Deciding Between AT&T TV & DIRECTV: An Expert‘s In-Depth Comparison Guide

Are you weighing AT&T TV against DIRECTV trying to determine the right live TV streaming service for your household? As more consumers cut cable, satellite TV retains loyal followers while streaming gains momentum with cord-cutters seeking flexibility and cost savings.

This detailed head-to-head guide will compare everything from channel lineups and pricing to equipment needs across AT&T‘s two paid TV platforms—AT&T TV and DIRECTV.

I‘ll offer specific use case recommendations on which option best suits sports fans, movie buffs, larger families, renters and other demographics based on viewing habits and pain points. My goal is to provide an unbiased overview to help inform your decision making with the latest industry trends and insider tips in mind.

Let‘s dive in!

A Quick Refresher – What’s the Difference?

First, it helps to level-set what exactly these services offer.

AT&T TV delivers live TV over the internet using streamlining devices and apps. This gives subscribers flexibility to access entertainment on mobile devices, media players like Apple TV and Firestick, gaming consoles, and more.

After some branding changes, AT&T TV is now called DIRECTV STREAM, but functions the same.

Comparatively, DIRECTV relies on satellites to broadcast content and requires professional installation of satellite dish equipment and receivers.

While DIRECTV offers superior channel count and options for hardcore sports fans, AT&T TV appeals more to the mainstream cord-cutting crowd.

Below is a handy comparison chart to summarize key differences across five categories:

Type of ServiceInternet Streaming TVSatellite TV
Year Launched20201994
Channel Range65-150+165-340+
Monthly Price$74.99–$154.99$64.99–$154.99
Max. Resolution720p (Live)
1080p (On Demand)

This table gives you a sense of how the services compare at a glance. Now let‘s analyze specific benefits and limitations of each option.

Channel Lineups & Content Comparison

The channel plan you choose impacts available programming and monthly costs. DIRECTV pulls ahead in terms of sheer volume with 165+ channels on its starter Entertainment package up to 340+ channels for Premier.

AT&T TV‘s plans start lower with just 65+ channels for Entertainment but reach up to 150+ channels on the Premier tier.

For sports programming, DIRECTV is the undisputed champion. Football fans can catch every NFL Sunday Ticket game only available on DIRECTV. Plus they offer almost any regional sports network you could want from NBC Sports Chicago to Spectrum SportsNet LA.

See their full channel lineup here including 40+ dedicated sports channels.

However, AT&T TV checks the boxes for must-have national mainstream sports networks like ESPN, FS1, NFL Network, MLB Network and NBA TV. Availability for regional sports does vary by location.

As for movies and entertainment, DIRECTV outranks AT&T TV with more Cinemax, Showtime, STARZ and HBO add-ons. So cinephiles who want access to the deepest vault of films should consider DIRECTV. That said, AT&T TV still impresses with 150+ channels encompassing favorites like Hallmark, Discovery, FX and more.

Next let‘s compare TV packages head-to-head:

Plan Comparison Chart:

PackageAT&T TV ChannelsPriceDIRECTV ChannelsPrice

This makes it easy to tally channel options against monthly costs. Generally DIRECTV offers more content, while AT&T TV promises cheaper packages for budget-focused subscribers.

Equipment and Installation

Another major point of differentiation comes down to equipment requirements and installation procedures.

One appeal of AT&T TV lies in its simple plug-and-play setup directly out of the box. It works with any internet service provider and streams across phones, tablets, web browsers plus mobile devices like Roku, Firestick and more.

You simply plug their streamer device into your TV’s HMDI port, connect to Wi-Fi, log into your account and can immediately start streaming.

With DIRECTV, professional installation is required for the satellite dish and receiver box hardware. On the plus side, it makes accessing content across multiple TVs in your home simpler than AT&T TV which may require you outfit each set. DIRECTV supports up to 8 receivers on one account.

DIRECTV packages do include a Genie HD DVR (DIRECTV‘s most advanced DVR) and installation at no extra cost. However, AT&T TV doesn‘t charge device rental fees allowing flexibility to use your own equipment.

When it comes to stream quality, DIRECTV supports full 1080p HD resolution. AT&T tops out at 720p for live TV.

Below charts key pros and cons around equipment and installation.

Equipment NeededStreamer device or personal deviceSatellite dish + receiver
Installation DifficultyEasy self-installProfessional install required
CostNo device rental feeFree HD-DVR + installation
Streaming CapabilitiesMobile + TV appsLimited portability
Max. Resolution720p live TV
1080p on demand

If you want plug-and-play simplicity to watch shows across mobile devices, AT&T TV excels. However, DIRECTV makes outfitting a multi-TV home simpler.

Recording and Storage: Cloud DVR vs. Genie DVR

AT&T TV and DIRECTV both allow subscribers to record live TV to watch on-demand later. However, they take vastly different approaches when it comes to storage.

DIRECTV relies on local HD DVR units to store content on your home receiver equipment. This allows for seamless integration for watching recordings later across networked TV sets. However, it does cap your storage capacity to 1TB or about 200 hours for the Genie system.

By comparison, AT&T TV leverages cloud recording technology to store shows in a virtual locker rather than a local box. The basic package includes 20 hours of cloud DVR storage at no extra cost. For power users, you can upgrade to unlimited recordings for an add-on price of $10/month. The downside is shows only remain accessible for 90 days due to cloud capacity limitations.

Cloud DVR allows AT&T TV subscribers to save more recordings long-term. However Genie DVR makes accessing saved recordings easier within a given household across multiple rooms.

Below summarizes the pros and cons around each DVR approach:

DVR OptionStorageDurationCostEase of Access
AT&T TV Cloud DVR20 hours
Unlimited capacity
90 daysFree
Recordings only available on device used to set recordings
DIRECTV Genie DVR200 hour capacityIndefiniteFreeSaved shows accessible on any networked receiver

For storage maximizers, AT&T TV‘s unlimited cloud DVR provides incredible freedom. Football fans might value DIRECTV‘s unified system to resume games across devices.

Availability and Compatibility Considerations

Since DIRECTV relies on satellites to deliver signal, it holds an advantage when it comes to nationwide availability. You can access programming anywhere with a clear view of the southern sky. This makes DIRECTV a top choice for RV and rural area dwellers where cable infrastructure is limited.

Comparatively AT&T TV/DIRECTV STREAM depends on the reach of physical cable companies. That said, it should cover most metropolitan and suburban regions across the lower 48 states (select packages only reach a portion of Alaska and Hawaii). You simply need reliable high-speed broadband internet for optimal streaming.

This makes AT&T TV/DIRECTV STREAM better suited for city apartments with little exposure to open skies. Anyone requiring reliable Wi-Fi on the go will also favor their platform.

As for bundling options, you can package both DIRECTV and AT&T TV services alongside AT&T home internet plans to maximize savings. DIRECTV also makes accessing content easy via their mobile app for phones and tablets when travelling.

Below summarizes key differentiation when it comes to availability and compatibility:

Coverage AreaLower 48 states
(with strong broadband reach)
Available nationwide
Internet Requirements8+ Mbps recommended
No data caps
Can operate without internet
Ideal ForUrban apartments
Mobile streaming
Rural regions
Bundling OptionsMix and match with AT&T InternetMix and match with AT&T Internet
Apps & DevicesRoku, Fire TV, Apple TV
Phones & tablets
DIRECTV app provides some mobility

If you want more flexibility in channel selection and packages, AT&T TV is likely the better fit. However, DIRECTV excels for rural or mobile use cases where satellite TV provides superior reliability.

Cost Comparison: Plan Pricing & Fees

When comparing bottom-line costs, AT&T TV pulls ahead as the more budget-friendly live TV streaming option while DIRECTV offers better bang for your buck in terms of sheer content.

DIRECTV requires a 2-year contract for their advertised rates while AT&T TV packages come with no annual contract. So DIRECTV subscribers need to consider long-term commitments whereas AT&T TV offers more flexibility to switch services.

That said, DIRECTV bundles a free Genie HD DVR and standard installation into plans which helps offset some upfront equipment and labor costs. AT&T TV has no device rental or activation fees…but you do need to bring your own streaming gadget.

Here’s how base packages compare:

PlanAT&T TV PriceDIRECTV Price

DIRECTV edges out AT&T TV when you factor in all the equipment extras and access to superior channel selection. But AT&T TV doesn‘t lock subscribers into contracts which provides more exit flexibility.

One recurring frustration for DIRECTV customers comes from annual price hikes written into their agreements after the first year which can lead to bill shock. AT&T TV avoids this nuisance. However, DIRECTV provides a massive channel vault for your money whereas AT&T offers a nice middle ground of content options without breaking the bank.

Below summarizes key pricing differentiators:

Cost ConsiderationsAT&T TVDIRECTV
Contract TermNo annual contract2 year agreement
Premium InclusionsNAFree Genie DVR + Installation
Channel Selection ValueMid-rangeMaximum
Annual Price HikesNoneCommon complaint
Early Termination FeesNoneUp to $15/month remaining
Avg. Monthly Bill After Fees$100+$120+

When calculating total lifetime costs, AT&T TV‘s flexibility and price lock-in provides financial predictability. Although DIRECTV offers unbeatable channel access for the money.

Who Should Choose AT&T TV vs DIRECTV? Recommendations.

With so many variables in play, who comes out ahead in an AT&T TV versus DIRECTV head-to-head comparison? The truth is BOTH can prove the right choice depending on your needs and preferences.

Here’s a breakdown of which types of viewers may want to choose one over the other:

AT&T TV is ideal for:

  • Cord cutters seeking lower cost cable alternatives
  • Sports fans focused on mainstream national networks
  • Movie watchers who don‘t need EVERY premium channel
  • Renters or urban apartment dwellers
  • Viewers wanting flexibility across devices
  • Households with unreliable satellite visibility

DIRECTV is better suited for:

  • Rural residents beyond reliable broadband access
  • Diehard fans who want EVERY sports channel possible
  • Cinephiles and TV binge watchers needing 300+ channels
  • Large households with multi-room access needs
  • Mobile viewers like RVers or those on-the-go
  • Picture quality sticklers wanting reliable 1080p

Finally, DIRECTV lets you stream pay per view events and movies which AT&T TV lacks. So specific use cases like boutique fitness streaming services or MMA fight night rentals might influence a DIRECTV decision.

No matter your preferences, I recommend taking advantage of the free trials available for both AT&T TV and DIRECTV so you can experience channel selection, stream quality and features firsthand.

The Bottom Line

Hopefully this detailed head-to-head comparison of AT&T TV vs DIRECTV equips you to decide on the best live TV streaming service for your household.

While DIRECTV prevails when it comes to premium sports packages, sheer channel count and advanced equipment….savvy cord cutters on a budget may find AT&T TV provides the perfect balance of entertainment value and affordability.

Feel free to share follow-up questions in the comments! I‘m happy to offer personalized advice for your specific needs and use case.

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