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DIRECTV NOW joins the fray of providers offering cable TV services over the Internet. This article provides a review of DIRECTV NOW for Apple TV.

It seems like every day there’s a new app offering cable services for Apple TV, without the cable. If you cut the cord, they’re trying to virtually splice it back together. If you really miss channel surfing and live TV, these services may be right for you. They all seem to have limitations, and apart from some flashy user interfaces, they’re not as good as cable.

The main problem with all of these TV services, regardless of brand, is that there are simply too many rules. Providers have taken advantage of the enhanced interactivity of TV appliances (Apple TV), smartphones and other devices to the benefit of the networks. There are so many odd rules about video quality, fast forwarding and other features. I understand that networks want you to watch advertising, but the rules are inconsistent across channels and even between on demand, live TV and DVR recordings (which are not yet available on DIRECTV NOW). You almost need a cheat sheet just to remember what you can do. Sure, some nifty features benefit viewers, but it’s clear that the networks have negotiated these business rules, and they’re often implemented poorly. For example, I don’t mind if they require viewers to watch commercials, but let us fast forward and rewind! Hulu has figured this one out.

DIRECTV NOW is just another brick in the wall. There’s a lot I like about the service, but the absence of key channels (CBS), lack of a DVR feature, unreliability and bizarre business rules make it unappealing to me. At best, it is inexpensive and you can get a great deal on the Go Big package. If you don’t mind the lack of CBS, obvious defects, no DVR and can tolerate some intentional functional limitations, it may be an adequate substitute for cable.

The user interface is, in some ways, superior to anything you’ll find with digital cable, but it has its quirks. In fact, if you subscribe to this service now, you are essentially paying to beta test this platform. DIRECTV NOW offers a free 7 day trial. If you decide to continue, I recommend subscribing month-to-month, except if they give you a free Apple TV. The Apple TV app is buggy and there are a lot of blacked out TV shows and missing channels. Despite these deficiencies, AT&T decided to release this product to consumers, with a lot of promotion from Apple.

Getting Started with DIRECTV NOW for Apple TV

When DIRECTV NOW first launched, subscriptions and trials were offered as in-app purchases. Apple promoted the app on the marquee and it was the first app you’d see in the App Store. DIRECTV NOW quickly reversed this decision, prompting users to sign in with an account purchased outside of the App Store. The app lost its prominent position in the App Store, but AT&T’s move makes a lot of sense.

Apple expects a 30% cut of subscriptions, in perpetuity, for simply hosting a small app download and providing monthly billing. AT&T still carries the heavy burden of running the service from their data centers. Like most subscription services, DIRECTV NOW has opted out of Apple’s robber baron, monopolistic practices. Apple needs to wise up and formulate a better deal for subscription services. (continue…)

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