The DIRECTV STREAM experience is very similar to traditional TV, but we love that it requires no contracts or equipment rentals. Our tests surfaced issues with audio, screen size, and casting on mobile and browsers, but we liked channel surfing and catching games on bigger screens.
Optimum offers exceptional value. You get tons of channels, a solid DVR, and a good selection of sports and premium channels for a very reasonable price. Despite some additional fees, Optimum is an excellent choice.
The basic ENTERTAINMENT package for DIRECTV STREAM costs about the same as other premium live TV streaming options we tested, and about $5 more per month than DIRECTV’s satellite TV service (before a bunch of hidden fees). You get more than 75 channels for the base price with the streaming service, including all your local channels and a few major sports networks. It’s a decent price for what you get, and we like how similar it feels to traditional TV. We also like that DIRECTV STREAM is free of hidden fees and second-year price hikes, unlike its satellite counterpart.
That said, most people who opt for premium TV (at premium prices) will be better served by DIRECTV STREAM’s second-tier package, CHOICE. For about $20 more each month, you get 30 more channels and access to regional sports networks (RSNs). It’s expensive, but it’s the best sports coverage we found in the live TV streaming space. Just watch out for premium channels that expire after the first three months! If you forget to cancel, your bill could nearly double in month four.
DIRECTV STREAM’s third and fourth tiers are harder to recommend. You get more than 140 channels with ULTIMATE tier, at a price of more than $100 per month. At the PREMIER tier, you get more than 150 channels, including several premium entertainment options, but you’ll pay more than $150 every month. Those are the highest prices we found, and we don’t think they’re worth it for most people.
For even more every month (or $120 up front), you can get a dedicated streaming box with a voice remote and 10-digit keypad. We like that the remote has all the numbers, and the voice assistant is pretty cool. You could save big by choosing a different streaming device or using a Smart TV, and we recommend it for most people. If you want a classic TV experience delivered over the internet, though, the DIRECTV STREAM box is the way to go.
Optimum TV offers excellent value, whether you live in an area that gets only cable internet or one wired for fiber-to-the-home. Internet-basedTV packages are available for as little as $30 per month (for basic TV), while the higher-tier plans offer high channel counts for the price. There are as many as 420+ channels available—one of the highest channel counts of any provider.
All those channels aren’t just for show, either. The lineup includes all the most popular networks, including CBS, NBC, ESPN, HGTV, Univision, and History. Finally, the internet service is also a fantastic value, offering faster speeds for the money than many competitors.
There's a 2-year price lock on most plans, which is great! Prices go up in the third year of TV service, though, and the company doesn't say by how much. We've heard customers complain about price hikes in the range of $85–$115, though, and that's just for TV. Since you also need internet, your price could balloon by $200 per month by year three.
You may be able to save on your bill by calling in and threatening to switch to a competitor, so we recommend it!
DIRECTV stands out in an increasingly crowded streaming marketplace for having agreements with almost all the regional sports networks in the US. With the second-tier package and higher, you can find almost any game across the country. If you pay for the highest tier, you get access to even more. You also get all your local channels, which isn’t the case for a lot of DIRECTV STREAM’s streaming competitors. (1)
Unfortunately, NFL SUNDAY TICKET and NFL Red Zone are no longer available from either DIRECTV STREAM or DIRECTV. The rights were sold to live TV streaming competitor YouTube TV, and its available starting in the 2023 season for the add-on price of $64.99 per month.
With DIRECTV STREAM, you can catch the NFL post-season and a lot of Sunday games on local channels, and you can get Thursday Night Football with the Prime Video add-on from Amazon. Regional sports networks may also have your teams, but blackouts may apply.
Looking beyond sports with DIRECTV STREAM, we were pleasantly surprised by the selection. You get access to all your local channels and access to 90% of America’s top 100 channels. (1) That means you get home improvement shows, popular cable news stations, both Lifetime and Hallmark channels, cooking shows, programming for kids, and all the movies you could ever watch. You also get access to premium channels like HBO for free for the first few months in the CHOICE and ULTIMATE package, or included with the PREMIER package.
In our tests, the DIRECTV STREAM lineup was one of the best we found.
Optimum’s Cloud DVR system offers up to 150 hours of storage for your favorite shows and movies, and you can record up to 15 shows at the same time—perfect for large families or households with lots of roommates. The system comes with all the modern features we expect from a DVR: voice control, an Apple TV app, support for streaming services, and more.
You can also access your DVR and on-demand content from your iPhone, iPad, or Android device with the provider’s app. Our only gripe is that the DVR storage is costly—more than $20 per month for the full 150 hours, in addition to the fee for renting the box. You'll also be charged a DVR service fee for every set-top box you rent.
DIRECTV STREAM feels like traditional TV, but with perks. You can watch in real time, pause and rewind live TV, make recordings, and access the extensive on-demand library from anywhere. Hypothetically, you get unlimited streams at home and up to three away from home. It’s nice if you want to catch a game while you’re out and about, but the best thing about DIRECTV STREAM is how similar it is to a traditional TV experience.
In fact, DIRECTV STREAM is the only streaming provider we reviewed that offers a custom set-top box for purchase or monthly rental, including a full-size remote. The cost is $5 per month or $120 up front, but we didn’t order it for our tests because the DIRECTV STREAM app is also available on a handful of streaming devices we already know and love.
Like your number of home streams, saved recordings with DIRECTV STREAM are also hypothetically unlimited. We ran into some problems, though. First, only the newest 30 episodes of a show are saved, meaning old episodes are automatically deleted. Next, you can’t use Google’s Chromecast devices or Apple’s screen mirroring to cast any of your DVR content, and you can’t pause live TV while casting. Since most of our watching these days is asynchronous, that’s a significant downside.
Getting back to the upsides, we liked that you can access content in 4K resolution with any of the DIRECTV STREAM plans. You’ll get the most out of this feature with the second-tier plan and above, since that’s when all the regional sports networks kick in.
We also liked the parental controls on DIRECTV STREAM, which work by way of a four-digit pin. You have to set them up on every device you’re logged into, and they’re not yet available for Chromecast with Google TV. Many of the competitors we tested don’t have any parental controls at all, though, so DIRECTV wins the day here.
Optimum gives you the first set-top box for free, but you'll be charged an additional $10 per month each if you want to upgrade to an Apple TV or lease additional boxes. The equipment itself is more-or-less on par with other providers and should serve most users just fine.
Installation is a little complicated to explain, although the actual appointment should be simple enough. There are two cost structures for installation: one for customers who order online, and one for those who don’t.
If you order online, standard professional installation is free, or you can pay around $60 for a premium installation service if you want the technician to help set up your devices and walk you through using the service. If you don’t order online, these standard installation costs about $100 and premium installation costs about $150. You can also get an Optimum self-installation kit, which is a nice option if your home is already wired for service.
We tested the DIRECTV STREAM interface on browsers, mobile devices, smart TVs, and streaming devices. We get that any new service takes a while to get used to, but the experience with DIRECTV STREAM had more hiccups than other live TV streaming competitors we tested.
On every new device, we had to select whether we wanted to see game scores before we could watch anything (even if we weren't watching games at all). Then, when we found and selected a show on non-TV devices, there was no audio. We had to search around for the volume button within the player to hear anything. We can see how this might be a perk if you’re streaming games while working in an office or something, but for our testers it just felt broken.
To watch on mobile, location sharing is required. We may be more concerned about privacy than the average bear, but why does DIRECTV need to know your precise location in order to provide services you’ve paid for, especially when they already have your home address? Not cool.
Slow load times were also an issue on every device we tested. The payoff is stellar picture quality, eventually, but we had to wait a few seconds for any picture at all when we changed channels, and then suffer through several seconds of blurry picture before we got a high-quality image.
The built-in mini player loaded much faster, as you might expect. The delay still showed up on mobile, but wasn’t as long as with larger screens.
Once we got in and got used to the volume quirk, we got right to channel surfing. In full screen view, it was easy to go to the next or previous channel—a feature we didn’t find with other services. We had a little trouble figuring out how to get back to the channel guide on most devices, but we liked that you can sort channels either alphabetically or numerically when you get there.
Optimum offers all the expected premium channels, with the exception of EPIX, and prices are about average. Some packages also include premium channels in the price: the Premier package, for example, includes HBO Max, SHOWTIME, and STARZ.
Optimum also offers a Sports Pack, which includes more than 20 popular channels for $15 per month. You get NFL Network, NFL RedZone, NBA TV, the Golf Channel, and more. The higher-tier packages also include a number of channels by default—sports aficionados should opt for at least the Select TV plan to get the best selection.
If Optimum's offerings aren't quite right, you're in luck! A lot of games and matches are now available via streaming or over the air. Find out how to watch the MLB, how to watch pro football, and how to watch the NHL.