If there’s one area AT&T has consistently outshined its competitors in, that’s the number of services the company offers. Although each service is designed to appeal to a specific audience — think DIRECTV for sports fans – each service remains relatively similar. Recently, AT&T announced a brand-new streaming service called AT&T TV. The service offers both live and on-demand content, access to over 5,000 apps, and up to 500 hours of DVR storage. Unlike DIRECTV Now, which recently rebranded as AT&T TV Now, AT&T TV requires a set-top box. We received exclusive early access to see what exactly this new service has to offer for both new and traditional TV audiences.
Coming off the big announcement, AT&T has described the new service as “Televisionary,” giving you access to “All your entertainment, all in one experience.” The description is certainly alluring but does it really alter the TV streaming landscape?
Is it true?
Although we didn’t find the new service to be revolutionary, we were impressed by the revamped, all-inclusive experience. As the cord-cutting trend continues to rise, consumers are more interested in streaming and on-demand content than paying for hundreds of live channels that hardly meet expectations. Coming up with new and exciting ways to entice users back to live TV has its challenges, especially for those who are strongly considering ditching cable altogether, but AT&T is taking a stab at it. With AT&T TV, you can easily navigate between live TV, on-demand content, and dozens of streaming apps all on one device.
AT&T TV Pros
- Sleek and discreet TV box
- Smooth and easy-to-navigate user interface
- Impressive bundle deals
AT&T TV Cons
- Expensive standalone TV plans
- Still being rolled out
AT&T TV Plans and Prices
|Plan||Price||Channels||Popular Channels||Best for|
|Entertainment||$49.99/mo.*||65+ channels||ESPN, HGTV, Nickelodeon, TNT||Best Value|
|Choice||$54.99/mo.*||85+ channels||Travel, MLB, Tennis, Cooking Channel||Best for Lifestyle channels|
|Xtra||$64.99/mo.*||105+ channels||GOLF, FXM, CBS Sports, NBA TV||Best for Sports|
|Ultimate||$69.99/mo.*||125+ channels||STARZ ENCORE, Boomerang||Best for Movies|
*Package availability depends on location, prices may vary by location.
Who is each AT&T TV package best for?
- Entertainment — Best value
- Choice — Best for lifestyle channels
- Xtra — Best for sports
- Ultimate — Best for Movies
AT&T TV Features
Clean and simple user interface
With almost any new device, you expect some kind of learning curve, but AT&T has found a way to successfully eliminate this curve. From the moment you’re prompted to enter your WiFi password to the point where you’re mindlessly scrolling through channels, setting up AT&T TV reminded us just how familiar we’ve become with connected devices. Once connected, you’re introduced to a surprisingly smooth, easy-to-navigate interface — our favorite aspect of AT&T TV. To truly get a feel for it, we spent over 20 hours switching between menus, browsing on-demand content, and endlessly scrolling through titles on Netflix. And while we usually just landed back on “The Office,” we found AT&T TV to be an immersive experience that doesn’t aim to reinvent the wheel, but simply to improve it.
There are five different menu options: Guide, Watch Now, My Library, Discover, and Apps. You’ll likely recognize these features, as they’re pretty standard among all television and streaming devices. The plus is that most users will be able to easily navigate between these features without feeling confused or overwhelmed. The downside is that there really aren’t any new features to sink your teeth into. The all-in-one experience is certainly polished and convenient, although current AT&T TV Now customers will find the interface is nearly identical (minus the Apps feature). This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn’t provide much incentive for existing AT&T TV Now customers to switch.
Remote with voice assistant
With other providers like Xfinity bestowing customers with voice remotes at no extra cost, it’s no surprise AT&T assembled its own. Powered by Google, this is one of the more impressive voice remotes on the market. Not only does it have the ability to perform basic TV search commands — like searching for the next airing of “The Simpsons” — you can also ask it general questions that are unrelated to your service, like you would a Google assistant. If you don’t already have a voice assistant, this is a huge plus: You’ll finally have the ability to check the weather, traffic, and day-to-day news all at the touch of a button. Additionally, this is a significant feature for disabled viewers. Turning up the volume on a TV is something most of us take for granted, but AT&T’s voice remote aims to give nearly everyone the ability to execute basic commands.
Lack of new features
In a world full of new and exciting devices rolling out every year, most people have come to expect features that help differentiate devices from the rest. This is where AT&T TV falls short. Although we were impressed by the smooth interface and app integrations, there weren’t any major features that separated it from other services like AT&T TV Now or Hulu + Live TV. And even though it’s more intuitive and quicker than traditional cable television, we expected a bit more from a “televisionary” service. Unless you’re somebody who needs an additional 450 hours of DVR storage and enjoys having a contract, AT&T TV Now and Hulu + Live TV remain the more convenient and cost-effective ways to go.
Compare TV Service Providers
*Prices for stand-alone TV service, current at the time of publication. Prices may vary by location.
Who is each TV provider best for?
- AT&T TV – Best for Bundling
- AT&T TV Now – Best for Movie Lovers
- Hulu + Live TV – Best for Cord Cutters
- Spectrum TV – Best for Value
AT&T TV Price and Bundles
Stand-alone TV price
The biggest drawback of AT&T TV is easily the cost. AT&T TV currently starts at $49.99, but that price is just for the first year. The cheapest package, Entertainment, actually jumps up to $93 in the second year. And since you’re locked into a 24-month contract, you won’t be able to cancel without some hefty early termination fees. If this sounds eerily familiar, that’s because AT&T’s satellite provider, DIRECTV, is set-up in an identical fashion. We’re not exactly sure how AT&T intends on pulling users back to a contract-style service, especially when you consider how the TV streaming landscape is moving in the opposite direction. Unless AT&T internet is available to bundle with the service, it’s hard to imagine why anyone with DIRECTV, or even a cable provider, would make the switch.
Although AT&T TV does offer some value as a standalone TV service, it’s significantly more appealing when bundled with AT&T internet. In fact, when paired with AT&T internet, it’s one of the most impressive bundles on the market. A recent Consumer Reports study found that the average household pays $173/mo. for bundles across all providers. With AT&T TV’s bundle packages starting at $79.99, you save $30 per month for the first year by combining AT&T TV and internet. And you’re only paying about half of the national average. Even with the price jump in the second year, this is a deal worth taking up. Unfortunately, we should note that AT&T internet is still fairly limited to 21 states while it’s being rolled out, and won’t be available nationwide until the first quarter of 2020.
AT&T TV Equipment, Contracts, and Fees
Sleek box design
Noticeably similar to previous AT&T boxes, the new AT&T TV box may underwhelm past AT&T users but should still impress any newcomers. Built with a minimalist design and a matte finish, the new box is skillfully discreet. There are five ports on the back, though most users will only need two: the HDMI and power ports. The other three ports — USB, digital audio, and ethernet — are great additions for niche purposes. When you consider how powerful this box is, the inconspicuous design makes it all the more impressive. If you’re looking for a box that is hardly noticeable and relies on simplicity over complexity, the AT&T TV set-top box excels in this regard.
Simple installation process
A top selling point for AT&T TV is the simple and convenient self-setup process. In a TV world plagued by satellite dishes, bulky cable boxes, and prolonged appointments, AT&T TV steers clear of overly complicated installations. Although AT&T provides a manual, setup is so straightforward that you probably won’t need it. Simply connect the HDMI cable to your TV, plug the power cord into an outlet, and voila — you’re ready to go.
We really appreciated this aspect of the service, especially considering how much of a hassle professional installations can be. For many people, the upfront installation cost can be enough to deter them from a service altogether. For others, the strain of having to take off work to make sure you’re home for a technician who might not even show up on time may not be worth it. The intent here is clear: AT&T TV is looking to connect with an audience that’s interested in television without all the bulky equipment, and most importantly, the painful installation process.
Like DIRECTV, AT&T TV requires a lengthy 24-month contract and most notably, features a second-year price hike. It’s a tough sell to fully commit to a TV service for any period of time, let alone two years — especially given the uptick in providers, like Spectrum, who are offering TV packages without contracts. Unlike DIRECTV and DISH, which have built their value on providing television to an audience that has little to no other options available, AT&T TV offers very little to justify that same contract. Satellite customers are in a contract because they often don’t have a choice. But with AT&T TV, customers are expected to sign a two-year contract when they likely have more convenient and cost-effective options available. This could be a deal breaker for many people.
- Activation Fee ($19.95)
- Regional Fees (Up to $8.49/mo.)
- Taxes (Vary by state)
AT&T TV FAQ
AT&T TV is currently limited to specific cities across eight states, although it is scheduled for a nationwide rollout in the first quarter of 2020. Expect availability to drastically increase over the next several months as it continues to roll out.
- California: Orange, Riverside
- Florida: Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach
- Kansas: Topeka, Wichita
- Minnesota: Minneapolis
- Missouri: Springfield, St. Louis
- New York: New York
- Texas: Corpus Christi, El Paso, Odessa
- Washington: Seattle
The short answer – very little. With DIRECTV Now rebranding to AT&T TV Now, it’s very easy to confuse these two by name and even by interface. To make matters even more confusing, both services offer similar packages and pricing, though it’s worth noting that AT&T TV Now recently launched two new packages: Plus and Max. Still, there are some considerable differences that will ultimately help guide your decision. While AT&T TV requires a set-top box and a contract, AT&T TV Now doesn’t require either. AT&T TV also has the Apps feature — a convenient addition that users without streaming devices will surely appreciate.
When making a decision between the two, it will likely come down to cost and convenience. If you’re willing to sacrifice some DVR storage by cutting the cord completely, AT&T TV Now is the way to go. If you’re looking for more of a traditional cable-like service with streaming capabilities, AT&T TV is a great option if you’re willing to pay the extra dollar.
Absolutely. After you sign up, simply download the AT&T TV app and you’ll be able stream anywhere. Through the app, you’ll have the ability to watch on your phone, tablet, or web browser. This is especially convenient for users that aren’t home enough to fully take advantage of the box. But if you primarily intend on using the service for streaming purposes, AT&T TV Now has the same capabilities and is the more cost-effective option.
- Entertainment — Best value
- Choice — Best for lifestyle channels
- Xtra — Best for sports
- Ultimate — Best for Movies
The Bottom Line
It’s hard to see AT&T TV as a brand-new service when it’s essentially AT&T TV Now with built-in streaming apps. And since it still requires a contract, it feels more like a revamped cable service than it does a cord-cutting service. We certainly enjoyed the convenience of having live TV, on-demand content, and integrated apps all on one device, but didn’t feel those features justified the cost for the stand-alone service. If you’re a new buyer looking for a cable-like service with streaming capabilities, there are more cost-effective options on the market that have similar features. And for those who already have DIRECTV, the app integrations are certainly a plus, but they may not be enough to make the switch — especially if you already have a streaming device. However, if you’re lucky enough to have AT&T internet available and you’re looking to bundle, AT&T TV will exceed your expectations.