DirecTV Now: How to Watch ATT's Live Streaming Service

directv now
Watch live television channels on your phone or computer with DirecTV Now. Nora Carol Photography / Moment / Getty

DirecTV Now is a live television streaming service from AT&T that lets cord cutters watch TV shows, sports, and movies with an internet connection instead of a cable subscription. It's completely separate from the DirecTV satellite service, so you don't need to subscribe to satellite television to get DirecTV Now.

In order to watch DirecTV Now, you need both a high speed internet connection and a compatible device. That means you can use this service to watch live television on your computer, smartphone, or tablet, or on your television with devices like Apple TV and Roku. You can also cast live television to your TV using the DirecTV Now app.

The main difference between DirecTV Now and competitors like cable and satellite is that you can use live television streaming services like DirecTV to watch TV both at home and on the go. For example, you could catch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade from your hideout in the backyard, away from the family. 

Another difference is that while cable and satellite television services include local channels like ABC, NBC and Fox nationwide, the availability of these channels from live streaming services is limited to certain markets. Outside those markets, you're limited to on-demand content, which is often available the day after broadcast.

In addition to competing with cable and satellite, DirecTV Now also has a number of competitors that also provide live streaming television over the internet. Sling TV, YouTube TV, and PlayStation Vue all offer similar services.

One unique thing about DirecTV Now is that it includes content from CBS, which many of its competitors lack. Subscribers to other services can still get CBS through the standalone CBS All Access service. Other streaming services, like Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime Video, don't have live television at all.

How to Sign up for DirecTV Now

how to sign up for directv now
Signing up for DirecTV Now is as easy as choosing an plan and entering your billing info. Screenshots.

Signing up for DirecTV Now is fast and easy, and it includes a free trial period. Even if you choose one of the more expensive plans, and add premium channels, you still won't be charged anything during the trial. However, if you fail to cancel before the trial ends, they'll charge you for whatever options you chose when you signed up.

It's important to note that DirecTV Now and DirecTV are separate services that require separate accounts. However, if you are an AT&T customer, you may be eligible for certain bonuses. Keep an eye out for these offers during the sign up process.

To sign up for DirecTV Now:

  1. Navigate to directvnow.com, and click on start your free trial now.
  2. Enter your email and choose a password.
  3. Click the reCAPTCHA check box to show you aren't a robot.
  4. Click let's do this.
  5. Choose a plan and scroll down to view the included channels
  6. If you're happy with the channels, click continue with this plan.
  7. Add any additional channels you want, or click skip for now.
    Note: you can add additional channels or change your plan at any time.
  8. DirecTV Now sometimes offers sign up bonuses, like a free Apple TV or Roku if you pre-pay your subscription. Select one of these if you like, or click no thanks.
    Note: choosing to take advantage of any special offer may require you to pre-pay for a subscription instead of starting off with a free trial period. Please read the fine print.
  9. Click on Credit Card or PayPal, and then enter your billing information, then scroll down.
  10. Review the payment summary, which will show how much is due right now, or how much is due after your free trial.
  11. Read the terms and conditions, and check I have read and agree to the offer details above if you agree.
  12. Click submit.
  13. Click start watching.

Choosing the Right DirecTV Now Plan

directv now plans
DirecTV Now has four plans that each come with a different number of live channels. Screenshot.

DirecTV Now offers four subscription options. Each of these options includes ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox and CW, along with a selection of the most popular cable channels, but the more expensive options include a whole lot more.

The DirecTV Now subscription plans are:

  1. Live a Little: includes 60+ live channels and on demand content, including ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox and CW. Basic cable channels include Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, Discovery, and more.
  2. Just Right: includes 80+ channels, adding regional sports networks, additional sports channels like MLB Network, IFC, and more.
  3. Go Big: includes 100+ channels, adding more sports from CBS Sports Network, Fox Sports 2, and others, movies from channels like FX Movie Channel, and family entertainment from channels like Universal Kids. 
  4. Gotta Have It: includes 120+ channels, adding premium content from multiple Starz Encore channels, movies from channels like Chiller, and family channels like Boomerang.

While the major networks are included with all four plans, the availability of live streaming television from ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox and CW is limited based on where you live.

The availability of the major networks is based on your billing ZIP code, and whether or not you can actually stream them is based on your physical location when you try to stream.

So if you live in an area where local channels are available for live streaming, but you travel to a different ZIP code, streaming may be unavailable from channels like ABC and NBC until you return home.

To find out more about the availability of live streaming local channels from DirecTV Now, check out their ZIP code lookup tool. You can use the same tool to check if regional sports are available where you live.

If the tool says that local channels aren't available where you live, you'll be limited to on demand content from the major networks. Live television will still be available from other channels as long as you're in the United States.

How Many Shows Can You Watch at Once on DirecTV Now?
When you watch a live or on demand show on a streaming service like DirecTV Now, it's referred to as a stream. Rather than limiting the number of shows you can watch at once, DirecTV Now limits the number of simultaneous streams, which basically just means the number of shows you can watch on different devices at the same time.

Regardless of the subscription plan you choose, you're limited to two simultaneous streams on DirecTV Now. That means you can use your phone to cast a show from your phone to your TV, and someone else can watch a totally different show on a computer or their own phone.

If three or more people want to watch different shows on DirecTV Now at the same time, the third person will receive error message 60 and a warning about too many streams.

This error message can also show up sometimes when only one or two streams are being watched, in which case the best solution is usually to delete and reinstall the DirecTV Now app.

If you want to stream more than two shows on more than two devices at once, you'll have to sign up for an additional DirecTV Now account, or use a service like Sling TV, Youtube TV, or PlayStation Vue that allows more than two streams at once.

How Fast Does Your Internet Need to Be to Watch DirecTV Now
DirecTV Now requires a high speed internet connection to work at all, and the speed of your connection affects the quality of the video.

To stream content from DirecTV Now, they recommend:

  • 150 Kbps - 2.5 Mbps as the slowest possible connection speed for watching on mobile devices.
  • 2.5 - 7.5 Mbps to watch high definition video.
  • 12 Mbps+ to watch multiple streams on a home internet connection.

DirecTV Now Ala Carte and Optional Features

DirecTV Now ala carte options
DirecTV Now offers extra premium channels on an ala carte basis. Screenshot.

In addition to the main subscription packages, DirecTV Now also allows you to add additional channels on an ala carte basis. These optional channels include HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, and Starz.

When you add one of these options, you gain access to both live television and on demand content.

Watching Live Television on DirecTV Now

watch live directv now
DirecTV Now allows you to watch live television just like cable or satellite TV. Screenshot.

Watching live television on your phone, computer, or other compatible device is the whole point of DirecTV Now, and it really is the focal point of the service. In fact, when you navigate to the DirecTV Now site, it automatically starts playing a live channel.

If that happens to be what you wanted to watch, then that's great. If it isn't, then watching live television on DirecTV Now is still pretty easy:

  1. Navigate to directvnow.com/watch.
  2. Click on guide.
  3. Scroll through the guide to find a program that you want to watch.
    Note: the vertical blue line that cuts through the guide represents the current time and effectively shows how much of each program is left to air.
  4. Click on the name of the program you want to watch.
  5. Move your mouse over the lower right corner of the video and click on one of the rectangle icons if you want to make the video larger.
    Note: While you can pause live television on DirecTV Now, there is no fast forward feature or option to skip commercials.

Does DirecTV Now Have a DVR or On Demand Content?

directv now on demand
DirecTV Now has on demand content, but it launched without a DVR option. Screenshot.

DirecTV Now includes a lot of on demand content, and new episodes are often added within 24 hours after they first air.

If you want to watch an on demand TV show or movie on DirecTV now, the process is pretty easy:

  1. Navigate to directvnow.com/watch.
  2. Click on networks, movies, or shows.
  3. Locate a show or movie you want to watch, and click it.
  4. Click the play button on the episode or movie you want to watch.​
    Note: You can pause on demand content, and you can effectively rewind and fast forward by clicking on the video timeline. However, on demand videos do include commercials, and you'll be forced to watch a commercial if you attempt to fast forward past it.

Unlike some other streaming services, DirecTV Now launched without any digital video recorder (DVR) functionality. The service does have a watch list where you can keep track of things you want to watch, but it only consists of on demand content.

For more information about DVR on DirecTV Now, check out AT&T's pledge to continue improving the service.

DirecTV Now does include a 72 hour rewind feature, which allows you to catch up on shows you missed, but it's only available on certain channels.

Can You Rent Movies on DirecTV Now?

directv movie rental
You can't rent movies on DirecTV Now, but the service does include a selection of free on demand movies. Screenshot.

There is no option to rent movies on DirecTV Now in the same way that you can if you have a cable or satellite television subscription. Some live television streaming services do include this option, but DirecTV Now doesn't.

If you're a DirecTV satellite television subscriber, you can rent movies through their website. You can also rent movies from DirecTV if you have a combined AT&T and DirecTV bill.

However, it isn't possible to sign up for the necessary account if you don't have AT&T or DirecTV satellite service. Your DirecTV Now login information will not work on the DirecTV movie rental site.

DirecTV Now does include a large selection of free movies that you can watch on demand, and you also have access to movies on a number of the live television channels. If you add a premium channel like HBO or Showtime, the selection of free movies is even larger.

If you are a DirecTV Now subscriber, and you want to rent a new release that isn't available through the service, you'll have better luck renting from another service like Amazon or Vudu.