AT&T streaming services explained

There are tons of streaming services to choose from now, including multiple ones from AT&T. The company’s similarly-named options all address different streaming needs, so we have created this guide to help you find the service that will be the best fit for all of your streaming needs.

What is AT&T TV? 

AT&T TV offers live TV and sports, as well as the ability to watch programs on-demand. Users can consider this a premium entertainment hub. It requires the use of an Android TV set-top box, which comes with a smart remote powered by the Google Assistant. The voice assistant makes it easy to connect to numerous smart home devices. The required hardware supports apps like Netflix and Pandora. The service was initially only available in a few select cities, but has now launched nationwide. 

What is AT&T Watch TV?

AT&T Watch TV has over 35 channels of live TV, 1,500 titles of on-demand programming and Cloud DVR access. Premium cable channels such as HBO, Cinemax, Showtime and Starz are available as add-ons for an additional cost per channel.

What is AT&T TV NOW?

Formerly known as DIRECTV NOW, AT&T NOW provides live TV and on-demand programming, along with several packages that include HBO and Cinemax. You can record programs on the Cloud DVR and stream them from any of your compatible devices, including smartphones, tablets and select gaming consoles.

AT&T streaming services timeline

So, which of these services came first, and how exactly did things progress? Here are the key dates in the evolution of AT&T’s streaming offerings.

July 24, 2015: The FCC approved AT&T’s acquisition of DIRECTV .

Nov. 28, 2016: DIRECTV Now launched as a streaming app with about 30 live TV channels and a cost of $35/mo. Sports and local channels were not included.

June 28, 2018: AT&T Watch TV went live as the company’s pared-down streaming service featuring live TV, but no sports or local channels.

July 30, 2019: AT&T rebranded DIRECTV  as AT&T TV NOW.

Aug. 19, 2019: AT&T TV began rolling out in 10 test markets in California, Kansas, Missouri, Texas and Florida. New markets were added through the end of 2019.

March 2, 2020: AT&T TV launched nationwide.

Best for budget: AT&T Watch TV

AT&T Watch TV gives you plenty of entertainment for $15/mo. The channel lineup includes over 40 nationally available basic cable channels such as TBS, MTV and BBC America. HBO, Cinemax, Starz and Showtime are available as separate add-ons for an additional $13-17/mo. — prices vary per channel. You can enjoy AT&T Watch TV on iOS and Android devices, Apple TV, Google Chromecast and Amazon Fire TV.

Drawbacks: Sorry sports fans, AT&T Watch TV does not provide live sports or local channels. You will likely need to get your MLB opening day fix through another source. The service also has the fewest channels of the AT&T selections, does not include Cloud DVR storage like the company’s other services, and you will only be allowed to watch one stream at a time.

Best for streaming lovers: AT&T TV

AT&T TV will likely be a favorite of avid cord-cutters and streaming fans. It comes complete with its own Android set-top box, where you can access Netflix and Pandora. There are five packages to choose from, with features including 65+ channels, 55,500+ titles on-demand and 500 hours of Cloud DVR storage. You can watch three simultaneous streams on your smartphone or tablet as well. AT&T TV is 4K enabled.

Drawbacks: AT&T TV is the only option that does not have a free trial. Currently, it is only available in select cities, and the service requires a two-year commitment. In addition, the $49.99/mo. price will increase to an unknown amount during your second year of use. It is also the only AT&T service to require its own device and remote to use.

Best for premium cable fans: AT&T TV NOW

If you cannot live without HBO or Showtime, AT&T TV NOW is for you. This service has several packages that already include HBO, Showtime or both networks in the price. AT&T TV NOW provides the most channels of the group — more than 125. The plan features three simultaneous streams. 

Drawbacks: AT&T TV NOW is the priciest service of the bunch — its cheapest package starts at $65/mo. for 45+ channels, including HBO. The service’s six packages—only two of which include HBO—may be a bit overwhelming to choose from for the casual viewer. Many devices support the app, but as of Jan. 1, 2020, Roku will not let you add the AT&T TV NOW channel.

The takeaway

AT&T looks primed to make an impact by offering three similar, yet distinct options for streaming consumers to choose from. AT&T Watch TV is a streamlined service that is perfect for those interested in basic cable TV channels without many sports options. AT&T TV NOW has several packages that include HBO and Showtime — a great choice for premium cable enthusiasts. AT&T TV is likely to be a nice fit for die-hard streaming fans who are ready for an all-in-one, premium entertainment hub.

Mallory Carra