Simple answer: no you cannot. But it’s not some massive conspiracy. Let me back up.
The AirTV Player is the miracle box that lets you combine streaming live TV with over-the-air antenna TV in the same guide. It’s more than that, though. It’s an Android TV box, meaning it can run apps from the Google Play store as well as view the photos from your Google account, stream music, and search the internet. With any Android TV box you can use Netflix, Hulu, HBO NOW, MLB, ESPN, and tons of other streaming video apps.
But you can’t use DIRECTV NOW or the DIRECTV app.
Is it a conspiracy?
AirTV and the Sling TV service that comes preloaded on it are part of the DISH empire that includes the DISH satellite service. DIRECTV and DIRECTV NOW are natural competitors to DISH’s ambitions. So is it a little weird that you can’t run those apps on your AirTV Player? Did they do it on purpose?
No they did not.
You can’t run either of those apps on any Android TV box. I don’t know why that is; perhaps the people who are coding those apps for Android phones don’t see the benefit of making them compatible with Android TV. I don’t know what it would take to do it, honestly.
See, under the surface, Android phones and Android TV are very similar. In fact you can run regular Android phone apps on your Android TV in a lot of cases. You can use a keyboard and mouse connected to the Android TV in order to interact with the apps. But, it doesn’t always work.
Each app maker can say what kind of devices their apps will work on, but if you’re smart you can “sideload” those apps onto other devices. No guarantee they’ll work though.
I tried this
I took the DIRECTV and DIRECTV NOW apps for Android and tried to sideload them onto my AirTV. There are plenty of sites where you can get .apk files, the package files that apps use to install. It was then a simple matter of putting them on a flash drive, connecting the flash drive to the AirTV player and using a perfectly legal and safe app called ES File Explorer to execute the .apk files.
The apps installed fine, they sure did. The DIRECTV app was sideways on the screen but I got around that. The DIRECTV NOW app looked just fine. I was able to enter my user name and password on both, and both accepted the information and logged in.
Both apps simply stopped working and took me back to the main Android TV screen. It wasn’t anything evil or insidious, they just didn’t work. I’ve seen the same thing with other apps I’ve tried to sideload. If it’s not available through Google Play, if it says it doesn’t work with Android TV, there’s probably a reason. In this case… it’s because it literally doesn’t work with Android TV.
Will there be a fix?
The only way this situation would change would be if AT&T’s engineers changed it. There is no official DIRECTV (satellite) app for any streaming box so I don’t see that happening. DIRECTV NOW is available for AppleTV, Fire TV, and many other platforms. I don’t know why Android TV has been left out, but I think they could do it if they wanted to. But they would have to want to. Obviously Netflix, HBO, and others saw the value. It’s just a matter of whether AT&T’s folks will too.