Buffering, Bugs Mar DirecTV Now Performance Weeks After Launch

The streaming video service's inconsistent performance has not gone unnoticed by would-be cord cutters.

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Dec 27 2016, 4:00pm

Image: Lindsey Turner/Flickr

DirecTV Now, the satellite TV provider's eponymous alternative to Dish Network's Sling TV and Sony's Playstation Vue, has not gotten off to a great start. Complaints of constant buffering have plagued the service, and that's if you can even log in successfully. As major product launches in recent years go, it has to be near the bottom of the barrel, especially in light of having two competitors (one of which happens to be owned by their direct competitor for satellite TV) that function much better.

"DirecTV Now has performed inconsistently in my testing, with periods of smooth sailing—right now, the service is streaming the Bayern Munich vs. RB Leipzig German soccer game on FS2 perfectly—overshadowed by long stretches of incessant buffering," said Motherboard's Nicholas Deleon. "Food Network's Holiday Baking Championship on Dec. 18 was an unwatchable mess, while programming on other channels like IFC and HGTV has similarly suffered from frequent bouts of buffering. Growing pains? Perhaps, but considering how flawless other services, like Sling TV and PlayStation Vue, have performed in my testing it's hard to envision making the switch full time."

The experience hasn't gone much better for Flatpavment01, a user of the /r/cordcutters sub-Reddit, pointing to the buffering as the primary issue. "It is hard to even get invested in a show or movie because of this and the constant error 40 the system gives me," he explained. "We need to refresh/log back in or clear cache from the app frequently. These issues are still not ironed out on our Fire TV even after [several]weeks." He was also concerned by what he feels is a "lack of transparency" about what exactly is going on. "All one needs to do is visit their forum and one can see many users with the same issues," he noted. Barring a fix, he's done at the end of his trial period, most likely switching back to Playstation Vue, although he thought Sling TV was a solid product, as well.

Even if every technical problem gets fixed, streaming media analyst Dan Rayburn isn't so sure that will mean much in the long run, because he doesn't see DirecTV Now as a cord-cutting service in any viable way.

"They have to do a much better job of setting expectations in the market of who this is targeted towards, and who it isn't," he explained, referring to DirecTV Now parent company AT&T. "People want to say this is a cord cutting product. It's not. AT&T even says, 'You want more than two streams? We want to upsell you to DirecTV.' Well, yeah! They're not trying to cannibalize their business on the 'triple play' [bundle] side. You're not gonna have a lot of people cutting the cord for this kind of service because it's limited and keep in mind the $35 price point doesn't last forever. So a $35 package becomes $60. Now it's more expensive for me, in terms of my 'triple play' bundle that I have from Verizon, in terms of TV."

Whether it comes down to the functionality or the numbers, Rayburn just doesn't see a benefit from the consumer point of view. "So I'm getting less content, at lower quality, with more frustration on fewer devices. What's the benefit? There isn't one."