FuboTV vs. DirecTV Now: Solid Streaming TV Services With Some Drawbacks

Over the past few years, the number of streaming TV services has
grown exponentially, to the point where it can get overwhelming
to figure out which platform is the best for you. Major offerings
include DirecTV Now, PlayStation Vue, Sling TV, Hulu With Live
TV, and FuboTV.

Starting out with a focus on soccer and streams from other live
sports channels, FuboTV has since grown into a full-featured
over the top streaming service with support for many major
channels, a cloud DVR, family sharing, and more, starting at a
competitive price of $39.99 per month (for the first month,
$44.99/month afterwards).


FuboTV (left) and DirecTV Now (right) on Apple TV 4K

In order to compare some of these services, in this article we’ve
looked at FuboTV and
DirecTV Now
specifically. Like most streaming TV services, FuboTV and DirecTV
Now have many similarities, but a few key differences that could
lead you to choosing one over the other. As a note, we’re
focusing mainly on the Apple TV app for each service, unless
otherwise mentioned.

User Interface

FuboTV

When the FuboTV Apple TV app is first opened, a menu screen
with a horizontal list of live tv channels is displayed (seen
below). The selected channel starts automatically playing at
launch, but the UI hovers over the playing video (akin to
Netflix’s autoplay videos), and to go full screen you have to
tap once on the channel.


In terms of user interface as a whole, FuboTV excels with a
clear and easy-to-grasp menu system, although tab organization
is questionable and the app can feel bloated due to the amount
of real estate dedicated to specific movies, TV shows, and
sports.

On the bottom of the Home tab in the Apple TV app, FuboTV has a
list of numerous TV shows and films for you to check out.
There’s featured content that’ll be airing soon or is live now,
live news, popular shows and movies, and categories like “best
shows of the 90s” and “best shows of 2018.”


Each show’s page has a list of episodes and seasons (if
previous seasons are available on FuboTV, which is a bit of a
mixed bag in my experience), and if an episode is marked as
“Upcoming,” you can record it.

After Home, there are tabs for Sports, Shows, and Movies before
you get to FuboTV’s live Guide tab. These three tabs show live
events happening now, and ones you can watch on demand. I found
this to be one of the more cumbersome aspects of the app’s
design, because I typically just wanted to jump directly into a
live TV guide to check out what was playing now, and not have
to navigate three separate tabs to get an idea of what to
watch.


This navigation frustration is compounded due to FuboTV’s lack
of a slide-to-select menu bar; each time you want to go to a
new tab you have to move to it and then click in on the Siri
Remote. While not a deal breaker, because the app forces you to
navigate tabs so often, it does become a bit of an annoyance
over time.

In the guide, FuboTV retains the horizontal UI with a list of
channels that scroll from right to left, while time stamps are
listed vertically. You can jump to a different day within the
next four days, browse your favorite channels, and check a list
of the networks you’re subscribed to. When watching a live
channel, you can swipe up to see a list of what else is on, and
in one of my favorite UI navigation options for FuboTV, you can
tap and hold on the Siri Remote to jump back to the previous
channel.


Due to the Siri Remote’s limited buttons, many OTT services
have a tough time implementing basic features, like a recall
button, so FuboTV’s execution is neat and very welcome. FuboTV
has a handful of useful shortcuts like this, like tapping and
holding to record a show, and overall it feels like the app’s
developers were more aware of the platform they were building
for in comparison to DirecTV Now.

DirecTV Now

For DirecTV Now, the UI as a whole is much simpler than FuboTV.
DirecTV Now loads right into a channel (typically the last one
you were watching), and you press the Menu button on the Siri
Remote to bring up the app’s UI. This quick loading into a live
feed (when it works) is a great way to easily get background
noise going in your home, without having to fuss through
additional menus. The experience is something taken from
traditional cable boxes, and one part of DirecTV Now I’ve
always liked.

In the menu, the central tab is Watch Now, which is a
recommended list of your most and recently watched channels
that are easy to jump into. This area has trending and best-of
show lists, similar to FuboTV.


Left of Watch Now is the guide, which is opposite of FuboTV
with a vertical list of channels and horizontal list for
timestamps (just like a traditional cable guide). Although I
used to rely entirely on DirecTV Now’s guide when navigating
the app, when Watch Now was added I found that the app
remembered the channels I liked to watch pretty well and was
always able to quickly jump into my top 5-6 favorite channels
without ever going to the guide.

In this regard, I prefer DirecTV Now’s interface over FuboTV,
since it more quickly and easily put me into a show without
needing to click around a menu too much. At the same time,
DirecTV Now’s Apple TV app is overly reliant on the Siri
Remote’s Menu button, and even a few years into using the
service, I’m still sometimes unclear on how many times I need
to hit it to go back to a live video feed, and more often than
not end up on the Apple TV home screen.


Cloud DVR

FuboTV

FuboTV offers 30 hours of free cloud DVR storage in every basic
package, or you can pay an extra $9.99/month for 500 hours of
storage. These recordings are stored indefinitely, or until you
delete them.


Although FuboTV’s cloud DVR beats DirecTV Now’s in a few key
areas, FuboTV lacks a huge feature that made it difficult for
me to rely solely on the service: it doesn’t have a series
recording option in the DVR. Although you can find a specific
show and select an upcoming episode to record, FuboTV at this
time does not allow you to record every new episode (or old
episodes) of a show, but the company informed me that this
feature will be added soon.

Given that one of the most enticing aspects of a DVR is the
set-it-and-forget-it feature of season passes, this is a huge
oversight for the app. In the weeks I used FuboTV exclusively,
I used Apple’s Reminders app to give me a heads up about
recording the latest episode of a show I was watching. Even
Apple’s own TV app — which pulls in new episodes automatically
from third-party apps — makes this process painless.

DirecTV Now

DirecTV Now offers all subscribers 20 hours of free storage on
its “true cloud DVR”, which is still marked as in beta at the
time of writing. At this point, there is no option to expand
this storage, and after 30 days DirecTV Now deletes your
recordings. You can still opt to watch them on demand, but if
the show isn’t available on demand then you will be left unable
to watch a show you previously recorded.


Although DirecTV Now’s true cloud DVR has its share of
problems, including consistent audio glitches in recordings and
an inelegant fast forward option, it does have a series
recording option and the interface feels largely similar to a
traditional cable box. Given DirecTV Now’s overall performance
issues, however, I still have never felt entirely confident in
relying solely on the app as my only DVR.

Performance

FuboTV

Since you’re relying on an internet connection to watch these
services, stream quality and performance is something that
varies person to person, but overall I’ve had far fewer issues
with FuboTV in this regard. Streams rarely went dark, audio
remained consistently in sync, and the service didn’t go down.
There are a handful of odd glitches, however, like one that
caused my stream to pause every time I left the app and
re-opened it on a live stream. To get the video to play, I had
to leave the channel and return to it.


Each app suffers from some occasional stream stuttering where
quality lowers for a few seconds before it picks back up again.
FuboTV also has 4K playback on select channels (not available
to record, however), while DirecTV Now doesn’t support 4K at
this time.

DirecTV Now

This is one of DirecTV Now’s big weak points. Most days when I
turn on the app and leave it to go cook or clean, I’ll come
back to my living room to a black screen a few minutes later.
After I press the Menu button, select a different channel (or
just re-select the same channel), the app refreshes and the
stream comes back on. This is most frustrating when I’m
actually watching something and the app goes dark.


That’s not to mention other consistent issues like the guide
not loading properly, weird playback bugs in the DVR, audio
glitches, and complete service outages. My Apple TV has no
issues streaming in other apps and my internet connection to it
has always been solid, and given that many users report similar
streaming frustrations and downtimes with DirecTV Now regularly
in the service’s subreddit, I’m inclined to believe that this
is simply a downside of the service’s performance and not
something I could fix with a router reset (which I’ve tried).

What makes DirecTV Now most perplexing is that sometimes, in my
experience, these glitches and bugs simply disappear for a few
days at a time, and I get to see a hint at what the best
version of the service can be: videos load in a snap, blackouts
never happen, and the true cloud DVR never stutters during
playback. The crux of DirecTV Now, at this point in time, is
that it’s inconsistent; you never know exactly what quality of
service you’ll get on any particular day, and for a platform
built entirely around leisure and entertainment, that can get
pretty frustrating.

Channels

Channel availability — particularly for local channels — is one
aspect of any streaming TV service that greatly varies by
region. For me, in southern Louisiana, DirecTV Now offered my
local FOX affiliate only, while FuboTV had local FOX and CBS
channels. Unless you’re in a big city with more affiliate
coverage, local channels typically aren’t a selling point for
these streaming services.


Otherwise, FuboTV’s basic package offers just over 75 channels
at $39.99 per month for your first month, but the price
increases to $44.99/month afterwards. DirecTV Now’s Live a
Little $40/month package offers just over 65 channels. These
two packages lined up pretty much exactly, offering most of the
same channels and covering many of the big offerings like FX,
AMC, HGTV, Syfy, and USA. One big channel missing from FuboTV
is Freeform.

FuboTV also caters to Latin American and Portuguese audiences
with Fubo Latino ($17.99/month) and Fubo Português
($19.99/month) channel bundles. The basic bundles also come
with a collection of sports packages like Sports Plus (22
channels for additional $8.99/month), International Sports Plus
(4 channels for $5.99/month), Fubo Cycling (5 channels for
$11.99/month), and more. Despite this bevy of sports-focused
offerings, FuboTV has one major weak spot: it doesn’t include
any ESPN channels in any plan.

DirecTV Now’s offerings are a more straightforward tiered
system, including ESPN from the base plan onwards. Following
Live a Little, there’s “Just Right” at $55/month for 85+
channels, “Go Big” for $65/month for 105+ channels, “Gotta Have
It” for $75/month for 125+ channels, and a Spanish language
“Todo y Más” bundle at $45/month for 90+ channels. With these
tiers, DirecTV Now can easily cost as much as a normal cable
bill, especially if you add more premium channels.

For premiums, FuboTV only has Showtime at $10.99/month added
on, while DirecTV Now has all the big premium channels, and at
a much lower cost. HBO is $5/month added on, Showtime is
$8/month, Starz is $8/month, and Cinemax is $5/month.

Miscellaneous

  • Episode pages – On pages for upcoming
    episodes, FuboTV has a helpful option to jump directly into
    the current live stream of that channel, while DirecTV Now
    simply lets you record the episode.
  • Stream count – FuboTV offers two concurrent
    streams on the same account, and you’ll have to pay
    $5.99/month to add a third stream. DirecTV Now offers three
    concurrent streams for no extra charge.
  • Background stream – FuboTV cuts off sound of
    the live stream when you navigate its menus, while DirecTV
    Now keeps noise from the live channel running as you browse.
    I found FuboTV’s method a bit jarring, but this is another
    feature that will depend on personal preference.
  • Favorites – FuboTV automatically pulls your
    favorites up to the top of the guide, while DirecTV Now
    offers a filter to show all channels or just your favorites.
  • DVR controls – FuboTV’s fast forward options
    in the DVR were far more snappy and reliable in my testing
    compared to DirecTV Now, which always requires me to hit
    play/pause a few times once I jump to section of video I want
    to be in. Both apps still offer less-than-stellar fast
    forward options in comparison to traditional cable boxes.
  • Background app refresh – FuboTV tends to
    load back into the Home menu if you leave the app for longer
    than 30 seconds, while DirecTV Now will pick up the live
    video or recording you were watching even if you left the app
    minutes prior.

Recap

DirecTV Now continues to be riddled with bugginess, playback
issues, and other problems, but AT&T’s streaming TV service
offers a ton of channels at a decent price, and the days that it
works well truly rekindle a cable set-top box feeling. If the
company expands its true cloud DVR with more storage at a
reasonable price, finally makes the platform more stable, and
offers some UI tweaks for slicker playback controls, DirecTV Now
will have a bright future.

On the other hand, FuboTV already has a more stable streaming
service and a bevy of channels (although major options are
missing) at a mostly competitive price tag. The Apple TV app’s
UI can be cumbersome when you just want to jump into a show
quickly, but the menus you navigate through are nice to look at
and the app overall feels more responsive than DirecTV Now on
an Apple TV 4K. FuboTV’s most glaring error is the lack of
series pass recordings in the cloud DVR, making it hard to
recommend to hardcore TV watchers who are looking to cut the
cord, but still keep track of their favorite shows.

In the end, each service has a large list of pros and cons, and
the option you decide on will offer a largely competent
replacement to traditional cable TV, with a few caveats. The
perfect over-the-top streaming TV service doesn’t exist, yet,
so finding the right one that fits your viewing habits can be a
trial and error process. Luckily, both FuboTV and DirecTV Now
offer free trials that last one week, which is plenty of time
to test out all of the major features of each service before
you begin paying for one.

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