Could you even do the entire DIRECTV experience over the internet?

Lately there have been a number of rumors about the entire “DIRECTV Experience” coming to the internet. OK, they’re more than rumors. They’ve been mentioned by top brass at key meetings. I don’t know much about these plans, but I do think there are some challenges that clearly need to be overcome. I’m just stabbing in the dark here but here are some thoughts that occurred to me.

What is the entire DIRECTV Experience anyway?

So far we have no idea what IP-delivered DIRECTV would look like. I mean, we have DIRECTV NOW, but there’s no indication of what a tier above that would look like.

Would you want it to look just like the satellite experience?

I’m sure a lot of folks would agree that the DIRECTV NOW interface is actually better than the DIRECTV Satellite interface. It’s more modern looking and offers more of a millennial-focused experience. Older folks are usually keyed into what’s on now, while younger folks like a curated list of recent programs that they can get on demand. If you’ve been raised on Netflix, going back to a traditional cable experience may feel like a step back.

How does DVR fit into this?

With satellite we tend to think of DVR and local storage. We record something on our boxes at home. Would an IP-based system still work like that? Or, would it be a cloud DVR similar to what DIRECTV NOW is doing? If you were storing programs locally you’d have to worry about how many streams you could pull down at once and whether or not a recording would take precedence over a live TV stream if you were doing both.

What about simultaneous streams?

With satellite, you really don’t care about how many people are watching. Technically one satellite dish can feed 1,000 receivers in a proper installation, but with internet, you’re limited by the speed of the line and how congested the neighborhood.  A Genie 2 can feed 7 TVs or record 7 things at the same time (or some mix of the two.) Will customer internet be able to handle 7 streams? Will people even want it to? That’s a good question.

What about using the remote?

If you’re going to have the true DIRECTV Experience over an AppleTV or Roku box, there’s going to be a question of how you use the remote. DIRECTV boxes use the LIST button as well as fast-forward and rewind buttons. DIRECTV NOW has some elegant workarounds for this sort of thing but if you’re trying to truly duplicate the experience you’ll need some way of using a real remote.

What does “the full DIRECTV Experience” have that DIRECTV NOW doesn’t?

I’d consider that a pretty good question. DIRECTV NOW covers the bases for a lot of people. Where it falls short is in sports programming and premium channels. However, is this something that’s really going to be important to cord-cutters? So far the answer seems to be “no.” Really I think the core answer there is “NFL Sunday Ticket” because that’s the only thing you can get on DIRECTV satellite that you really can’t get anywhere else.

The biggest question: Who’s this all for?

It seems to me that AT&T is not going to step away from satellite TV completely. They’re actually planning to add more satellite capacity. So obviously they’re not going to try to move 25 million subscribers to streaming, especially when they can’t control the internet connection for all of them. Will this be an option just for new subscribers? Will it be targeted toward older folks who are very accustomed to the satellite TV guide, DVR, channel-surfing experience? What’s to drive those folks toward streaming when they’re already plenty happy?

Truth is I have no answers, just a lot of questions. I guess we’ll all see in the next 6-9 months as we get some idea of how this will all shake out.


About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 9,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.