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There are four cheap DirecTV options: three are specific packages on their Satellite TV service, and the fourth is their Netflix-style streaming service, which is called “DirecTV NOW.”
Two major issues to be aware of with these plans:
Their satellite TV service is known for offering a good range of sports channels and high customer satisfaction ranking among TV providers… However, they aren’t known for being the cheapest in the industry, and their pricing tactics since being taken over by AT&T leave a little to be desired. Here's a quick rundown on how to get the absolute cheapest service from DirecTV.
I'll also go over some of my top tips for existing DirecTV customers to renegotiate for a cheaper DirecTV deal.
For info on how to maximize channels for your price, take a gander at my detailed DirecTV review.
DirecTV’s most basic package is the SELECT package, and includes over 150 channels, many of them in HD. If you are a family household conscious of price and trying to balance a budget then it offers a good selection of family channels and basic programming such as news, education, and kids channels.
Here are a few of the channels included in the DirecTV SELECT plan nationally:
The SELECT package also includes:
While DirecTV is known for their awesome choice of sports channels, their basic package is very light on for sports – something to keep in mind.
While the specific channels offered can vary slightly based on service area, here's an example lineup in a Virginia service area:
The cheapest DirecTV package with NFL Sunday Ticket included is the DIRECTV CHOICE package. It costs $60/month on the current promotional rate. One full season of NFL Sunday Ticket is included for new customers, and many customers report success extending the free service by calling and requesting it after one year.
Let’s check out the minimum total cost for signing up with the SELECT package:
This tactic of changing the price mid-way through the two-year contract is common with TV and Internet providers.
You’ll also need to remember to cancel your 3-month premium channels trial before it runs out, or it’ll be an extra $53.99/month on top of what you’re already paying.
If you are looking for a cheaper satellite TV service, competitor Dish might work better for you, although the channel lineups and promotions are less ideal for families and sports fans. Their most basic package is currently $39.99/month, locked in for 24 months – working out to $959.76 overall, plus taxes. However, channel choice differs and this doesn’t include a DVR (receiver only), so make sure to check out my detailed comparison of Dish and DirecTV.
DirecTV also offers their customers an alternative to their traditional satellite packages, with “DirecTV NOW.” (See my DirecTV NOW review for more details.)
DirecTV NOW uses your internet connection to stream content and requires an internet service at your home. It is also considerably cheaper, with the DirecTV NOW base package “Live a Little” coming in at just $35/month, with no extra fees, and no lock-in contract so you can cancel at any time.
With DirecTV NOW’s Live a Little, you can stream over 60 live channels, and choose from 20,000 on-demand titles. Features of the service include:
Minimum Internet download speeds for streaming DirecTV NOW
There are other streaming packages available, with the “Just Right” at $50/month, “Go Big” at $60/month, and “Gotta Have It” at $70/month – all with a boost in channel selections.
Presumably, Coldstone Creamery will eventually notice that they're borrowing the names for the price levels 😉
With DirecTV NOW you will require a stable, fast internet connection to stream content. If you want to view HD content, that means making sure you're on an Internet connection that can handle it. For a family, I'd recommend a download speed of at least 12 Mbps to avoid issues with buffering or image quality.
One nice perk of DirecTV NOW is that AT&T customers can stream unlimited video on their mobile devices (as opposed to streaming non-partnered services, which will eat up your data limits). You'll need at least 2.5 Mbps for non-HD streaming on mobile, or 7.5 Mbps for HD mobile streaming.
Like many TV providers, DirecTV has been working hard to keep customers from switching to alternatives like Netflix and Hulu. This can work in your advantage since existing customers can get even cheaper DirecTV plans by following a few simple habits:
The first and most important tip here is to call and request deals at least twice a year. DirecTV call center employees are strongly incentivized to stop you from canceling, so if you call and say you're thinking of canceling, they will offer you a deal of some sort. Sometimes that deal is free channels. Sometimes it's free NFL Sunday Ticket. The deal varies, but there is always a deal.
When your contract expires after the first two years, I strongly recommend that you get another contract locked in on the phone. AT&T is notorious for shifting pricing on existing customers. Getting a two-year contract with locked-in pricing means they can't pull this move on you. If you've been a customer long enough for the first two years to expire, go ahead and lock in another two years. It will be cheaper in the long run.
Finally, here's one of my favorite tips for living cheaply on DirecTV: switch your package online. DirecTV is famously lenient about customers changing their package tier online. For example, if you want to watch a specific game that's only on the premium tiers, you can switch to a higher tier for that day, and switch it back after the game. Similarly, you can switch to a super-cheap plan like the Family plan if you're going to be out of town for a while.
DirecTV will generally prorate your charges, which means you only get charged for the time you subscribe, not for the whole month. Note that this may change in the near future if it is overly abused by frugal customers.
DirecTV also offers a “Family” plan that isn't advertised publicly. It only includes 50 channels, most of which are garbage and filler, so I'd recommend spending the extra $5/month to get the “SELECT” plan. If you want to find out what the “Family” package includes in your area, you have to first sign up for the SELECT plan and call back after your service has been installed.
Playboy TV channels have also been offered to existing customers in the past as a freebie to keep you from quitting. You have to request this on the phone once you've been a customer for a year or more. For obvious reasons, they won't offer it to you unprompted. ?
As you can see there can be quite a price difference between traditional TV packages with DirecTV and streamed content – and this is the same with other providers.
If you’re looking for a TV package and have fast internet with a lot of data to spare (or you’re an AT&T customer or looking to sign up) then streaming is definitely the better option.
For households without fast internet or limited data, then DirecTV’s traditional TV service will be a cheaper, more stable option.
Finally, sports fans should consider the CHOICE package, which is the cheapest DirecTV plan to currently offer NFL Sunday Ticket as an included promotion.