Cloud DVR | DIRECTV NOW | Reviews

DIRECTV NOW DVR – First Look (Latest Release)

DIRECTV NOW DVR release date approaching? We’ve got the exclusive inside look, including release date clues, screenshots and information you’ve been asking for…

DIRECTV NOW Cloud DVR Beta

Here’s a first look at the latest build of the DIRECTV NOW DVR on Apple TV.  The build, Version 1 Build 400, was released on December 6, 2017 and has been met with fairly positive response among Beta testers. From our personal experience with the app, It would appear that AT&T is inching closer to a finished product.

DIRECTV NOW DVR Release Date?

Interestingly, the beta build is not set to expire until March 7th 2018. Could this foretell that the release date of the Cloud DVR will at least be delayed until after this date?

DIRECTV NOW recently sent out a new round of invites to their Beta program and welcome emails began arriving this week allowing a new crop of beta testers to access the software. The screens in the slideshow below reflect that latest beta build available for Apple TV and Apple TV 4K

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DIRECTV NOW DVR – First impressions:

  • Speed and Responsiveness – The channels load reasonably fast, and menus overall are responsive, with the noted exceptions of the grid guide as documented below.  There doesn’t appear to be any of the buffering issues that users have reported in previous builds. It appears that the infrastructure has been beefed up to more adequately handle system demand.
  • DVR – Recordings and playback appear smooth and reliable thus far on both the Apple TV and the Chrome/Safari browser based UI. With the exception of some noted UX misses mentioned below, the overall app design appears to be pretty well thought out. A couple significant caveats though, unlike PS Vue’s DVR, which currently sets the bar for Cloud DVRs, you cannot retroactively record live program content after tuning in. When you opt to record a program, the recording starts from the moment you tuned into the channel, not the start of the actual program. And there’s no rewind capability until you choose record – you don’t have a live buffer to play with without counting against your storage limits. You cannot indefinitely pause live TV without first choosing to record  the program.
  • App Sophistication – Overall it seems like they are moving closer to what I’ve grown accustomed to with the traditional DIRECTV satellite service’s “Genie” DVR, which I was extremely pleased with before I swapped over to the OTT service last November.

DIRECTV NOW DVR – Still several issues that need to be ironed out:

  • Missing Locals – Users have reported that some of their local channels are not appearing on the beta, despite appearing on the regular version of the app. For example, here in Birmingham, were we have access to both ABC3340 and WVTM NBC13, only the ABC affiliate is showing up. Fox and CBS still not available in my area although Youtube TV has ABC, CBS, NBC and CW – but we are still left wishing and waiting on an wider device support to see Youtube TV take off
  • Grid Guide Quirks – The grid guide departs from the existing app and adds a details row containing  a thumbnail image of the selected programs as well as episode information, description and time. The guide still appears to be a work in progress however. There are some overlapping of the grid squares and the animation is jerky rather than smooth. Its reminiscent of the Playstation Vue grid guide in which elements change size as they are displayed, resulting in screen redraws that have somewhat jarring transitions.
  • Favorited Channels – While on the grid guide, users can select to filter the listing by their favorited channels. This feature works flawlessly on the non beta app, however, the beta app does not persist the user’s last selected filter. In other words, if you selected to show favorites only, after you close and reopen the guide, you will have to refilter the guide all over again.
  • Recording Episodes and Series Passes – In order to set up a series pass (for those shows that allow it), you have to first click the “REC” icon while watching the program or the episode name that appears when you mouse over the screen – this text is not clickable in full screen mode but does work while in the half screen “Watch Now” mode. So once you activate the details screen by clicking on the episode name text, you can select “Record Episode. The popup menu that appears to confirm your choice, then allows you the option to select “Record Series”. However, the popup goes away automatically unless you quickly make a choice within about 3 seconds.
  • Full Screen Mode Options – You cannot set up a series pass from the full screen mode. Currently you have to exit to the “Menu” screen overlay, then click to activate the “Watch Now” screen in order to be able to click the program name (bottom left corner) to access the program details screen to set up a series pass.
  • Series Passes Limited – Not all programs that can be recorded can be set up on series pass.
  • Swiper no Swiping – Puzzlingly, the FF/RW controls do not utilize the Siri’s swipe pad like virtually every other Apple TV app. You first have to click the touchpad, then you have to move an underline cursor to the appropriate icon that controls FF/RW and Pause. It also means that Harmony remotes FF/RW buttons do not work for the app. This is not ideal and we hope they will rework this before the final release.

Have a question or comment about the DIRECTV NOW DVR Beta? Share your thoughts in the comments below:

  • NCAviator

    I just started to use the beta this morning. For me the BIG MISSING FEATURE is that in GUIDE you can’t tell what shows are set to record. No RED DOT like most DVR solutions.

    I am also having the missing local issue with my NBC station in Greenville, SC. Shows in the non-beta.

    Am also having issues with FAVORITES now showing my ABC local station even though it is marked as a favorite.

    The software has much to get right before it is released.

    • Good finds. Please make sure you submit your findings to the feedback channel. You can also email direct to g08533@att.com

      Agree there are some issues that need to be ironed out, but as it stands I’ll take a flawed DVR over none. Now, if they want us to pay more than $5 a month, they need to do some serious UX work.

      BTW, I just updated the post to reflect my findings related to the expiration date of the Beta build. Its currently set to expire on March 7th, so I would not expect this to be completed before then. March is probably a most hit deadline for this service. Any later and I’m expecting mass defections, especially from those that don’t have access to the beta for their DVR needs.

      • NCAviator

        I submitted my feedback using the link in the Chrome App/Page. Said successfully submitted. Have not received any follow up. Do they reply if you use email address?

        I selected a show to record. It recorded 4 shows. When I try and select and click on them. Nothing happens. Can’t play the show. This is in Apple TV. Works fine in Chrome Browser.

        They really need more options to recording. Like record only NEW shows not reruns.

        • I have a batch of feedback to send. I’ll try the email link and see what returns. Agree completely on the recording options. I’d expect that to already be there if it were going to be. Its something they would have wanted thoroughly tested by now so its doubtful it will be there unless they are delaying the release until after spring, which I highly doubt they can afford to do with the heated competition.

        • I just tried submitting feedback through the Apple TV interface. It pops a message that asks me to submit feebdack via the web at this URL: http://att-research.com/feedback

          I’m unable to playback episodes from series recordings in the library on Apple TV (tvOS 11.2.1)

          • Loren Kruse

            I struggled with this …the select button doesn’t work. You have to press the PLAY/PAUSE button to watch the show. If it still doesn’t work force close the APP…

        • Loren Kruse

          I struggled with this …the select button doesn’t work. You have to press the PLAY/PAUSE button to watch the show. If it still doesn’t work force close the APP.

        • I had the same issue yesterday and submitted feedback. Today, after closing the app and reopening, I was able to do as Loren indicates, use the PLAY/PAUSE button to launch the recording. It should allow one to playback with EITHER play/pause OR a click of the ATV touchpad.

  • From Reddit user @milan03:

    Not sure if others have noticed, but DirecTV Now BETA now offers streams of up to 1080p/60fps at 10Mbps using the high efficiency video codec (H.265) on capable devices like AppleTV 4K. This means that DTVN is sending their stream at twice the bandwidth, and also using a video codec twice as efficient than the traditional cable, providing a pretty incredible viewing experience.

    1080p streams are available pretty much across the board, and the only channels left with 720p/60fps are the ones that use backhaul satellite feeds sent at 720p like Fox and Disney channels including ESPN and FS1.

    Regular non-BETA app also has a few channels streaming in 1080p like CBS, CBS Sports, Olympic, POP, so even if you’re not a BETA tester you can get a taste of it.

    This reddit user indicates they have tested it against the Time Warner and FiOS set-top box, and the picture quality is significantly better on DTVN.

    https://i.imgur.com/fIuahOq.jpg

  • Loren Kruse

    I have noticed some recorded shows end prematurely. Need the ability to record and add a minute or two after the show is scheduled to end.

    • Agreed. I’ve been unable to playback recordings from my library since yesterday. Hopefully things get sorted out soon. This really needs to start getting buttoned down if we are looking at a near term release.

  • Feedback I submitted today:
    Would like to have the ability to pause and rewind live TV without having to first record the whole program. There is currently no live TV buffer. PS Vue does this well. If I only want to rewind a few seconds to catch something I missed, I shouldn’t have to record the whole show! Especially if you are considering only 20 hours of DVR storage. Allow at least a 10 minute buffer to allow rewind/catch up without requiring us to record the entire program. Especially helpful for news programming that will be stale and not worthy of recording space.

  • Cableguy

    Been using the beta a few days. Recorded a few shows on Apple TV gen 4 and iPad Air 2. Fast forwarding is slow. Hit the first button a second time and the recording goes back to the beginning. Now when I schedule a recording it doesn’t record on either device. I uninstalled and reinstalled the beta app on my iPad and it still won’t record. I’ve sent several feedbacks.

    • Thanks for the update. It appears they are working things on the back end. You may have gotten the email a few minutes ago. If not, check my message above.

  • Just received this email from DIRECTV NOW Beta Program:

    Good Afternoon Testers,
    We’re currently upgrading a few things for the beta app, so you may experience intermittent playback issues for live and DVR streaming until tomorrow afternoon.

    We also have a scheduled Cloud DVR maintenance that begins at midnight PST tonight. We anticipate that we’ll be done at 10am PST tomorrow. During this time, any recordings scheduled for this timeframe will not be recorded. You also may not be able to play any of your recorded content as well.

    We apologize for the inconvenience, and appreciate your patience as always.

  • Rey White

    I have been using the Directv Now Beta for my three Amazon Fire Sticks and I am pleased with the recording features thus far. I have recorded and watched 5 shows; two of which were recorded with the Beta for my Smart phone last week. Where I had issues viewing a couple of the shows recorded with the smart phone, all of the programs recorded with the Amazon Fire Stick software recorded and played back beautifully. I also like that I can watch the recorded content from any of the four devices.

    • Good to hear Ray. I’ve heard similar comments on the Fire beta.

  • helpful55

    I just have to say ‘what in the world?’ This kind of technology is pretty much old. A company as large and accomplished as direct tv cannot get a dvr going? I have to wonder if they are playing some kind of sales/interest game. I cannot do any service that doesn’t have a proper dvr. I watch 99% of what I do watch on dvr. Waiting to try DTVNow if they would get this going.

    On another note I am testing YouTubeTV, and no way am I continuing. I use multiple monitors on my pc: work/surveillance camera monitoring and the third place monitor is for my video. Guess what, as soon as I start any video play with UTTV it shuts off my main (work) monitor. Yes they are doing it they admitted it. I am trying to get some kind of answer why but that is not going to stop me from cancelling. I am not going to have someone go into my pc set up and mess with things. That is my pc and this is creepy. It may be a wait to get any other device support as it sure seems to me like they have a _ _ _ _ _ _ _ relationship with google: You can only use chrome for browser viewing, no firetv or roku, but chromecast yes. I could go on for a lot longer on how we continue to be manipulated by most of these companies. Once again they have got us, they are not fighting each other they are fighting us for control and $$$.

    • Thanks for your feedback. Definitely creepy behavior if YTTV is in fact manipulating software outside of their own. That would be a federal crime actually.

      On your point about Directv and DVR competency, I agree completely. Having been a satellite customer for over 15 years, I was with them through the Tivo years and also when they brought the DVR functionality in house and even made it better than Tivo eventually leading to the “Genie” whole home DVR system. It simply worked – and more importantly it made sense from a UX perspective. The current DVR functionality is not even on a par with competing solutions from Vue, Hulu, YTTV, Philo or even Sling, much less worthy of their DVR legacy from their satellite service. I can’t quite figure out what their end game is yet, other than we are simply participating in a stress test phase and they are holding back some major UX improvements that will dazzle us all – not likely.

      Your last point is a bit harder to swallow. You’ll have a hard time convincing a reasonable person that the companies are conspiring with one another against consumers. While they do adopt similar codecs and functionality, like every other industry, they are all public companies beholden to shareholders for financial results.

      YTTV will not survive as a viable product without broader device support.

      • EE Musician

        Last point hard to swallow? It is here today. For starters Google owns Youtube so absolutely no mystery there about preferential treatment. Losing net neutrality opens the door for all ISPs and content providers to partner to offer preferred or even exclusive content delivered to some customers over others based on the access path.

  • Scott Lanford

    I wouldn’t assume that the infrastructure has been beefed up but I certainly hope it has. I agree that buffering has been less of an issue with the Beta but it still happens more than it should. I could be that buffering only seems improved because there are far fewer Beta users and less load on the system. Of course I don’t know one way or the other. I’m using the FTV Beta and the Favorites filter state has actually been improved. One of my main gripes with the non-Beta FTV app is that it NEVER remembers when I’ve filtered by Favorites, even within the same session. So every single time I open the guide I have to re-filter by Favorites. With the beta it at least (usually) remembers the filter settings within the same session so that I don’t have to re-filter every time I open the guide. However, it doesn’t remember across sessions and I have to re-filter every time I restart the app. My two biggest complaints so far with the Beta are: 1) It takes too many clicks to open the Guide. This is something done dozens of times a day and should be done with a maximum of two clicks. Right now it takes 5 clicks every single time. My suggestion would be to click “up” once to show the menu, as it does now, and then “up” again to show the guide for a max of two clicks. 2) The DVR is effectively useless because it doesn’t allow you to record new shows only and doesn’t even give you any control over what times a show are actually recorded or on what channel. In fact, it seems to randomly choose what time to record a scheduled show. For example, I chose to record The Big Bang Theory and it decided to record only airings on SAT at 7PM on TBS. I cancelled the scheduled recording and rescheduled it only to discover that this time it chose to record at a completely different time and channel. And it completely skipped over new airings on CBS which most people I think would assume would be the default schedule unless otherwise specified. I thought that maybe in order to schedule new airings only I maybe had to schedule the recording from the Guide by specifically selecting the show on the channel/time I desired (which would be a horribly onerous design decision). Nope…it still randomly decided what channel/time to record. So as it stands right now I’ve never been able to get it to record any show I wanted to record at the time I wanted to record it. Oh, and all the recordings were cut off by a few seconds at the end. An option to specify how much time before and after a show to record is also badly needed to help prevent this. The upshot is that the DVR functionality is in desperate need of user configurability to be of any use to me and probably most others.

    FYI, today (1/26) the app has been unusable. The app usually won’t connect and even when it does, none of the data retrieval is working (Guide, What’s On, Search, etc.). It just shows a “Content Behaving Badly” or “We hit a glitch” error. I hope this just means they are performing upgrades.

    • 1) Apple TV DVR Beta still does not persist favorite filters.

      2) We can definitely agree the DVR needs work. My top complaints with the Beta (on Apple TV) are:

      No way to rewind live TV, not even a 10 second flashback
      No way to record from the beginning of a live program unless you tune it at the beginning
      Series recording option is too many clicks deep
      No way to specify to only record new episodes
      Cannot FF recorded content more than a few 15 second jumps without it crashing the player back to the beginning of the recording