The launch of DIRECTV NOW did not get off to a great start, with some users complaining about technical problems. The real disappointment appears to be that it does not deliver a complete alternative to traditional pay television. It turns out people might still need cable and satellite services after all.
Some users took to social media to complain about problems logging in or accessing the online television channels. DIRECTV acknowledged some problems and said they had been resolved.
Other users seemed impressed, particularly by the speed of channel changes and the user interface. Yet even some of the more positive reviews noted occasional problems. The viewer expectation of television is that it should just work.
The real frustration for many seems to be the realisation that they may not be able to substitute their traditional cable or satellite package with the online service to save money.
The offer of $35 a month for over 100 channels is a limited time promotional price, which will be maintained for those that sign up early. Together with a free Apple TV for those that pre-pay for three months it looks like a bargain.
AT&T says that customers who sign up for this offer will pay this price for as long as they keep the package, “subject to future reasonable programming price increases applicable to all packages”.
Beyond the launch period they will have to pay $60 a month for the ‘Go Big’ package of over 100 channels, or $70 a month for the ‘Gotta have it’ package of over 120 channels. HBO and Cinemax are available for an additional $5 a month each, which is less than as a standalone offering. That is on top of the cost of any fixed or mobile broadband plan. It does not currently include CBS, the most watched network, or many other local channels, varying by market.
In fact, the lowest ‘Live a little’ tier at $35 a month offers a fair selection of over 60 channels, which may be more than enough for the casual viewer.
In other respects it looks like a traditional tiered channel bundling model. Anyone hoping for a pick and mix selection may be disappointed.
Of course, this is more to do with the way that channel distribution agreements work than the delivery technology.
DIRECTV NOW offers a more flexible option for those that are unable to install satellite or cable or commit to a long-term contract. It is not going to overturn the pay-television system in the United States. After all, with 25.30 million subscribers, AT&T is the biggest pay-television provider in the country.