video tends to eat up data pretty fast.

DirecTV Now, on the other hand, is a streaming app first and foremost. You can download it right to your mobile devices and watch it just like any other streaming service. The same deal is in place for AT&T mobile subscribers: While anyone can access the DirecTV Now app, AT&T subscribers can stream as much of it as they want without having to see their mobile data plans take a hit.

Which one should you get?

Assuming you watch a lot of TV, either DirecTV Nowor DirecTV is a feasible option. Although Tom’s Guide has encountered a lot of problems with DirecTV Now’s service, the amount of content you get for the money is more than fair. DirecTV, on the other hand, provides consistent service, but it's heir to the problem that any satellite dish encounters: poor reception, especially during bad weather and the like, and extremely high prices.

DirecTV is a more traditional service. As such, it’s more straightforward to watch on your TV and it offers more channels, but it’s also much more expensive and ties you into a yearly contract. DirecTV Now offers fewer channels, and it's considerably more limited when it comes to the ways you can watch it, but the price tag is much easier to stomach, and you don’t need any expensive, specialized equipment.

Since DirecTV Now offers a free trial and doesn’t require a contract, I’d recommend checking that out first. If it meets your needs, you could save a lot of money; if not, you can always cancel and switch over to the full satellite subscription.

DirecTV vs. DirecTV Now: What’s the Difference? (5)

Starting at $50 per month, starts with more than 45 channels, including HBO.

  • Best Streaming Video Services
  • How to Buy a Streaming Media Player
  • What Is Miracast? Everything You Need to Know

Sign up to get the BEST of Tom’s Guide direct to your inbox.

Upgrade your life with a daily dose of the biggest tech news, lifestyle hacks and our curated analysis. Be the first to know about cutting-edge gadgets and the hottest deals.

DirecTV vs. DirecTV Now: What’s the Difference? (6)

Marshall Honorof

Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.

More about streaming

7 new movies and shows to watch this weekend on Netflix, Prime Video and more (June 21-23)5 best Peaco*ck miniseries to watch this weekend


Huge Nike flash sale — my top 11 picks from $21
See more latest►

Most Popular
What are roll up mattresses and are they any good?
What is edge support and why is it important when it comes to buying a new mattress?
What is Progressive Muscle Relaxation for sleep and can it ease insomnia?
How much do Saatva mattresses cost and where can you find the cheapest prices?
Cut the cord: Your guide to canceling cable and streaming TV online
What is an Olympic queen mattress and should you buy one?
Where to buy a Saatva mattress: Ordering online vs in store
What is an orthopedic mattress and should you buy one in the Memorial Day sales?
How much is a king-size mattress? Plus the top 5 to buy before the Memorial Day sales
What are latex mattress toppers and are they any good?
Should you flip or rotate a mattress topper?
DirecTV vs. DirecTV Now: What’s the Difference? (2024)


DirecTV vs. DirecTV Now: What’s the Difference? ›

In the simplest terms, DirecTV is a satellite-TV subscription service, while DirecTV Now is an online streaming service that delivers live TV channels. Both are owned by telecom giant AT&T.

Is DirecTV now the same as DIRECTV? ›

Yes, on August 26th, 2021, the names of AT&T TV and AT&T TV NOW have both changed to DIRECTV STREAM. Only the names have changed. New and current customers can expect the same excellent service, same great selection of channels and on demand library, same great Cloud DVR, and same great app functionality.

Is it worth it to switch from DIRECTV to DIRECTV STREAM? ›

DIRECTV and DIRECTV STREAM packages are essentially the same in terms of popular channels. The difference is that DIRECTV STREAM packages cut out the filler channels you'll probably never watch. Both providers now charge the same price for their plans—but the channel counts are vastly different (see tables).

Why is AT&T getting rid of DIRECTV? ›

DirecTV was one of several large divestitures by AT&T at the time when it was trying to reverse its $100 billion strategic swerve into the media business and return to its wireless and broadband roots.

What is happening to DirecTV now? ›

DIRECTV NOW service wasn't discontinued, but the name changed to AT&T TV NOW in 2018. Similarly, AT&T TV NOW and AT&T TV were rebranded to DIRECTV STREAM in 2021. The mobile app was reintroduced as the DIRECTV STREAM app.

Does directv now have senior discounts? ›

Does DIRECTV offer senior discounts? No, DIRECTV doesn't offer senior discounts.

Why is directv now so expensive? ›

TV networks are continuing to increase the fees they charge DIRECTV® for the right to distribute the content they produce, including movies, shows, and sporting events. We remain steadfast in our commitment to bring you the best programming at a fair and reasonable price. Heads up: Have a DIRECTV® introductory offer?

What is the biggest difference between DIRECTV STREAM and DIRECTV? ›

DirecTV refers specifically to the satellite subscription, which requires a satellite dish and doesn't use internet-based streaming. DirecTV Stream is the internet version where you stream channels over your home network, or on your mobile device.

What is the monthly cost of DIRECTV streaming? ›

DIRECTV STREAM plans and pricing: More channels, more money
PlanPrice*Cloud DVR
DIRECTV STREAM CHOICE$89.99/mo. (plus tax)Unlimited
DIRECTV STREAM ULTIMATE$114.99/mo. (plus tax)Unlimited
DIRECTV STREAM PREMIER$159.99/mo. (plus tax)Unlimited
DIRECTV STREAM ÓPTIMO MÁS™$74.99/mo. (plus tax)Unlimited
1 more row

How hard is it to cancel DIRECTV? ›

We're happy to help you with a quick personalized cancelation. Just give us a call at 800-531-5000. If you get your DIRECTV service via home internet, you can sign in and easily cancel online.

How many customers dropped DIRECTV? ›

So, yes, I know a little about DIRECTV. And it's stunning to me as well that the satcaster has lost 13 million subscribers in the last eight years. DIRECTV had roughly 25 million subscribers at one point, more than any satellite or cable operator.

Why can't I get local channels on DIRECTV? ›

Channel troubleshooting

Make sure your ZIP Code is correct. Go to Location > Location Status and toggle OFF. Press the red button on the side of your device to restart it. Toggle your Location Status ON after you restart.

Why do channels disappear on DIRECTV STREAM? ›

Sometimes, our DIRECTV STREAM network contracts expire. In most cases, we can renegotiate or extend them. We make every effort to reach fair agreements, so we can bring you the shows, movies, and events you enjoy. But if we can't, we may lose the right to carry certain networks, programs, or stations on DIRECTV STREAM.

Why can't I get some channels on DIRECTV? ›

Many issues, including channels missing from the guide, can be fixed by refreshing and reauthorizing your receiver. To refresh: Go to My equipment & services. Review the equipment you have and identify the impacted receiver(s).

Do you need a satellite dish for directv now? ›

DIRECTV STREAM is a streaming service available with no contract, no hidden fees and no dish or cable box required. Preferred by those who want to take their TV on the go, DIRECTV STREAM makes it possible to stream anytime, anywhere across your favorite devices.

Do you get local channels with directv now? ›

Watching local channels when you travel

No problem—you can still watch local channels on the DIRECTV app if your TV package includes them. Make sure you enable location services on your mobile device. You'll see available local channels in the guide from both your home location and the area you're currently in.

What is included in directv now? ›

Included with the ENTERTAINMENT Package:
  • 90+ live channels and local TV stations, plus 60,000 on-demand titles.
  • Unlimited Cloud DVR recordings.
  • Get Disney and Nickelodeon for the family, plus major sports channels like ESPN.
  • You can get Max, Paramount+ with SHOWTIME, STARZ®, MGM+™ and Cinemax® for the first 3 months on us.

What equipment is needed for DirecTV now? ›

Compatible streaming devices (i.e. Apple TV, Roku, etc.), or TV 1. Wired or Wi-Fi® internet connection for TV streaming devices. DIRECTV STREAM account. DIRECTV app downloaded from your device's app store (Steps for Apple, Android, Roku and Samsung)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Margart Wisoky

Last Updated:

Views: 5606

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (78 voted)

Reviews: 85% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Margart Wisoky

Birthday: 1993-05-13

Address: 2113 Abernathy Knoll, New Tamerafurt, CT 66893-2169

Phone: +25815234346805

Job: Central Developer

Hobby: Machining, Pottery, Rafting, Cosplaying, Jogging, Taekwondo, Scouting

Introduction: My name is Margart Wisoky, I am a gorgeous, shiny, successful, beautiful, adventurous, excited, pleasant person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.