For our review of DIRECTV Everywhere on the iPad, click here.
If you’ve been jonesing for the ability to watch DIRECTV programming without a TV handy, your time has finally come. DIRECTV Everywhere is now available to the general public via web browser, iPad, and Android phones.
DIRECTV is coming around to the idea that people want their programming everywhere, on every device. While DIRECTV is generally the high-tech leader, they have lagged behind Xfinity, FiOS and other providers in this area for some time. Whether this was for legal or technical reasons we’ll never know. What’s important is that they are now fully committed to bringing the TV watching experience to DIRECTV subscribers no matter where they happen to be at the moment.
When you log into directv.com, you will see a banner announcing DIRECTV Everywhere. That’s your key to knowing that the service is available to you. It’s been available to some people for about two weeks and has slowly been rolling out across the country. There hasn’t been any special reason why some people have gotten it and some people haven’t, it’s just the luck of the draw. This message is easy to dismiss.
DIRECTV has compiled an impressive amount of content available to watch online. A lot of their on-demand library is there, as well as content from HBO, Starz, Encore, Cinemax and the Audience Network. Of course, you must have these channels in your package or you can’t view them. Free content is limited to shows from The Audience Network.
The browsing experience is consistent with DIRECTV.com’s web site. It’s not as flashy as other sites but it is cleanly presented and easy to navigate. The content is separated by category and clicking on a thumbnail brings up an informational screen showing you more about this program. If it is on-demand content, you have the option of starting the program on an internet-connected TV right away; if it’s not, you have the option of recording it. But, of course, you’re reading this from your computer or mobile device, and you want to watch from there. Let’s take a look at the experience of watching a program from a PC.
This is a typical info screen. There are the obligatory links to social networking sites, as well as a short description of the program. Click WATCH NOW to continue.
If you haven’t used DIRECTV Everywhere before you’ll be prompted to install the DIRECTV player. If, like me, you’ve tried it once about a week ago, you’ll get a message to update. This is a one-time thing and won’t pop up every time. The DIRECTV player is necessary, because DIRECTV content is protected rather than being raw video. This makes the lawyers sleep better at night. I tested the player in Internet Explorer and Firefox for PC and it worked fine.
Video quality is excellent. It’s comparable to Netflix, Hulu, and other IPTV sources. The above is a full-size capture and it was completely satisfying. Of course you may be limited by your computer’s sound system or your internet speed. The player will compensate for slow internet speeds but not for poor quality PC speakers. A full screen mode is available, but since DIRECTV did such a good job of protecting the content, it was relatively difficult to capture.
The DIRECTV app for Android smartphones has been available for some time but it has just been updated for DIRECTV Everywhere. While DIRECTV Everywhere is available for iPad, it is not yet available for iPhone. This marks the first time DIRECTV has released an Android app before its iPhone counterpart, but I have a feeling the iPhone version isn’t that far off.
If you’ve used the DIRECTV app for Android before you’re familiar with its ability to schedule programs remotely. It’s a relatively full-featured app considering it’s free and it’s designed to be used on smaller screens.
DIRECTV has added a new item to the menu, “Watch on Phone.” It just couldn’t be easier than that. Tap on “Watch on Phone” and you’ll be presented with a list of channels available for viewing.
As on the desktop, choices are limited, HBO, Starz, Cinemax, Encore,and Audience Network show up, although Sony Movie Channel content does as well. If you are subscribed to all of these, they will show up for you on the screen, but if you are not, you will only see Audience Network, which is the only source of free content available through the app.
Browsing through programs is easy and quick and once you have chosen a program to watch, sit back and enjoy. Just like other IPTV sources, picture quality is going to be highly dependent on internet speed and some phones may not be able to play the highest-quality stream. But of course, even a Galaxy Nexus isn’t that large and so lower picture quality isn’t really a big deal.
One nice feature of DIRECTV Everywhere is that if you have purchased an On Demand (DIRECTV Cinema) title over the internet, it is available on your receivers as well as through the web site and apps. This is great if you get a title with an extended checkout period (like 72 hours.) Well done!