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9 / 10  Review Rating

DIRECTV STREAM is an ambitious live TV streaming service that brings the DIRECTV experience to streaming devices. This is a serious streaming alternative to cable and satellite services, complete with regional sports networks and local channels that aren’t always easy to find on streaming services. There’s a lot to talk about with this service, so let’s dive right into our DIRECTV STREAM review.

Is DIRECTV STREAM Worth It?

Revisiting DIRECTV STREAM in 2022, I felt much the same way about it as I did back in 2021. This is a very comprehensive service with a channel list that can go toe-to-toe with a typical cable or satellite package. Despite occasional slow loading (particularly on the channel guide menu), I found the service easy to use. If you’re looking for a flexible streaming solution that gives you everything you miss about cable or satellite TV, then you’ll like DIRECTV STREAM.

DIRECTV STREAM: A cable replacement that really feels like cable

Pros Cons
  • Huge channel selection, especially in larger bundles
  • Excellent sports coverage, including many regional sports networks
  • Simple, familiar, and cable-like user experience
  • Slower loading times and longer lag times than some competitors
  • Content discovery features could be improved

OUR TAKE:

DIRECTV STREAM feels bigger and more complete than most of its streaming competitors — but it also feels more like cable, which isn’t always a good thing.

Our Video Review of DIRECTV STREAM

What Is DIRECTV STREAM and What Does It Do?

DIRECTV STREAM is a live TV streaming service that is designed to replace your cable or satellite service. Just like cable or satellite, DIRECTV STREAM offers live feeds of lots of big-time channels, including major networks like CBS, sports channels like ESPN, and news networks like FOX News.

DIRECTV STREAM on a Roku TV
Using DIRECTV STREAM on my Roku TV

DIRECTV STREAM is not the only service like this, of course. Cord-cutters who miss the live TV experience can also turn to options like Sling TV, Hulu + Live TV, and YouTube TV. Streaming alternatives to cable tend to be cheaper and have leaner channel lineups. They’re also low-commitment and tend not to offer contracts or bundle deals.

What Can You Watch on DIRECTV STREAM?

Live TV channels are what DIRECTV STREAM is all about. All of these streaming cable alternatives — DIRECTV STREAM, Sling TV, YouTube TV, and the rest — are only as good as their channel lineups.

And DIRECTV STREAM’s channel list is excellent. Things start strong with DIRECTV STREAM’s cheapest plan, Entertainment, which includes what DIRECTV STREAM calls the “essentials.” I’m inclined to agree: The Entertainment plan includes the major networks (ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC); big-time sports networks like ESPN and FS1; and news networks like CNN and FOX News.

To get regional sports networks (RSNs), you’ll need to step up to the second-tier DIRECTV STREAM package, CHOICE. RSNs are, as the name implies, regional, so you’ll get only the ones that apply to your area. Here in New York, I was very impressed with the selection: I could watch SNY (New York Mets), YES (New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets), and MSG (New York Rangers and New York Knicks) on DIRECTV STREAM. The CHOICE package isn’t just about sports, though — you’ll get more entertainment and news channels, too, which bump the channel count from 65-plus to 90-plus.

Bumping things up to DIRECTV ULTIMATE or PREMIER unlocks even more channels. DIRECTV STREAM also offers premium channels like HBO, which are included in the PREMIER bundle but can also be added to the lower-level bundles for an extra fee. (Of course, you could also sign up for HBO Max or STARZ through their own stand-alone apps. However, getting them through DIRECTV STREAM means that you’ll be able to access their programming without leaving the DIRECTV STREAM app.)

One thing that’s not on DIRECTV STREAM is NFL SUNDAY TICKET. This popular add-on to DIRECTV’s satellite service hasn’t made the jump to the streaming world, which is a shame. (Luckily, there are other ways to watch NFL games without cable.)

On-demand content on DIRECTV STREAM
On DIRECTV STREAM, your movie options include on-demand selections as well as films airing on channels like AMC, TNT, and FX. (Screenshot from web app)

On top of all of the live TV, DIRECTV STREAM includes a healthy selection of on-demand content, including the same sorts of movies and TV shows you might find airing on a network like FX or AMC.

DIRECTV STREAM Features and Specs: Streaming Quality, Devices, and More

DIRECTV STREAM’s core feature set is pretty standard stuff for a live TV streaming service. The cloud DVR, 720p-and-up streaming quality, and favorite-channels system are all here.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the key DIRECTV STREAM features.

Recording with the DIRECTV STREAM DVR

DIRECTV STREAM comes with a cloud DVR on board. Since your recordings are stored in the cloud, you can access them from the DIRECTV STREAM on any device, not just the one that you used to schedule the recording.

DIRECTV STREAM's DVR feature
Using the DVR feature on DIRECTV STREAM’s web app

DIRECTV STREAM’s DVR is unlimited, which is a nice perk that was added since our last review. The catch is that DVR recordings eventually expire. While that’s a bummer, it’s also very common — virtually all of DIRECTV STREAM’s competitors have similar limits on their cloud DVR recordings.

DIRECTV STREAM also has a “bookmark” system. Not to be confused with the DVR, this feature lets you add on-demand content to a watchlist. In my testing, this feature felt a little redundant. On the other hand, this is a nice way to organize DVR-like on-demand content without using up your recording hours on the DVR.

What Devices Can You Use With the DIRECTV STREAM App?

DIRECTV STREAM’s device support is strong. I was able to test the service on Roku, Fire TV, iOS, Android, Chromecast, and the Chrome web browser. It also works on Samsung Smart TVs.

DIRECTV STREAM on iOS
Using DIRECTV STREAM on iOS

On top of that, there’s the DIRECTV STREAM device, which is an optional streaming box for folks who don’t already have one at home.

DIRECTV STREAM Hardware: The DIRECTV STREAM Streaming Box

I have more than my share of streaming devices at CordCutting.com HQ. But this review wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t test out the DIRECTV STREAM device, so I got my hands on one and put it through its paces.

The DIRECTV STREAM device runs a modified version of Google’s Android TV operating system, and it boots up directly to the DIRECTV STREAM app. In fact, the whole experience is contained within the DIRECTV STREAM app — even the menu that lets you switch to outside apps like Netflix and Hulu is contained within the DIRECTV STREAM app interface rather than on a “home page”-style screen of its own.

The best part of the DIRECTV STREAM device is the remote, which can serve as a universal remote (meaning you can program it to work with your TV and other devices, not just with the DIRECTV STREAM box). With the remote’s channel up and down buttons and this device’s version of the DIRECTV STREAM app, channel surfing feels like it does with cable or satellite.

Stephen holding the DIRECTV STREAM device
The DIRECTV STREAM device is square and thin.

With that said, I’d stop short of recommending this device over alternatives like Roku or Fire TV, which would still be at their best even if you eventually decide to unsubscribe from DIRECTV STREAM.

DIRECTV STREAM Streaming Quality

DIRECTV STREAM is a little cagey about its streaming quality. Streams can be “low,” “medium,” or “high” quality, but it’s not always clear what that means. In my tests, 720p appeared to be the norm — a fairly standard thing in live TV streaming, though some of DIRECTV STREAM’s competitors manage 1080p.

In my tests, I was able to occasionally get DIRECTV STREAM’s quality to dip into standard definition or worse. It wasn’t a common problem, but it is something I’d expect to see on slower internet connections. DIRECTV STREAM has generally decent streaming quality, but it didn’t stick to HD quite as reliably as competitors like YouTube TV.

What We Learned From Using DIRECTV STREAM in Our Testing

I found DIRECTV STREAM easy to use. The service keeps things simple, and I found myself using the “channel guide” menu — a staple of live TV streaming services, as well as cable and satellite — even more often than I have with DIRECTV STREAM’s competitors. That was likely because DIRECTV STREAM goes pretty light on content-discovery features like algorithm-backed recommendations. I found I didn’t miss most of these sorts of menus. The few that DIRECTV STREAM did have were more than enough.

DIRECTV STREAM channel guide screen
DIRECTV STREAM’s channel guide menu as seen in the web app

The channel guide is easy to navigate. By default, channels are listed in alphabetical order, which isn’t the most useful layout. Luckily, the screen is easy to customize. I marked channels as favorites (another pretty standard feature) and was off to the races.

DIRECTV STREAM’s interface felt a bit sluggish at times, and there were moments when I scrolled faster than the channel guide loaded. Still, my overall impression was that the app was pretty competent. It’s unspectacular but has the features it needs.

Plans, Pricing, and Value: Is DIRECTV STREAM Worth It?

DIRECTV STREAM feels more like cable than most other cable replacement services do. That feeling extends to DIRECTV STREAM’s pricing scheme, too. DIRECTV STREAM has a competitively priced introductory package, but its larger channel packages are noticeably pricier than most other streaming services. Unlike most competitors, DIRECTV STREAM also offers bundling options and long-term contracts, though I was happy to see that those are optional.

DIRECTV STREAM costs $69.99 per month for the entry-level DIRECTV STREAM ENTERTAINMENT package. That strikes me as a pretty fair value for the 65+ channels that come with the subscription, though I wish that they would have included RSNs (to get those, you’ll have to choose the DIRECTV STREAM CHOICE package for $89.99 per month).

The pricier bundles, ULTIMATE and PREMIER, are better values on a per-channel basis, but they feel a little expensive to me. Your mileage may vary, but I consider the CHOICE tier to be the sweet spot, thanks to its inclusion of RSNs and sub-$100 price.

Verdict: Should You Subscribe to DIRECTV STREAM?

DIRECTV STREAM is the biggest and most comprehensive of the live TV streaming services. It feels like cable in ways that are both good and bad. If you’re a serious fan of live TV and can’t live without a massive number of channels, this is your best bet in streaming. It could have used a cheaper entry-level option or a more affordable way to access RSNs, but it’s still a more flexible option than cable — and a more complete one than most of its streaming competitors.