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.
Home to greats like The Office, Parks & Rec, Real Housewives, and Law & Order, Peacock has some great content at a price we loved. But our hands-on testing revealed that its channel lineup was disappointing and couldn’t fully replace a more expensive live TV streaming service like Fubo or YouTube TV.
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.
Peacock is a great deal, especially if you take advantage of its $1.99 per month offer. It’s one of the cheapest TV streaming apps, but if you want it to cover all your live TV needs, you’ll probably be disappointed. It’s great if you love international sports like rugby, soccer, and golf, or if you want live news from a few of the largest metro areas in the US (think Chicago, New York, Los Angeles). But you won’t have access to NBC/Universal’s live stations, CNBC, MSNBC, or, well, NBC. That means you can’t watch live episodes of The Voice with your friends. Instead, you can get them on Peacock the next day—after your co-workers passive-aggressively feed you spoilers. Womp-womp.
Still, Peacock gives you access to arguably some of the greatest shows on TV, like The Office, Parks and Rec, and all the Law & Order reruns you could ever want. It’s a ton of value, but we recommend considering it an addition to a more complete live streaming option like Philo, Sling, or Hulu + Live TV.
Peacock TV has three versions. The free version is kind of like a teaser for the paid versions. You get to watch a few new shows and a bunch of channels packed with syndicated reruns, all while drooling over all the shows you’d get if you coughed up the cash for the paid version. The next step up, Peacock Premium, is a great buy at $5 per month. You get all the content Peacock has to offer and commercials were surprisingly low-key. Finally, the premium tier is Peacock Premium Plus. It’s twice the price and, in our opinion, rarely worth the cost. You get the same content with fewer commercials and the ability to download shows to watch offline (but no ability to DVR live content). It’s pretty meh.
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.
While Peacock has limited value as your only live TV streaming service, the content it does have is great. You get live NBC news from several big cities. Plus, NBC has some award-winning shows, both new and old. From The Office, 30 Rock, and Parks and Rec to Blacklist, all the Saturday Night Live, and Real Housewives, there’s some great content to watch on Peacock. If you work your way through all the episodes of these shows before you’re done binging (though we’d be surprised if you did), you can pick from over 40 channels of various news shows, classics like Dennis the Menace, reruns of Jimmy Falon, and more.
Peacock Premium and Peacock Premium Plus have some great sports content too. You’ll get a bit of everything, from soccer to golf to cycling to NASCAR to Sunday Night Football—all live or on-demand, depending on when you log in to watch. You also get the Olympics, of course, but these won’t be live. So if you like to stay up til three in the morning to watch your favorite curling team sweep their hearts out, consider this your permission to sleep in and catch all the bonspiels (that’s curling-speak for games) during normal waking hours. Oh, and if classic WWF matches are your jam (wait, is that just us?), Peacock has a channel that plays them 24/7/365.
Finally, Peacock has some great movies. Create a kids profile, and it’ll be packed with Dreamworks movies like Turbo, Shrek, and Shark Tale alongside shows like Blippi, Strawberry Shortcake, and Trolls: The Beat Goes On. Plus, you can dress to the nines in your living room and join the Gentleminions movement without besmirching your polite theater-goer reputation. Meanwhile, an adult profile will get you Peacock originals/exclusives like Honk for Jesus, Meet Cute, and Jurrasic World Dominion, along with faves like The Bourne Trilogy and classics like The Godfather.
Now for what you won’t get with Peacock TV: just about everything else. If you’ve had cable TV or another live TV streaming service like Sling, YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV, or fuboTV, you might see Peacock’s channel lineup and snort out loud. And you’d be totally within your rights. Most of Peacock’s “live” TV channels just play reruns of specific shows all day and night. You can’t control which episode you watch or when you start one, nor are you getting fresh content. It’s kind of the worst of both the live TV and on-demand worlds. Our advice? Get Peacock TV for the sports, day-old NBC shows, and movies—not for the channels.
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.
No matter which Peacock plan you get, you’ll never be able to record live shows. There’s no DVR capability, but we’re not sure you’d need it. Most of the content we wanted to record was available on-demand anyway (except for live sporting events). And if you spring for Peacock Premium Plus (the highest-cost plan), you can download on-demand shows to watch offline later. We’d probably skip the upgrade, though. We liked the idea for long flights or keeping the kiddos entertained at the car wash, but we didn’t find a ton more uses for this pared-back feature.
Speaking of the little ones, Peacock makes it super easy to find shows for your kids. Just create a kids profile for quick access to only childrens shows. You can also set up a PIN to keep the little ones restricted to these kid-friendly profiles. As a bonus, parents’ profiles won’t be bogged down with Curious George or Blippi episodes. (Although we’d probably keep a kids profile around just for all the Dreamworks movies.)
We confirmed that you can stream only three devices at once on Peacock. When you try to add the fourth, you’re alerted (by the adorable Puss in Boots from Shrek giving you those big, precious eyes in apology). You don’t have to worry about kicking anyone else off their show—but you can’t choose to either. You’ll have to kick them off the old-fashioned way, with a text, phone call, or shout down the hall. Unfortunately, we could not confirm that Peacock has 4K content. While Peacock says it has 4K content available and it’s labeled as such when you browse, we didn’t find any shows or events with that badge.
Beyond the basics, Peacock has some fun extras that delighted us. We loved picking profile avatars using headshots of our favorite NBC characters (we’re looking at you, Ron Swanson). We also enjoyed discovering the “Content curated by dinosaurs” section—spoiler alert, T. Rexes love Jurrasic Park and The Expendables, while dilophosauruses love The Real Housewives. Who knew?
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.
Something Peacock TV does really well is let you jump between devices in the middle of watching a show. It easily picked up where we left off when we switched from computer to the phone app to TV and back again, whether we were watching live or on-demand content. For some streaming services, (we’re looking at you, Sling TV) switching devices mid-stream can get glitchy fast. So well done, Peacock!
In other ways, Peacock wasn’t as easy as some of the other live TV streaming services we tested, especially on our phones. We were bummed that we couldn’t multitask: there was no mini video we could watch while firing off an email or answering a text. And the Peacock app made us browse shows and channels in portrait mode, then flipped us to landscape mode to watch, which was annoying. Additionally, there’s no “back” button on the app, so if you get a few clicks into browsing for on-demand shows, you have to hit the Home button and start all over if you want to back out (If you’re using a browser, you can hit its back button). There’s a “back” button on the live TV side of things, but, oddly, it doesn’t take you back a step. Instead, it brings up the channel guide on the bottom half of the screen while your show keeps playing. We liked being able to browse while catching up on the news, but it was confusing at first.
The only real gripe we had about using Peacock TV on a browser was that a lot of the descriptive text (like the channel guide and show descriptions) disappeared faster than we could read it, which meant we had to keep moving the mouse to get it back. It was a minor annoyance, but we’d love to see this fixed in the future. We’re not all speed readers, Peacock.