Spectrum vs. DIRECTV STREAM

Our TV experts’ research shows that Spectrum’s affordable, premium-jammed plans beat DIRECTV STREAM’s poor value.

Cheapest

Price: $59.99/mo. for 12 mos.

Channels: 125+

DVR: varies

Streams: varies w/ device

Large channel counts

Price: $69.99–$149.99/mo.

Channels: 65–140+

DVR: 20 hrs. Included (upgrade available)

Streams: Unlimited

Data effective as of post date. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

Spectrum and DIRECTV STREAM are two different types of TV service—cable vs. streaming, respectively—but both providers have no contracts, cloud DVR, large on-demand libraries, and bundles with high-speed internet, a home phone line, or both.

Families seeking a bargain and the convenience of bundling will love Spectrum’s affordable plan, à la carte add-ons, and $500 contract buyout offer. DIRECTV STREAM (formerly AT&T TV) is better for singles and sports fans with disposable income—and anyone living outside of Spectrum’s limited service area.

Spectrum vs. DIRECTV STREAM pros and cons

Spectrum

No contracts
Contract buyout
Confusing DVR options
Limited service area

View plans

DIRECTV STREAM

Large channel counts (for a streaming TV service)
No contracts
Wider availability
Expensive plans
Limited included DVR storage
No bundling discount

View plans

Can you get Spectrum or DIRECTV STREAM where you live?

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Deals and promotions

Spectrum deals

Currently, Spectrum offers the Peacock Premium streaming service free with any TV package for 12 months. Expires December 7, 2023. Check out our Spectrum deals page for more information.

DIRECTV STREAM deals

New DIRECTV STREAM customers ordering the CHOICE plan ($89.99 a month, 90+ channels) get HBO Max™, SHOWTIME®, STARZ®, CINEMAX® and EPIX included for the first 3 months. Or you can get everything except HBO Max free for three months with the ENTERTAINMENT package ($69.99 a month, 65+ channels).

For more information on DIRECTV STREAM and other services, head to our DIRECTV deals page.

Compare Spectrum vs. DIRECTV STREAM head to head

Spectrum vs. DIRECTV STREAM

Provider Pricing Channels DVR storage Simultaneous recordings/Streams Details
Spectrum $59.99/mo. for 12 mos. 125+ varies 2 recordings with HD box or DVR

2 streams + unlimited recordings with Apple TV 4K
View plans

Read Spectrum Review
DIRECTV STREAM $69.99–$149.99/mo. 65-140+ 20 hrs. (upgrade available) Unlimited View plans

Read DIRECTV STREAM Review

Data effective as of post date. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

Spectrum’s one cable TV plans is affordable, with over 120 live HD channels and over 100 more you can add on through à la carte packages. However, its cloud DVR service is confusing and costs extra. But if you’re looking to bundle, Spectrum has affordable high-speed cable internet with speeds up to 1,000 Mbps, which is a big plus.

DIRECTV STREAM has four expensive plans with 140+ channels, including free premiums in its top plan. All plans include 20 hours of cloud DVR storage, or you can upgrade to unlimited storage for $10 a month. You can also bundle with AT&T internet, which has blazing fast speeds—up to 5,000 Mbps.

Packages and pricing

At the package level, Spectrum offers the best value. DIRECTV STREAM, however, offers poor bang for your buck.

Spectrum plans and prices

Top plans Pricing (for 12 mos.) Channels DVR* Details
Spectrum TV Select $59.99/mo. 125+ varies View plan

Data effective as of post date. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

In our guide to the Best TV Providers for 2022, we named Spectrum the cheapest TV provider. No other provider offers as much content at a better price.

Plus, you can upgrade your TV Select package with à la carte add-ons that include 80+ entertainment channels (for $12.00 a month), 20+ sports channels (for $6.00 a month), and premium channels at competitive rates. Spectrum’s like the buffet version of cable TV.

View Spectrum Plans

DIRECTV STREAM packages and prices

Plan Price Channels DVR* Details
DIRECTV STREAM ENTERTAINMENT $69.99/mo. 65+ 20 hrs. View plan
DIRECTV STREAM CHOICE $89.99/mo. 90+ 20 hrs. View plan
DIRECTV STREAM ULTIMATE $104.99/mo. 130+ 20 hrs. View plan
DIRECTV STREAM PREMIER $149.99/mo. 140+ 20 hrs. View plan

Data effective as of post date. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

DIRECTV STREAM has more channels than any other live TV streaming service. Unfortunately, it tends to stash many good channels in its most expensive plans. DIRECTV STREAM is just a poor value overall.

For example, DIRECTV STREAM also includes a bunch of premium channels—CINEMAX®, HBO Max, SHOWTIME®, STARZ®, EPIX—in its top plan, PREMIER ($149.99 a month, 140+ channels). Unfortunately, that’s not such a great value.

In comparison, Spectrum TV Select ($59.99 a month, 125+ channels) has nearly as many channels, and you can add HBO Max, SHOWTIME, STARZ, and STARZ ENCORE for only $34.00 more per month. Even once you add Spectrum’s broadcast TV fee (up to $20.00 a month), that’s only $103.99 a month compared to DIRECTV STREAM PREMIER’s $149.99 a month.

Pro tip: To avoid extra charges, be sure to cancel DIRECTV STREAM’s free premium channels offer before it auto-renews.

Even DIRECTV STREAM’s lower-tier packages can’t beat other top live TV streaming services. We recommend YouTube TV ($64.99 a month, 100+ channels, unlimited cloud DVR) and Hulu + Live TV ($69.99–$75.99 a month, 70+ channels, 50-hour cloud DVR) over DIRECTV STREAM.

View DIRECTV STREAM Plans

Popular channels

We’ve covered plenty about channel counts and included premium channels, but what about the most popular channels?

Spectrum carries all 35 of Variety’s most-watched channels of 20211. DIRECTV STREAM has all except for ION, INSP, MeTV, and The CW.

Variety’s top 35 most-watched channels of 20211

  • CBS
  • NBC
  • ABC
  • FOX
  • FOX News Channel
  • ESPN
  • MSNBC
  • Univision
  • HGTV
  • Hallmark Channel
  • CNN
  • TNT
  • ION
  • Telemundo
  • TBS
  • TLC
  • HISTORY
  • Discovery Channel
  • USA Network
  • Food Network
  • The CW
  • INSP
  • MeTV
  • Bravo
  • Lifetime
  • Investigation Discovery
  • Hallmark Movies & Mysteries
  • A&E
  • UniMás
  • TV Land
  • AMC
  • FX
  • WE TV
  • Paramount Network
  • Syfy

Data effective as of post date. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

Sports channels: Spectrum vs. DIRECTV STREAM

Spectrum carries 35 sports channels, while DIRECTV STREAM has 22 (that’s not counting regional sports networks for either provider). Here’s what each TV provider has that the other doesn’t.

  • Spectrum: Big Ten Network, Big Ten Extra, BeIN Sports, BeIN Español, ESPN College Extra, FOX Deportes, Golf, MAVTV, NFL Network, PAC-12 Network, PAC-12 Arizona, PAC-12 Bay Area, PAC-12 Los Angeles, PAC-12 Mountain, PAC-12 Orgeon, PAC-12 Washington, SEC Extra, Spectrum Sportsnet, TVG, and Willow
  • DIRECTV STREAM: ACC Network, Motor Trend, Olympic Channel, Sportsman Channel, and TUDN

Spectrum is the clear winner with more sports (and awesome premium channels) for $50 less per month than DIRECTV STREAM.

Equipment

When it comes to equipment, Spectrum and DIRECTV STREAM each give you two choices, and all of the options have different pros and cons.

Spectrum equipment

With Spectrum, you can rent an HD Box or DVR/receiver for traditional cable TV service. If you’d prefer to stream your channels you can buy or rent-to-own an Apple TV 4K.

Spectrum HD Box ($8.99/mo.)
The HD Box is the traditional set-top receiver (without DVR capabilities) that you expect to get from a cable or satellite TV provider.

Spectrum DVR/receiver ($8.99/mo.)
If you want a physical, hard-drive DVR, you’ll need Spectrum’s DVR/receiver. Spectrum doesn’t indicate this in the online ordering process—it simply asks you to choose either the HD Box or Apple TV 4K. We called Spectrum to ask about this, and a rep told us to select the HD box, then add DVR service, and your equipment will be upgraded automatically.

Apple TV 4K ($180 or $8.99 a month for 20 months)
The Apple TV 4K lets you stream your Spectrum content via the Spectrum TV App. The device also supports other streaming TV services’ apps, so you can have all of your TV services in one place. But the Apple TV 4K is compatible only with Spectrum’s cloud DVR add-ons. (We cover DVR fees in the next section.)

Using your own streaming device with Spectrum

The Spectrum TV App is compatible with Roku devices, select Samsung smart TVs, and the Xbox One, so you don’t even have to bother with a Spectrum HD box or Apple TV 4K. And you can still use Spectrum’s cloud DVR through the app.

Note: Spectrum’s online ordering system makes you choose either the HD Box, DVR, or Apple TV 4K. If you want to use your own compatible streaming device with Spectrum TV, you’ll have to order by phone.

DIRECTV STREAM equipment

You can use DIRECTV STREAM’s streaming device ($5.00 a month) or use your own supported device. Since the DIRECTV STREAM app is compatible with so many devices, you probably don’t need to rent this one.

Cloud DVR

Spectrum offers both physical and cloud DVR, while DIRECTV STREAM offers only cloud DVR.

Spectrum DVR cloud DVR and simultaneous streams

DVR plan Price Compatible device Device fee Storage Simultaneous recordings/streams
DVR service $4.99/mo. Spectrum DVR/receiver $8.99/mo. Varies (keep indefinitely) 2 recordings
Cloud DVR $4.99/mo. Apple TV 4K (or other supported streaming device) Apple TV 4K: $8.99/mo. for 20 mos. (or $180.00 at signup) 50 shows (keep for 90 days) Unlimited recordings, 2 streams
Cloud DVR Plus $9.99/mo. Apple TV 4K (or other supported streaming device) Apple TV 4K: $8.99/mo. for 20 mos. (or $180.00 at signup) 100 shows (keep for one year) Unlimited recordings, 2 streams

Data effective as of post date. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

Spectrum doesn’t specify how many hours of content its physical DVR holds, which is confusing and frustrating. And it doesn’t get any simpler with Spectrum’s cloud DVR plans, which quantify storage by the number of recorded shows.

To put a finer point on Spectrum cloud DVR storage, consider these examples:

  • 50–100 half-hour episodes = 25–50 hours
  • 50–100 one-hour episodes = 50–100 hours
  • 50–100 two-hour movies = 100–200 hours
  • 50–100 three-hour baseball games: 150–300 hours

It’d be so much simpler if Spectrum measured DVR storage in hours like every other TV provider and streaming service. But you do you, Spectrum.

DIRECTV STREAM cloud DVR and simultaneous streams

DVR plan Price Storage Simultaneous streams Keep recordings for
Cloud DVR Included 20 hrs. Unlimited 3 mos.
Unlimited cloud DVR $4.99/mo. Unlimited Unlimited 3 mos.

Data effective as of post date. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

DIRECTV STREAM includes 20 hours of DVR storage with its TV plans. Free is free, but we feel like 20 hours is a free sample meant to push you into the unlimited DVR storage upgrade ($10 a month). We don’t think the upgrade is worth it since your recordings will auto-delete after three months.

Apps

Mobile apps are free perks with cable and satellite TV providers that add convenience and value to your subscription. Streaming services, on the other hand, revolve around an app.

Spectrum offers a little of both. If you choose the Apple TV 4K as your TV box, the Spectrum TV App will be your primary way to access your Spectrum channels, on-demand titles, DVR recordings, and more.

If you go with the HD box, then Spectrum’s app is supplemental, a way to watch Spectrum TV on the go.

The DIRECTV STREAM app is compatible with various streaming devices, including smart TVs, gaming consoles, laptops, and mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. In our tests, we found the DIRECTV STREAM app intuitive and reliable. But we hate that the app requires location access to work.

Final take

It’s too bad that Spectrum isn’t more widely available because we love its flexibility—no contracts, $500 contract buyout, choice of traditional cable or streaming—and simple, affordable, premium-packed plans and bundles.

We’re not saying that you should go with DIRECTV STREAM just because it’s available everywhere. It’s simply a poor value, and you’ll get much more for your money with YouTube TV.

FAQ

What is better, Spectrum or DIRECTV?

Spectrum is better. It has affordable plans, no contracts, all HD channels, and a stack of juicy premium channels included in its top two plans. DIRECTV has more channels and a free Genie DVR, but it also has two-year contracts, high prices, and a 30%–38% second-year price hike.

Is DIRECTV STREAM any good?

DIRECTV STREAM has more channels than any other live TV streaming service, and it lets you use your own streaming device—but it’s far too expensive. You’ll be happier with another streaming service like YouTube TV ($64.99 a month, 100+ channels, unlimited cloud DVR).

What are the disadvantages of streaming TV?

There are a few disadvantages to streaming TV: for one, live TV streaming services often have lower channel counts than their cable counterparts. That can be a bummer if they’re missing the local and sports channels you’ve come to rely on.

Choosing a good TV package is all about value. Sometimes, it’s better to go with cable TV because you can get a discount if you bundle it with internet.

With DIRECTV STREAM specifically, we don’t think its high costs are justified, especially considering how few sports channels it offers.

Is the Spectrum streaming service any good?

Spectrum’s streaming service is an okay deal—at 40+ channels for $29.99 per month, it’s cheaper than most cable TV packages, and gets you a discount on Spectrum’s premium add-ons. But it provides only a small fraction of the regular channels that TV Select does, and isn’t our first choice compared to other streaming services, either.

If you want to cut the cord and get a streaming service that you can access anywhere, we recommend YouTube TV.

Methodology

Our experts spent dozens of hours doing research and hands-on testing and crunched the numbers, rating Spectrum and DIRECTV STREAM on bang for your buck, reliability, features, and customer satisfaction. Then we matched up the TV providers head to-head to give a clearer picture of their strengths and weaknesses. For more information on our process, check out our How We Rank page.

Disclaimer

Spectrum: For the first 12 mos.

DIRECTV STREAM: For 12 months plus taxes and fees. w/ 24-mo. agmt. Prices higher in 2nd year.

Endnote

1. Michael Schneider, Variety, “Most-Watched Television Networks—Ranking 2021’s Winners and Losers,” December 2021. Accessed February 6, 2022.

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