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I Tried Out DirecTV Stream So You Don’t Have To

Screen welcoming user to DirecTV Stream.

I Tried Out DirecTV Stream So You Don’t Have To

Key Points

  • DirecTV Stream offers a five-day free trial period, allowing users to try the service before committing to a subscription.
  • The DirecTV Stream interface is plain and lacks the sleek and futuristic design of rival streaming services.
  • The live TV streaming feature of DirecTV Stream provides good picture quality with minimal lag or buffering.
  • The on-demand content on DirecTV Stream consists of repackaged DVR recordings with ad breaks that cannot be skipped.
  • Despite some positive features, DirecTV Stream’s high price point and lack of originality make it not worth considering for many users.

Sling, Hulu + Live TV, DirecTV Stream… These days, the number of streaming television providers just keeps on growing. They’re all in competition with one another, each one fighting for the attention of those of us who want to cut ties with our cable or satellite provider in favor of something cheaper and easier to use. The problem is that not all of them let you try before you buy. That’s why DirecTV Stream stands out for its five-day free trial period. As a recent cable abandoner myself, I gave this five-day trial a shot to see what it was all about.

Signing Up for DirecTV Stream

Sign-up screen for DirecTV Stream.
It doesn’t take much time to sign up for DirecTV Stream.

To its immediate credit, signing up for DirecTV Stream was relatively quick and easy. The site shows you three different packages to choose from, each with a five-day trial available and generous discounts for the first two months that follow. It looked pretty affordable for those first couple of months (especially compared to what I was paying for cable), but I was immediately wary of the full price points that awaited me after the promotional period. They’re pretty steep, stretching as high as $135 a month for the top tier.

Whether it be the Entertainment + Sports Pack, the Choice + Sports Pack, or the Ultimate + Sports Pack, DirecTV Stream’s full-price points are hardly any cheaper than traditional cable and satellite plans. No matter, though — at least not during this free trial period. I chose the Entertainment + Sports Pack, priced at $69.98 for the first two months before jumping up to $94.98 in two months. Then, I unchecked the Sports Pack because I don’t have any use for it. It eliminated that $69.98 price pack and bumped it up to $79.99 a month after the trial period.

First Impressions of DirecTV Stream

An error code displayed on DirecTV Stream.
It’s never a good sign to be immediately greeted with an error code.

After finishing the sign-up process, I was taken to my DirecTV Stream home page. Or, at least, I should have been. Instead, I was greeted by an error code. This isn’t the best indication of user-friendliness, to be sure. I tried logging in again a couple more times on Safari, then tried the same on Google Chrome. Both browsers brought forth the same error code. I was forced to reset my password before I ever even had a chance to lay eyes on the streaming interface. After resetting, I was finally able to enter the streaming hub without issue.

Clicking around on the DirecTV Stream interface, my first impression was that it wasn’t exactly the sleekest or most eye-catching streaming hub on the market. This isn’t a bad thing, necessarily. Rival services like Sling and Hulu + Live TV tend to prioritize fluid, futuristic-looking interfaces that allow for slick navigation. DirecTV Stream is quite plain by comparison. It may be underwhelming for some — especially at its high price point — but I don’t mind the lack of bells and whistles. Deep down, I hoped it would compensate for these cut corners by exceeding expectations on the streaming end.

What Stands Out About DirecTV Stream

DirecTV Stream's TV guide.
The DirecTV Stream experience leaves much to be desired.

After spending a few hours watching some shows and movies on DirecTV Stream, I was left with a few standouts in mind. From its TV guide setup to its live TV streaming to its on-demand content, I have a few things to say about the service overall. Let’s go over each of these points at length below, then compare your thoughts on DirecTV Stream to mine.

TV Guide

As I mentioned on the home page, the DirecTV Stream guide is not all that impressive looking. It features a white background with next to no animations, and its movements are similarly unexceptional. For the asking price, there’s no excuse for this to look like it does. It wouldn’t take much to spruce up this guide and make it more attractive to look at. As it stands, it’s about as eye-catching as a piece of white paper. It stands out, all right… sort of like a sore thumb.

Live TV

Once I started watching some shows on DirecTV Stream, I was much more impressed with the service overall. For all that it lacked with its lackluster first impression and TV guide, it seems to make up for on the streaming end. Picture quality wasn’t bad, ads were inevitable but weren’t any louder or quieter than the program it was interrupting, and no lag or buffering to report. Your mileage may vary depending on the channel you’re tuning into, though. Try DirecTV Stream out for yourself.

On-Demand

After checking out the guide and watching some TV, I headed to the on-demand hub to see how it looked. As is the case with other streaming television providers, it’s essentially treated as one big DVR with a collection of recent recordings from the channel list. They’re arranged as they would be on any streaming hub, but once you click on a title, you see that it’s simply a repackaged DVR recording — complete with ad breaks. The only difference is you can’t skip these.

Is DirecTV Stream Worth It?

DirecTV Stream quality options on side menu.
DirecTV Stream can’t even tell you what picture quality you’re streaming in.

I continued to play around with DirecTV Stream for the days that followed. I wanted to give the service a fair chance before I decided to either cancel or continue my subscription. As the next few days unfolded, many of the things that struck me at the beginning continued to nag at me. I didn’t like the lack of originality with the home page or TV guide, and I wasn’t a fan of the way the on-demand service worked. Other little things began sprouting up, too.

For instance, I discovered that there’s no real way to know what streaming quality you’re watching. It simply describes them as “Good,” “Better,” and “Best” — none of which give you any indication of whether you’re watching in 720p, 1080p, or 2160p. I also disliked the way you couldn’t go back and watch programs that recently aired (which is a standard feature on most other streaming TV services). You’re simply met with a grayed-out box with no option to play on demand.

It’s not all bad, of course. The actual live-streaming television feature is completely satisfying, and its DVR space is truly unlimited. (Watching these recordings is the only true way to skip ads, too, which is nice.) Alas, for nearly $100 a month — or more, depending on your package and any add-ons — it’s just not worth considering for all its downsides. I canceled my trial before the $79.99 charge could hit. Still, you can give DirecTV Stream a try yourself and see what you think.

How DirecTV Stream Differs from Sling and Hulu + Live TV

DirecTV StreamSlingHulu + Live TV
Price Per Month$79.99-$119.99$40-$55$76.99-$89.99
Number of Channels75-140+30-45+90+
Add-OnsYesYesYes
Local ChannelsYesNoYes
Regional SportsYesYesYes
4K StreamingLive and On DemandNoOn Demand
DVR SpaceUnlimited50 hoursUnlimited
Number of StreamsUp to 20Up to 3Up to 2

Frequently Asked Questions

What is DirecTV Stream?

DirecTV Stream is a streaming television service that offers live TV channels, on-demand content, and DVR features over the Internet instead of satellite or cable.

How does DirecTV Stream work?

DirecTV Stream is an example of IPTV or streaming television. This means it works by streaming a variety of TV channels and shows over your Internet connection to one of its compatible devices.

How many channels are available on DirecTV Stream?

DirecTV Stream offers a range of channels across its three packages. You can enjoy anywhere from 75 to over 140 different channels depending on your DirecTV Stream package.

Can I watch DirecTV Stream on multiple devices?

Yes, you can watch DirecTV Stream on up to 20 different devices simultaneously. You may run into trouble trying to stream on any other network beyond your home, however.

Is there a contract with DirecTV Stream?

No, unlike other cable and satellite plans, DirecTV Stream doesn’t require a long-term contract. This is because it’s simply streaming television that operates on a month-to-month subscription basis.

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