AT&T announced a major development following its merger with DIRECTV, adding to what is quickly becoming a byzantine mixture of offerings for those who want a cable channel package. The latest service, called DIRECTV NOW, can best be described as a streaming version of DIRECTV's satellite channel lineups. In other words, DIRECTV NOW is a bit like a beefed-up Sling TV.

DIRECTV NOW will have apps on Android and iOS (phone and tablet), Amazon Fire TV and TV Stick, Chromecast (with Android app only), Google Cast-enabled LeEco ecotvs and Vizio SmartCast Displays, and three web browsers: Internet Explorer (presumably Edge as well, though AT&T did not mention it), Chrome, and Safari. Chromecast support for the iOS app as well as a Roku app are expected in "early 2017."

Channel packages range from "Live a Little," which includes an unspecified 60+ channels for $35/month, to "Gotta Have It", which boasts 120+ channels for $70/month. As an introductory offer, those who join up early can get the second-highest tier (100+ channels) for $35/month, normally $60. Early adopters can keep that rate indefinitely and it will only go up at the pace that normal pricing does.

And in a move certain to cause concern for net neutrality advocates, AT&T is sweetening the deal for their mobile phone customers. For those with postpaid mobile data plans (new and existing), streaming DIRECTV NOW will not count towards monthly usage limits. This is no small benefit, to be sure, and could easily be a deciding factor between DIRECTV NOW and its competitors for AT&T Mobility customers.

There are also several other introductory offers for DIRECTV NOW:

  • Those who pre-pay for 3 months of service can receive a free Apple TV.
  • Those who pre-pay for 1 month of service can receive a free Amazon Fire TV Stick.
  • New purchasers of LeEco smartphones are eligible for 3 free months of service while buyers of select LeEco ecotvs can receive 6-12 months of service.
  • New Lenovo laptops with an Intel Core i3/i5/i7 processor will come with 1 free month of service.

AT&T also announced a similar promotion with Fullscreen, a streaming video service not unlike Hulu, though with far lower-profile content. Like DIRECTV NOW, AT&T mobile customers will not be on the hook for data usage for the Fullscreen app. Additionally, AT&T users will get a 1-month free trial to Fullscreen. AT&T has a substantial ownership interest in Fullscreen.

Embedded within the DIRECTV NOW app is FreeVIEW, which AT&T describes as "a highly curated, always-fresh, ad-supported video service" that is totally free of cost. They say it will include on-demand content from DIRECTV's Audience Network as well as Otter Media, the joint venture partly owned by AT&T that controls Fullscreen. It, too, will not affect data usage for AT&T mobile customers.

Setting aside net neutrality and corporate merger issues, there is some real promise with DIRECTV NOW. It basically offers satellite TV without the burdensome satellite and with easy ability to watch on the go. At the moment, though, it appears there will not be DVR features which some might consider a necessity nowadays. In general, the software experience will make or break it; difficult to navigate menus or choppy streams make a nice-sounding idea not so great in practice.

You can sign up and get more details starting November 30th.