In the ongoing battle for who will take over the television market in today’s ever-changing landscape, the alternative streaming options for cable-cutting viewers are numerous. Following a side-by-side streaming overview of many of the live TV options,
While we’ve looked at DIRECTV STREAM Now plans and conducted a review of YouTube TV, we are know going to see how they fair in head to head competition. This one-on-one examination of how each service option compares to the others will help you find the best fit for your streaming needs.
AT&T launched DIRECTV STREAM Now in 2016 to compete with the cable cutting alternatives breaking open the market, and to branch out from its traditional cable service, DIRECTV STREAM Now. The newer streaming service provides viewers with access to numerous cable networks without the contractual obligation, and offers multiple pricing tiers, with packages starting at 45 channels up through 125 channels.
Already the leading name in online video, Google’s YouTube launched its own cable alternative live TV service in 2017, YouTube TV. The streaming service offers access to local stations, more than 70 cable networks streaming live and on-demand, and cloud DVR recording.
YouTube TV vs. DIRECTV STREAM Now
Overall Winner: YouTube TV
It’s clear YouTube TV comes out on top of this match. YouTube TV offers customers a lot more at a reasonable price. As much as DIRECTV STREAM Now was designed to compete with other cable TV alternatives, they still have the cable company mentality with over inflated prices, complicated package options that never quite deliver on what viewers want, and are lagging in streaming technology features.
For cost-per quantity, YouTube TV wins in value. After a 7-day free trial, YouTube TV starts at $49.99, with optional features and channel upgrades available at additional fees. That base cost, however, already includes most of the significant features like cloud DVR, as well as more than 70 channels.
DIRECTV STREAM Now’s cheapest package starts at $65, after a 7-day free trial, but only has 45 channels (although that does include free HBO). There are a total of six main packages, priced from $65 up to $135 a month for the Ultimate package, which includes over 125 channels—but no free premiums are thrown in.
Streaming and DVR features
DIRECTV STREAM Now only relatively recently added cloud DVR, and it is currently limited to 20 hours of free storage for 30 days, with additional storage options being planned to be available down the line. The base service subscription lets users stream on two devices at the same time, with a third stream being available for an additional $5 a month.
YouTube TV has them beat by far for streaming features, coming with up to three simultaneous streams, and a cloud DVR with unlimited storage. And that space is for six separate users per family or household account.
Cable Channel Comparison
Once again, YouTube TV has the upper hand here. The base package comes with 75 channels, and the list is overall solid, including the majority of popular cable networks, including Disney, AMC, BBC America, Discovery, FX, and Food Network. Among the few, it does not have are A&E, BET, and Comedy Central.
Meanwhile, in DIRECTV STREAM Now’s similar priced package, they only have 45 channels, although it does have a few big names that YouTube TV doesn’t, such as Comedy Central and Nickelodeon. At the $80 price tier, users only get 50+ channels, and they are still missing many of the more popular cable networks. All of the package options for DIRECTV STREAM Now can be found in out review of DIRECTV STREAM.
YouTube TV does a fantastic job with live streaming local networks and offers ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, and The CW. Like most local access, it is by region, and a few may be on-demand only, but the limitations are few, and it is easy to check how to enable or search for local access before committing.
DIRECTV STREAM Now offers local networks streaming live in some markets, although it’s best to use the site’s search feature to confirm they offer it in a given area. Also, the markets are somewhat more limited than other services, and currently even more so. Since July 3, 2019, many ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC affiliate stations in select regions were made unavailable through DIRECTV STREAM Now as AT&T is in fee disputes with Nexstar telecommunications group (tvpromise.att.com).
Premium Channels and Sports
One area that DIRECTV STREAM Now has an advantage is with premium channels, as they have access to all four of the big ones, and a few are free with specific packages. At the lowest price, Plus ($50), viewers get free HBO included, and on Max ($80), both HBO and Cinemax. At any level, premiums can be added at $11 a month after a 7-day free trial, and include HBO, Cinemax, Starz, and Showtime. The higher tier packages, do not include premium channels, aside from HBO. However, you can add them for an additional cost on already pretty highly-priced packages.
In terms of premium channel availability, YouTube TV lags, offering only Showtime and Starz of the big four premiums. However, they are more affordable to add, at $7 and $9 respectively, and YouTube also offers more unique premiums like AMC Premiere, Curiosity Stream, and Epix.
In sports, YouTube TV has a slightly more extensive selection of channels, including ESPN U and NBC local sports, although neither service has much beyond the major cable sports options in the base packages. YouTube TV does also offer an NBA League Pass add on, providing access to all out of market NBA games for $40 a month.
Device Compatibility and User Interface
- Mac & PCs – requires Google Chrome or Firefox browsers
- Roku TVs and select Roku boxes*
- Apple TV (select models)*
- Apple/IOS devices
- Android TVs and phones and tablets
- Amazon Fire TV and stick
- Xbox (One & 360)
- Samsung & LG smart TVs
- Xiaomi Mi box
- Google Smart Displays
- Vizio SmartCast TVs
- Hisense TVs
- Mac & PC computers – specifically Chrome and Safari browsers
- Roku (select models)*
- Apple TV (4th Generation or newer)
- Apple/IOS devices
- Android phones and tablets
- Amazon Fire TV and stick
- Samsung Smart TVs
YouTube TV has more flexibility in the devices with which it is compatible. However, in either case, it is important to check the specs on your preferred device, as many older models aren’t compatible with newer services and apps.
It’s pretty clear: YouTube TV offers customers a lot more at a more standard and reasonable price. As much as DIRECTV STREAM Now was designed to compete with the cable alternative model, they still have the cable company mentality with over inflated prices, complicated package options that never quite deliver on what viewers want, and are lagging in streaming technology features.
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