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You may have heard of USTVnow, the streaming service that offers cable television packages that range in price from free to over $100.

USTVnow is ostensibly designed for Americans living abroad (military service members, for instance). The idea is that Americans would normally have access to these channels (perhaps even free over the air), but no longer can. However, USTVnow doesn't do anything to verify that you are American or living outside of the United States, so it's effectively a free-for-all.

That means you can get USTVnow no matter where you live. But should you? Here's our review.

The User Experience

Device support is fairly weak on USTVnow. There is a Roku private channel that is pretty good, and USTVnow works on your phone, tablet, computer, and smartphone. That's about it, though – don't expect support for Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, or Apple TV. The unlimited DVR feature is a nice touch (you can only get it with the paid account, though).

USTVnow's browser interface
USTVnow's browser interface

We weren't that impressed with USTVnow's UI. USTVnow's interface isn't bad, exactly, but it's also a constant reminder that the service exists on the fringe of legality. It's pretty basic, with stock photos, blue links, grey tones, and right angles galore. Using it was pretty painless, though it occasionally hit us with strange error dialogue boxes upon login. The USTVnow logo in the upper left corner of the screen indicated that the service is in Beta, and it shows.

All of this is no big deal for the free plan – you don't expect luxury when you're using a quasi-legal service and netting a bunch of free TV. But USTVnow's paid customers probably deserve better.

The Content

USTVnow's paid version includes more than 25 channels. That's not a bad selection, especially considering the big names that are included: you'll get the four major networks, plus AMC, CNN, ESPN, FX, TBS, and TNT, to name just a few. The free version includes six channels: ABC, CBS, CW, FOX, NBC, and PBS (those are free because they're the ones that Americans could theoretically get free over the air at home). Here's a quick breakdown of the pricing for the paid version:

USTV Now pricing

There's also a “premium plan” with over 200 channels, including HBO and Showtime. That will run you more than $99 and uses a different system.

It's hard to find reasons to complain about USTVnow's content. The only strange thing about the content is that it comes from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Since the major networks, PBS, and the rest have regionally-specific content, this can make for kind of weird moments. Local news, NFL games, and other programming will be based on whatever Harrisburg gets. There are also lots of local Harrisburg commercials, which is amusing. It's a little bootleg, for lack of a better word.

We mentioned the NFL up there. NFL games are a big boost to USTVnow's content selection, especially since most games are on the channels that you can get for free (the Monday night games on ESPN are the ones that will cost you extra). NFL games are really hard to get ahold of, so it's nice to be able to catch them. Note that the local broadcasts for Harrisburg cover the Steelers and Eagles, so you'll have to hope that your favorite team isn't playing in the same time slot.

Streaming Quality

Streaming through USTVnow is solid but unspectacular. The quality is determined largely by your internet bandwidth, but you can choose between low, medium, high, and HD quality at will. We experienced occasional pixelation and poor picture quality. Streaming on low quality was very consistent and smooth; at higher picture quality levels, we dealt with more freezes and choppiness. Internet bandwidth determines streaming success, so your milage may vary. For what it's worth, the low quality stream wasn't that blurry, so this wasn't the end of the world.

Low quality streaming worked best for us - here's what it looks like
Low quality streaming worked best for us – here's what it looks like

One annoying thing about the stream is that it re-loads every time you change the quality (understandable) or picture size (less understandable), and it takes a fair amount of time to do it. You'll miss 10+ seconds of your program if you make a switch from one video quality to another.

We did have some issues streaming content on Sunday, when NFL games were airing. This could have been because a high volume of users were streaming at once. Once again, it seemed like something you'd expect from a free illegal stream, but would be hard to swallow as a paying customer.

Our Conclusion

You can't beat the price of USTVnow's free plan. Even if USTVnow is eventually shut down, individual users will almost certainly never be prosecuted, so you might as well make a free account.

USTVnow's monthly rate of $29 for a paid plan is much tougher for us to justify based on our experience. Sling TV has fewer channels and a weaker content selection, but it's also $9 less, features more device support, and isn't illegal. That said, USTVnow's day passes are a very attractive option for appointment viewing like sports events and TV specials.

57 thoughts on “USTVnow Review

  1. Sue Hall says:

    The service worked well until this month… Had the free service several years with few problems. Now they cut you off saying “server overload.” I got the $1 special and was charged $4.99 plus the $1. It went to $19 for a couple months, then to $29, at which point I went back to free service, but didn’t get my month until I complained and they only restored it to the end of the pay period. Could not see paying $19 a month, let alone $29 when there were only 1 or 2 things in a month I was interested in with the full package. Now it seems they’re punishing us if we don’t pay by denying access for the free version.

  2. Jan Lustig says:

    Currently have the free version. Unable to watch what I want when I want it because of “network congestion.” Support says I will have better reception if I pay. Not willing to pay until I see better service. Don’t waste your money.

  3. James says:

    I have been using USTVnow in California for several years now and it works great for me. Very rarely do I have buffering issues but I have a very fast internet connection. I am a news junkie and mostly watch Fox News Channel. This service is great for me and a hell of a lot cheaper than basic cable.

  4. MovieBox says:

    nice post, thanks for sharing!

  5. Bob Williams says:

    How do I go about accessing free ustvnow. I have a dell lap top computer. Do I need to download something and is it safe?

  6. Jack Darland, Jr. says:

    USTV in my experience, is a sham/scam/waste of good time…I was watching a 2 hour documentary when in the last 15 minutes the stream died with the message, ‘working to correct a known problem’…this by no means an isolated case…watching sports seems to be a particular problem…watching a game with 7:32 left on the clock and the score tied at 10, suddenly, without warning, there is 12:21 on the clock and the score 10 – 3…then, just as suddenly, there is 7:32 left on the clock and the score 10 all again…again, this is not an infrequent occurrence…I complained numerous times asking that some of my money be refunded as I was paying 100% for the service, but only receiving perhaps 80% for what I was paying…their response was always, “sorry, we are working on it.” Finally they offered to give me two free weeks, which was better than nothing…I cancelled my service after that, USTVnow just not worth the hassle…

    1. Jack Darland, Jr. says:

      Update: After I cancelled – as mentioned in the above post shortly after Jan 2 – and stopped using the service, lo and behold, in March I was charged $29.00 for the monthly fee…in contact with USTV Now to point out and correct the error, the response was, “Sorry! No refund for you.” I complained again and again, pointing out that no money was taken in February…”Sorry! No refund for you.” So because I am a fair player, I sent them the statement I planned to send to the BBB and said I would wait a week before sending it. “Sorry! No refund for you.” A week later, I sent the formal complaint to the BBB – within 2 hours I received a message from Paypal, “$29.00 has been refunded to your account by USTVNow” Moral(IMHO): service that is sporadic, customer service mediocre at best, a ‘bottom line over customer satisfaction’ company…hope your luck/service is better than mine.

  7. Ray says:

    This is a ripoff I joined to watch sports I should have just threw the money in the street. They are basically stealing your money ….don’t join

  8. Jesse Fuller says:

    As an expat I live in Brazil and have had USTVnow for the past 3 yrs on a auto-renewal monthly paid programming. I was very disappointed when they did away with CNN a couple of years ago as that was one of the main selling points for me. For being paid programming the streaming is of poor quality and buffers often. Watching MSNBS is no longer possible for me as the streaming is constantly interrupted about every 8 to 10 minutes and a notice saying that the are sorry and a known issue is causing the interruption. If your a paid member please contact USATVnow. After 40 days and countless contacts with them, they are not able to fix whatever issue it is that they have. I am now seeking other alternatives rather than continue with paying for something I am not able to get.

  9. nothanks says:

    the free plan now streams in 244p..yes 244p!

    1. lima says:

      How do you get the free plan

  10. Tonya Ouimet says:

    How do u get it to be the size of the screen??????

  11. says:

    USTVnow is not working with Roku any more. Roku discontinued the USTVnow services so please update your article accordingly.

  12. douglas smith says:

    100 % scam! You never get all the channels you pay for. Service when they answer never tell the truth. They blame Google,Microsoft and computer companies for there many problems. They dont look at there site and never know when there is a problem. They blocked us from election info the night of the election.

    1. Ulfat says:

      I see what you mean, but I’m not entirely convinced. I am getting all the channels I am paying for, additionally ustvnow offered me 720 free movies. Their support is very responsive.

  13. Kyle says:

    I tried UStvnow while in Mexico on vacation. I signed up for a 5 day free trial. I cancelled prior to the free trial ending and was still charged. When I called to resolve the confusion, I was told they would not refund me and was accused of lying that I had actually cancelled the subscription. The confirmation emails had gone to spam so I did not have those initially to show them. Eventually found them and disputed the charges with my AMEX. The service was OK. Customer service is horrible and they are clearly not trustworthy. I would not ever do anything with this company again.

  14. radiochuck says:

    Are the Canadian networks available in the U.S.? (CBC, CTV, City, etc.)

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