DIRECTV NOW’s Buffering Is Getting Better But Is Far from Solved

At the start of January 2018, DIRECTV NOW had very bad week: Two separate long outages and a sudden spike in buffering.

AT&T never came right out and said what caused the spike, but it seems a perfect storm happened. First, college football bowl games and playoffs all happened at once. Next, a flood of new subscribers hit DIRECTV NOW from their Apple TV deal.

These two events on top of a stressed system as DIRECTV NOW beta tests a new app and DVR all brought the service crashing down.

Over the last few weeks DIRECTV NOW has once again been returning to normal, but it is still far from perfect. While there is no official statement from AT&T, what we are hearing is the service is dealing with two issues: First, handling a flood of new subscribers and, second, preparing the back end of DIRECTV NOW for a move to their new app and DVR.

Why do live TV services struggle with outages and buffering more than on-demand services?

You may have noticed that live TV services see far more outages than on-demand services. There are many reasons that on-demand services are more stable.

First, on-demand services can install multiple servers around the country and world. This network of servers means even if one set goes down only a small number of people will experience an outage until they can switch over to a backup server farther from your home.

Live TV means it all must come from a limited location. This is done to cut back on the delay and because the servers need to be connected to the content companies 24/7. This makes live TV. Unlike with on-demand servers that have a stored copy of the show or movie, live streaming means the server must be pulling a copy of the feed from the content companies 24/7.

Second, with live TV everyone is watching the same thing at the same time. Typically the number of people watching a show or movie at the same moment from the same server is far lower than the number of people trying to watch a major sporting event at the same exact second. That puts a far higher demand on the server.

We could keep going, but these are the two main reasons live TV is more difficult than on-demand TV. With that said, live TV services are far more stable than they were a few years ago. Look for them to continue to improve in quality in the months and years to come.

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59 Responses to DIRECTV NOW’s Buffering Is Getting Better But Is Far from Solved

  1. Avatar
    Kurt Schultz January 21, 2018 at 8:22 am #

    It’s worse on the beta app for fire stick. Buffers constantly, app freezes, DVR barely works to record anything and when it does you can’t watch or delete the shows, half way through shows the app restarts, guide takes too many steps to get to and it’s hard as crap to read.

    • Avatar
      bayportbob January 21, 2018 at 12:25 pm #

      the word beta app should tell you that it is expected to not be perfect as it is a work in progress. granted it does work better than the real app from a year ago. i run the beta app and it has strange quirks on a regular basis but that is what to expect from it, file a issue report, and move along. usually it is just a few channels or features that have problems at a time from my personal experience. before i ran the beta app all the time i noted that a lot of my issues were not a painful problem, live or stream on demand. this is really a major project and it is showing progress. there are millions of people sucking on the straw right now, remember that.

      • Avatar
        Kurt Schultz January 21, 2018 at 3:55 pm #

        Yes of course I understand that. My point being the beta has been around for around six months now and it’s still crap. They keep opening it up for more and more users, like they are about to release it for final, and nothing is getting better…especially the DVR which is what this whole beta has been for.

  2. Avatar
    SanityChecker January 21, 2018 at 8:29 am #

    They also offered me a free month trial around end of Dec. There may have been a wave of trials on top of other deals. I have seen buffering problems at night, including OnDemand, but it’s better this week than a couple weeks ago.

    BTW, to get a free month trial try this… signup for DTV Now with a new email address but don’t fill in the credit card info. You’ll basically have an incomplete signup but they have an email address and will send you deals. Ignore the first few lower rate deals they email as eventually they emailed me a one month free trail.

    • Avatar
      Shawn Stuckey January 21, 2018 at 11:15 am #

      Free or not. There is no value, use, or joy if it doesn’t work. Issues all the time even durring non peak times. It’s obvious that offering free or discounted services is just to try and keep as many on board at this point because they knew it was not ready. Fine. I will check down the road when it’s together. I would think for their sake, it would be sooner than later. If not, that’s going to be a heck of a job for marketing…

      • Avatar
        SanityChecker January 21, 2018 at 11:26 am #

        Agree, wait a while until fixed before doing any trials.

  3. Avatar
    Fred Koot January 21, 2018 at 9:16 am #

    The main reason is Live tv is sent in packets and transcoded on the fly. On demand is one large file that had months to transcode.

  4. Avatar
    Shawn Stuckey January 21, 2018 at 9:28 am #

    I had the same issues. Very bad. No matter the cost or discounts, it was simply just not watchable. Better to wait until it’s all worked out then try again. Then was on the free trial. Not a good time to have this issue because some unlike me, will probably not try again if they had the issue I did for an entire week…

    • Avatar
      Shawn Stuckey January 21, 2018 at 9:32 am #

      This was thru Roku Ultra box if that helps anyone as well. Sling, Hulu, Netflix, and all others were flawless. I have Spectrum 100Mbs service. Tested the speed thru-out the week and was awesome. Only issue was with Direct Tv..

      • Avatar
        Alan Stokes January 21, 2018 at 10:17 am #

        Same issue here, I have 100mb spectrum internet all all services including competing streaming services work fine, playststion Vue streams without a pickup. I’ve been with Direct Now from the beginning and I’m just holding out to see how the new app/DVR works, if there’s no improvement I’m done with them.

        • Avatar
          Shawn Stuckey January 21, 2018 at 11:07 am #

          I hear ya. I hope they get it together. The packages look good. Let me know please when you see it running smooth please. Thanks.

        • Avatar
          Scott Blanchard January 22, 2018 at 10:46 am #

          Vue’s DVR is the gold standard – Hulu, YTTV and Philo not far behind. Currently the DTVNow DVR is way behind those in terms of overall functionality and UX – Based on my experience as a beta tester on the Apple TV version.

          • Avatar
            TechSupport January 22, 2018 at 11:55 am #

            I have PS Vue and like it but I wouldn’t say it is the “gold standard”. Its great you can record everything you want but no way to extend recordings beyond 30 days is silly. Most shows are on multiple times in a month so you generally get longer than 30 days but still some shows disappear never to be seen again.

          • Avatar
            Scott Blanchard January 22, 2018 at 12:44 pm #

            I’m on DTVNow at present, but I’ve tried all of the major services that have an app for Apple TV. Personally, I never had any issue with the 30 day expiration on Vue – since I only use DVR for live programming (news and sports) and after a few days that content is irrelevant anyway. I’d be interested to know which service has the best DVR in your opinion?

          • Avatar
            TechSupport January 22, 2018 at 12:50 pm #

            I just want to be able to save certain shows or series indefinitely like a conventional DVR. I do think it is great with PS Vue that you can record every single thing on TV for 30 days if you really wanted. I don’t think any service is as good as Dish was. I really liked the prime time any time and being able to permanently save any show.

  5. Avatar
    89caps January 21, 2018 at 10:16 am #

    On-demand is just as bad with buffering as love TV. YouTube TV is flawless with regards to streaming, I just wish it had all of the DTVN channels.

    • Avatar
      Robert Anthony Hartzell January 21, 2018 at 11:10 am #

      I just wish it was nation wide. I would combine YTTV with Philo. It would be $15 more than my grandfathered Go Big, but the dvr/quality of those two combined would be worth it.

    • Avatar
      aj152 January 21, 2018 at 11:41 am #

      Let me just say that I tried them all (DTVN, Sling, PSVue, HuluLive) and I agreed, YoutubeTV is the BEST in performance, their lineup might not be as big as DTVN, but keep in mind you don’t need all channels, and for just $35 a month YoutubeTV’s lineup is more than enough compared to the old basic cable, remember cord cutting also means getting rid of long lists of useless channels.

      • Avatar
        Scott Blanchard January 22, 2018 at 10:43 am #

        Eagerly awaiting the promised app support – casting not ideal long term. Do you cast it from your phone or tablet?

        • Avatar
          aj152 January 22, 2018 at 11:27 am #

          We got so used to casting from our phones and Google Mini (for voice control) that we don’t even think about it, and we also use the LG smarttv app in another room which is also nice, support for more devices is coming soon, I believe AppleTV is next.

          • Avatar
            TaiPeng January 22, 2018 at 10:18 pm #

            I just use my Mac. I am using Apple TV less with YouTube TV as it makes me less productive.

      • Avatar
        TechSupport January 22, 2018 at 11:53 am #

        I don’t have any streaming issues with PS VUE. I just wish it had some of DTVNs channels.

    • Avatar
      Richard January 21, 2018 at 10:41 pm #

      Respectfully disagree. That may be your experience, but in mine its not even close. On demand rarely buffers. I see live tv buffering often with DirecTVNow and with Hulu Live … the two that I tried.

      • Avatar
        SS January 22, 2018 at 9:46 am #

        On Demand buffers a lot on DirectTV Now.

  6. Avatar
    filmex January 21, 2018 at 10:51 am #

    I still maintain there is something unsavory about a company that will use carrots like multiple significant giveaways to entice customers to a product they know is not ready for prime time. There’s some karma in knowing that these inducements have produced subscriber numbers that the system simply can’t handle.

    Always respected DirecTV and never respected AT&T. No mystery as to who is running things over there now.

  7. Avatar
    MrB January 21, 2018 at 10:56 am #

    They need to hire Google to figure it out. They don’t buffer on LIVE streaming. ATT doesn’t want to spend the money yet. They talk about a one app for all services and they are trying to get to work first. Then they will raise rates and increase bandwidth.

  8. Avatar
    Jeffrey January 21, 2018 at 11:13 am #

    I got a Roku stick over Christmas and when activated it have me a30 day free trial to DTVN. It had been flawless the last couple weeks with the exception of the Discovery channel yesterday… Dirty jobs was blacked out. Blacked out. Really? It wasn’t a live sport event.

    Any who, got Comcast blast at 120 Mb down and my streaming services are always good. My DTV contact is up in march and really thinking over a move to streaming. $50 vs $160 looks a lot better.

    And of course there are trade offs. Lose my 5 tuner Genie and its DVR.

  9. Avatar
    Garry January 21, 2018 at 11:41 am #

    I have DTVN on TCL ROKU, two of them. No issues other than what you get with any internet site, a couple second delay. I also have BETA on Apple TV. It’s BETA and I am glad to participate to help get it ready for real time. Some people aren’t happy with anything. I have been streaming TV on internet for almost 14 years. What we have today is in comparison to a Model T and a Ferrari.

    • Avatar
      TechSupport January 22, 2018 at 11:59 am #

      Since you have ROKU TV’s then you should be aware that you will not receive the new app and DVR for possibly a year since they are not releasing it on Roku any time soon.

      • Avatar
        Scott January 24, 2018 at 2:04 pm #

        Sidelining ROKU development is not a good move on AT&T’s part. ROKU has a large slice of the streaming market.

        • Avatar
          TechSupport January 24, 2018 at 3:49 pm #

          I know it doesn’t make any sense.

          • Avatar
            James Webb January 24, 2018 at 10:04 pm #

            It is kinda strange they are giving away free Roku sticks for new sign ups but haven’t even begun a Roku beta yet.

          • Avatar
            TechSupport January 25, 2018 at 10:04 am #

            Exactly. I am giving serious consideration to going out and getting Fire sticks for my Roku TV’s. Sounds counter productive doesn’t it.

          • Avatar
            James Webb January 26, 2018 at 7:15 pm #

            Well, to my pleasant surprise they have begun Roku beta & I’m in it… the app looks nice, very much like the Fire TV beta. One nice thing I’ve noticed is you click Up & you’re right into the guide…nice & easy like it should be.

          • Avatar
            TechSupport January 26, 2018 at 10:08 pm #

            Thank you for the undate. I am shocked frankly. That is what I have been waiting for. I have no complaints of the current DTVN app. I just need DVR.

  10. Avatar
    whydidnt January 21, 2018 at 12:30 pm #

    DTVN does need to work on optimizing their streams. It works almost flawlessly on my Apple TV, but buffers frequently on our Fire TV in another room. DTVN is pretty much the only streaming app I have issues with on the Fire TV. I applaud that they are attempting to send a great picture, but not sure all streaming tech is up to the task right now.

  11. Avatar
    Rocksleeper January 21, 2018 at 12:36 pm #

    I tried hulu, sling, PS vue, and DTVN in December. Went with DTVN.

    It did have those two outages in the beginning of January… Otherwise it has been as solid as the other products, and streams WAY better than Hulu. No regrets. It has the best channel lineup for me.

  12. Avatar
    Nathan John Ganiere January 21, 2018 at 2:16 pm #

    tried them all, pretty much on all devices and I’ve been with DTVN since about June and plan on staying, nothing comes even close to the quality be it streaming or features, all the others had issues too, which were far worst in my opinon, I get more hours of enjoyment out of DTVN than any other service by far…….

    • Avatar
      Rob Odarczenko January 22, 2018 at 12:15 pm #

      I have to agree with you. While I havent tried many others, I just simply have not had many issues with DTVN like so many others complain about. I use my ATV Hardwired to my router on my 50mb connection from Charter. Only time I had issues is when I tried it on my first gen firestick, seemed to be more buffering. I just figured it was due to older hardware. My Apple TV runs it great. I see so many people complain and I always have the lingering question in my head, what hardware is being used from start to finish? So many people buy a $30 wifi router or AP and expect the world, this is not the case.

      • Avatar
        mojozulu January 22, 2018 at 4:19 pm #

        I believe the frustration comes in is that other streaming services work flawlessly on the same hardware, at least that’s the case for me. DTVN has buffered way more than any other streaming service that I’ve tried. I have 100mbs broadband hardwired to my streaming devices.
        The issue may have to do with the ISP and the subnet if you are on cable broadband.

      • Avatar
        DesignatedJizTowel January 22, 2018 at 10:03 pm #

        Right there with you. I have had DTVN for about a year now. I have the $35 go big plan. It was a little sketchy for the first month or two, but i just attributed it to growing pains and stuck with it. Have two Fire TV v2, one Fire TV v3 and two v2 firesticks. Works fine on all of them. I see all the comments about the buffering issues and have to wonder why. Nothing special here. Centurylink 40/5 fiber and the Cyxel c2100 router. The Fire TV’s are wired, the Firesticks are wifi. Although DVR would be a nice to have, it’s not really very important to me. At any rate, I have had overall good luck and plan to stick with it.

      • Avatar
        Scott January 24, 2018 at 1:57 pm #

        My experience is with 1Gb wired Roku Ultra. I can say with experience that DTVN buffering since September 2017 went from annoying, intermittent with consistency problems to unwatchable, chronic buffering problems during the late December/January time frame.

        During that later time period where DTVN was having chronic buffering problems I also performed trials with Sling (flawless), YouTube TV (flawless), and Hulu Live (intermittent buffering).

        In spite of the lower cost, I decided to abandon DTVN, for now, and chose Hulu for the local channel selection and abundant on line content.

  13. Avatar
    Joe Siegler January 21, 2018 at 4:28 pm #

    Wish they’d do something about their DVR. It’s ass compared to the one from Sling.

    I haven’t had any problems with their actual streaming, though.

    • Avatar
      BB-8 ME January 22, 2018 at 10:43 am #

      Same here. Live service has been great aside from the crazy UI choices but the DVR is so bad that it’s almost unusable. While still in beta, I haven’t seen much improvement over the last few updates. This company has so many resources yet here we are.

  14. Avatar
    Gunite Shotcrete January 21, 2018 at 7:15 pm #

    I have DTVN and I’m pretty happy with the service whether it be through my Roku’s or chrome. I personally think the Roku handles it better through the app though. Plus for $10 a month how can you go wrong?

  15. Avatar
    Richard January 21, 2018 at 10:49 pm #

    I happened to be trialing DirecTV Now during this nightmare week for them. I was also trying out Hulu Live. While they both showed live tv buffering issues, DirecTV Now was far worse during the college football national championship. In addition, I needed support because they turned my trial on and then off right away because they were having issues accepting credit card approvals. Their message was that credit card was declined but credit card company indicating they were approving repeatedly and that DirecTV Now was not accepting their approval and bouncing it back to them. Attempting to gain support from DirecTV Now was problematic. They offer no phone support, only chat. And chat was backed up for hours. Buffering + customer service + that Hulu Live price was a significantly greater value (when considering the on-demand service included with live) made my decision. Hulu Live has shown some buffering since … but never as bad as DirecTV Now. Hoping they get this under control.

  16. Avatar
    J Lancaster January 22, 2018 at 6:08 am #

    There’s no reason they can’t have more servers pushing the content. The real reason has got to be cost. They can have the stream be pushed out by multiple machines all over the country. It is too bad they’re having to match the timing of the actual live feed. It’s a few seconds behind, but other channels that have a live stream in their own app are minutes behind the actual live feed. The result is a much better experience.

    • Avatar
      bellsfolly January 22, 2018 at 6:17 pm #

      Agreed. And really, if you’re streaming a “live” show or game, do you really care if it’s a minute or two behind what’s on live tv? I don’t. Having a flawless transmission trumps everything to me.

  17. Avatar
    SnakePlisskenNY January 22, 2018 at 8:36 am #

    DTVN was great for me at first, but the buffering and outages were maddening. Switched to PS Vue and the service is far better. I might try YouTube, as well.

    • Avatar
      Scott January 22, 2018 at 10:06 am #

      I’m right there with you, but I chose Hulu.

      • Avatar
        TechSupport January 22, 2018 at 11:57 am #

        I would have gone with Hulu but they don’t have the channels that PS Vue has. As far as channel lineup goes I think DTVN is best then PS Vue then it is a tossup between numerous others.

      • Avatar
        Shawn Stuckey January 22, 2018 at 3:49 pm #

        I was tempted with Hulu, but for me Sling with dvr and lifetime package worked best for me, considering I already have free access to netflix and to go along with my Amazon prime…Total 35 bucks a month. I can live with that. It won’t take long before Providers raise internet prices with very limited speed offerings. Then it will all be for nothing at that point…sad.

        • Avatar
          Shawn Stuckey January 22, 2018 at 3:50 pm #

          Sling Blue package..

  18. Avatar
    cyn January 22, 2018 at 10:29 am #

    DirecTV Now also offered it’s old customers that said, “THIS IS BS” a free month to come back & try one more time. For free, maybe it’s worth it, but not a dime more – it’s just too frustrating. I didn’t have these issues with Sling in the month I tried it & will go back to them when baseball’s spring training starts next month.

    I tried to watch MTV challenge on TV & got so frustrated & gave up, I watched it LIVE on MTV’s website with no problem.

    DTVN on demand offerings were even worse the few times I tried to watch something. I’ve had zero issues with Netflix or Hulu.

    On paper, the price & channels – I should love DTVN – I can’t believe they offered a trial without having fixed any problems.

  19. Avatar
    John Smith January 22, 2018 at 10:56 am #

    I have paid subscriptions to YouTube TV and DirecTV Now, including the DVR beta right now. I’m only going to keep one in the end.

    My experience with YouTube TV has been flawless, including their online DVR function that’s included in the basic subscription price.

    I find myself more and more rarely watching DirecTV Now, not only because of its less user friendly and more balky interface, but also because of various and continuing problems.

    This past weekend, I selected to record the two NFL conference championships games with the DirecTV Now beta DVR. The Patriots AFC game recorded fine. But when I went to try to watch the Eagles-Vikings NFC game, DirecTV Now’s beta popped up the following message: “Looks Like This Content Went Missing!”

    In other words, the game I selected for recording didn’t get saved or recorded for me to replay. And that’s the latest in a line of similar DVR problems I’ve had with their beta.

    Based on current performance, it’s nowhere near ready for public release.

  20. Avatar
    Sam Iam January 22, 2018 at 11:35 am #

    I am tired of the buffering on Hulu. No improvement in three months. And we have a fiber gigabyte connection.

  21. Avatar
    Malignar January 22, 2018 at 1:22 pm #

    I had DTVN for a couple months and had very little tech issues until I tried to watch some of the big bowl games around the 1st. It seems heavily watched programs gave them big issues. I switched to Youtube TV which has no buffering issues but their on demand is weak and FPS is low on most of the channels. Also using my phone as a streaming player/remote control sucks big time. When DTVN works out the kinks, I will likely be back.

  22. Avatar
    BloodLust January 22, 2018 at 3:47 pm #

    I have buffering issues ALL THE TIME and it’s only gotten worse as time has gone on. I have a Roku Ultra which I believe is the problem. My wife has an Apple TV and she hardly ever has buffering issues. The app that was made for the Roku is complete garbage. You would think they would fix this.

  23. Avatar
    Lynnneez January 23, 2018 at 3:39 am #

    What hi don’t understand and is now is now ps vue has never been down for me, never glitches or buffers and I’ve had it over a year yet dtvnow went from often unusable to completely non functional now. If Ps Vue can manage to be consistently stable why cant dtvnow.