Apps DirecTV Now screenshot from Apple TV

Published on December 1st, 2017 | by Brad Gibson

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DirecTV Now DVR beta leaves testers disappointed and confused

The streaming service DirecTV Now is beta testing a cloud-based video recorder with hundreds of customers, but some are less than initially impressed with the yet-to-be-released feature wondering what additional cost if any they’ll be paying.

BESTAppleTV.com has spoken to four Apple TV beta testers all of whom have been putting the DirecTV Now DVR beta through its paces for a little less than a month. The consensus among them is the feature is slow, cumbersome and confusing to use.

“It’s just not there,” said Eric Somerfield, a DirecTV Now beta tester from Lee’s Summit, Missouri. “I know it’s a beta and that’s what it’s for to work out the kinks, but I’m not sure the basic design and functionality of the DVR is going to change and that concerns me.”

To begin with, some beta testers were experiencing installation problems of the beta using the ‘TestFlight’ app on Apple TV. Some redemptions codes were not working and some beta testers were not getting two different emails required for the complete installation.

“If you can’t even get the install to work, you wonder what the DVR will be like,” commented Kelly Cullen, a DirecTV Now customer from Macon, Georgia. “I finally got it working on my Apple TV, but I’m less than impressed.”

DVR jumps & stutters

Users commented that the DVR feature is slow to respond in trying to record and select programs for viewing.

“It’s just unresponsive at times,” said Somerfield. “Everything from selecting a program to record to getting a recorded program to play is slow. Sometimes, your selection never plays.”

All of the beta testers we spoke with experienced regular jumps and stuttering in the beta DVR playback, despite having more than adequate Internet bandwidth.

“I’ve recorded ten shows and every one of them had a video problem where the picture would break up for long periods or jump ahead minutes,” Cullen said. “When I tried to rewind and play that same part (of the video) again, the same jump happened again. That makes me think that this problem wasn’t the playback, but the recording.”

“This is not a bandwidth problem,” DirecTV Now beta tester and Apple TV 4K owner Nick Jacobs of Dayton, Ohio said. “I’m getting constant stuttering. I’m sure a cloud-based DVR for thousands of people is not an easy thing to create and get working, but this has got some real problems.”

Other beta testers reported certain recorded programs during playback had no audio while others did.

“I tried replaying the video numerous times, but there was no audio,” said David Flynn, a beta tester and DirecTV Now customer for 10 months. “It’s just not ready for primetime. Not even close.”

The beta testers were impressed with the ability to fast-forward through commercials and even jump or reverse in 15-second increments.

“If the recorded video isn’t stuttering or jumping, the 15-second jump feature works great,” Jacobs commented.

Not so impressive among the testers is the list of recorded programs which appear on a translucent horizontal line laid over live programming. Depending on the number of programs you’ve recorded, the beta testers said browsing through the programs was slow.

“I’d rather see them on a vertical list so you get more on one page,” Somerfield said.

Biggest concern…Recorded hours & price

Moving forward, the beta testers we spoke with were adamant that DVR capabilities were essential for their needs, but concerned they might not get an adequate amount of hours to use and that DirecTV Now would be charging for the feature.

“20 hours isn’t enough for my needs,” Jacobs said. “I need at least 50. It would be nice to get the DVR capability for free, but I have a feeling they’ll charge for this. I hope it’s not a lot. I’d be willing to pay $5 a month more for say 100 hours, but it’s got to work better than it is right now.”

DirecTV Now competitor Sling TV already offers a DVR feature, charging $5 a month for 50 hours of Cloud DVR storage.

“I’d pay for the DVR feature, but it’s got to work right and be reasonably priced,” commented Cullen. “I’m not going to pay a lot, I’ll tell you that.”

Three of the four beta testers we spoke with were getting 100 hours of DVR recording time in the beta test, while one was getting only 20 hours. Various beta testers online are reporting similar differences in the number of hours. Indications are a new batch of testers in the past 10 days were getting more limited recording hours compared to earlier beta customers.

A number of online beta testers have suggested that the cutback in the number of recorded hours was simply for testing purposes and not a reflection on what DirecTV Now will ultimately offer to customers, yet that remains to be seen.

Biggest wish…Rewind of live TV

While DirecTV Now lets users rewind to the beginning of a non-recorded program, it does not allow selective replay of live TV. Among the beta testers and users we spoke with, this simple feature was high on their wish list, regardless of the DVR features.

“I had that feature on DirecTV satellite and I sure would like to have it on DirecTV Now,” said Flynn. “It’s really essential if you watch a lot of live TV and channel surf. I’ve requested it, but who knows what they’ll do.”

“Can I get used to not rewinding live TV like what I had on my cable DVR? I don’t think so,” commented Cullen. “I watch a lot of live TV and I’m not changing my habits.”

Testers also mentioned that the ending times of scheduled sports events for recording presently cannot be extended with all them of wishing for such a feature to be added.

Repeated attempts to contact media representatives for AT&T, the parent company of DirecTV Now, for comment for this story were unsuccessful.

 

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About the Author

Brad is co-founder and editor-in-chief of BESTAppleTV.com. He has been a technology reporter since the late 1980s having previously worked for MacUser, MacFormat, and iCreate magazines, as well as MacNN.com, MacObserver.com, MacCentral.com, MacMinute.com, and Macworld.com. He hosted and produced the MacFormat This Week podcast for three years. He was also a reporter, editor, and producer for the Associated Press and United Press International.



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