The Post-TV Age?

DirecTV Now

DirecTV Now is the new kid on the block when it comes to cable TV streaming. The packages are similar to the other services I mentioned, with some initial low-priced options available to entice users away. (Note: with all these services being contract-free, the potential for moving in order to save a few bucks is very legitimate!) DirecTV Now has similar limitations regarding live broadcast stations (that is, at the time of this writing there aren't any available), but DirecTV Now has the additional limitation that even on-demand content from CBS isn't available. The kerfuffle that DirecTV and CBS have been having extends to the streaming service as well.

Figure 3. DirecTV Now is the new kid on the block. The $35/month is a trial cost and likely will increase before this article is published.

I haven't personally used the DirecTV Now service, because none of my devices currently are supported. (Apple TV is its main device, and you can get one free if you pre-pay for three months of service.) I have friends who've used it though, and they say the quality is very good. Like Sling TV, however, it doesn't currently have any DVR capability.

Since DirecTV Now is new, it's not fair to criticize its lack of hardware support yet. Roku streaming is slated for Q1 2017, and it's possible other non-competitors will get apps as well. As is usually the case, Roku likely will be one of the premiere ways to watch streaming cable TV service, because its compatibility will allow for service-hopping without hardware reinvestment.

USTVnow, the Sort of Option

USTVnow is a service designed for US citizens living outside the US and, therefore, unable to get US television. It's a streaming service that provides live network channels (ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, FOX) for free, and for a monthly fee, it adds a few cable channels (28 total) and HD streaming as well. There is also some DVR service included with the premium packages. Any time I've tried to use USTVnow inside the US, it's worked perfectly, so there aren't any apparent geographical restrictions. Honestly, on paper, it's the best thing going.

Figure 4. I want to love USTVnow, and perhaps now that there is a paid service, the reliability will improve. I just hope it's able to keep providing live broadcast channels in the US.

Unfortunately, the times I've used USTVnow, I've had lots of glitches. Usually it's during busy times (Super Bowl party, for instance) that the service glitches, but since those are the times I want it to work the most, it's been a frustrating service. The pricing is competitive, however, especially since the SD free tier is really free and provides live broadcast stations. As with most services, Roku seems to be the best way, apart from a browser, to consume USTVnow.

I want to love USTVnow. I have no idea how it's able to provide service in the US when the other options struggle to provide broadcast stations. Hopefully, it's not a loophole that will be closed, because for some folks, it's the only way to get broadcast channels at all, even if they do live in the US.

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Shawn Powers is a Linux Journal Associate Editor. You might find him on IRC, Twitter, or training IT pros at CBT Nuggets.