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Updated: Has DIRECTV Now Reduced the Picture Quality?

Does your DIRECTV Now picture seem less sharp and clear than it was a few weeks ago?

UPDATE: AT&T acknowledges that some subscribers are getting a sub-par picture and says it’s working on a resolution. See full AT&T statement at the end of this article.

If so, you are not alone. Many DIRECTV Now subscribers are saying the picture quality of their live stream has been reduced in the last few weeks to 540p, which would be a standard-definition image rather than a high-definition one. Subscriber complaints over the alleged dilution in picture quality has become a hot topic on social media sites and DIRECTV Now-related message forums.

Amazon: Fire TV w/4K: $89.

Justin Lott, for instance, has posted pictures on Twitter that show an Amazon Fire TV feature that measures the DIRECTV Now live stream at 540p. (You can see the picture here.) Before you say Lott’s Internet service is lacking, causing his picture quality to be reduced, the DIRECTV Now subscriber has also posted a picture of a DIRECTV Now Video on Demand stream at 1080p, which is the best high-def picture quality there is. (You can see that picture here.)

Amazon: Roku 32-inch Smart TV: $169.

In addition, Lott’s findings have been supported by other subscribers at AT&T’s customer message board (AT&T owns DIRECTV Now) and on Twitter, among other social media sites. They say the DIRECTV Now picture was in crystal-clear HD from its debut on November 30 up to a few weeks ago when it switched to SD.

The 540p picture, say the subscribers, is found on connected TVs, using the Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV streaming devices (DIRECTV Now is not yet on Roku.) The DIRECTV Now picture on phones and tablets is even worse, by the service’s own admission, clocking in at 480p. (It’s unclear if mobiles and tablets had a 480p picture from launch.)

Amazon Fire TV streaming stick: $39.

Some subscribers say that some channels, such as CNN, recently changed back to a high-def image, but most other channels are still only in 540p.

Why would DIRECTV Now suddenly reduce the quality of the live stream, if indeed it has?

DIRECTV Now’s live stream has been riddled with errors such as buffering and freezing since its debut and the reduction in the picture quality could be part of an effort to eliminate those issues. A standard-definition stream, which requires less bandwidth, would be less prone to picture break-ups and other snafus.

Amazon: HDTV indoor antenna: $29.99.

Earlier this week, I asked AT&T for a response to the subscriber complaints and a company spokeswoman denied via e-mail that 540p has become the service’s new picture “standard.” But she acknowledged that some customers could be getting a 540p picture “based on the Internet and customer device.” Asked to elaborate, she did not respond.

UPDATE: Here is AT&T’s statement in response to our article:

“For context, we have many profiles, including resolutions higher and lower than 540p, that we send to customers depending on a range of factors that could include device and internet connection. These profiles vary on resolution, framerate and bitrate, among other things. We understand that a handful of customers are receiving only 540p, and are working on a resolution for them right now.”

AT&T did not explain which subscribers get 540p or below, or why that they do while others may not.

— Phillip Swann



About TV Answer Man (704 Articles)
The TV Answer Man is veteran journalist Phillip Swann who has covered the TV technology scene for more than two decades. He will report on the latest news and answer your questions regarding new devices and services that are changing the way you watch television.

15 Comments on Updated: Has DIRECTV Now Reduced the Picture Quality?

  1. Erik Schwartz // February 24, 2017 at 3:13 pm // Reply

    I will cut them slack on mobile phones. At that screen size it is largely moot. But there is no excuse for OTT boxes to be running at anything below 720.

  2. We actually have 25 channel we sorta watch…out of hundreds….we pay 7.99 a month for their equipment…

  3. Working on a “resolution”. Good one, AT+T.

  4. I’m willing to bet they don’t have good agreements with certain delivery partners regionally. Netflix utilizes local OCAs to deliver most of their content and I’m willing to bet ATT doesn’t have any agreement with my regional area OCAs but just won’t admit it.

    Forcing lower resolution is saving them more direct bandwidth. I bet DirecTV will eventually get the contracts signed to get more third party delivery providers involved. Right now they are likely just investing on partners in and around major markets. That leaves the rest of us flapping in the wind with no explanation or recourse. I expect nothing less from ATT. I’ll hang on for a little while longer.

  5. I just cancelled service after 3 months because of such poor service and picture quality if I even get picture or audio. Such a shame. I liked the idea of it but I paid $120 for maybe 3 hours of tv. That’s horrible. Thumbs down

  6. I can’t log into my direct tv now and I can’t get any help from the direct tv people. They continue to tell me to go to a web sight that has not helped me at all. I’m paying for a product that I can’t even use. I hate that I got this service. I wouldn’t recommend this service to anyone.

  7. Humm, guess I’m not getting the same DirectTV Now service some of you are. Only very occasionally do I have a buffering problem, the quality is great on my iPad, and if a problem does arise it’s corrected quickly. I’ve gone from watching maybe 1-2 hours a month with cable to 3 hours a day with DirectTV Now. I’ve got to wonder how much of the problem is the internet connection. Gave up on Netflix with similar problems using wifi but using cellular on the iPad for DirecTV Now produces only the occasional glitch.

  8. I have never been able to use the playback function . I have Direct TV & CenturyLink bundle😖 When I call for troubleshooting one blames the other! I never got the price I was promised and now it’s increased😤 WHY did I leave DISH???

  9. I had a problem with the AT&T companion internet service I got when I signed up for DTV. I was suppose to get 100 mb internet. My two lap tops showed varying speeds from 22 mb to 13 mb. The AT&T tech pulled out his iPad which showed 100 mb. I ask myself if the AT&T techs use the same software in their computers as Volkswagen used to measure diesel emissions.

    • A lot of devices have different chipsets due channel bonding. You may want to check your wireless card and what it supports. They degrade speed quickly beyond 10 feet especially if your not bonding two or three channels. If you punch through a wall or two even more so.

      Many lower level consumer electronics don’t support dual bonding or don’t maintain it at distance. Check your models wireless chipsets. Others want WPA2 security to get their maximum speed may not be achieved if your on WPA or especially wep encryption.

    • i want to opt out of this unreliable, nothing good to watch, rip off company, I have never liked liked TV less then when I agreed to getting direct tv. It really sucks. they suckered me in and now I cant get out.

  10. ya they definitely have had a high demand for the service which is really taking a toll on the directv now streaming servers….makes sense if they did lower the resolution temporarily to reduce the strain on the servers…who knows. i think it will eventually work itself out and be a pretty good tv service…. at least with directv now it reduces a lot of the junk channels that most people don’t care to watch.

  11. Anyone else still having the problem of poor HD with Directv? I’ve had Directv over two years but this last month the HD channels are less quality. Had a Directv Tech at my house for 3 hours trying to figure it out but could not find the problem. I have a brand new Samsung – 55″ Class (54.6″ Diag.) – LED – Curved – 2160p – Smart – 4K Ultra HD TV. New HDMI cables.
    I may pull the plug on Directv and go with Dish.
    Any thoughts out there?
    Hulu HD is looks great on my TV.

    • Justin Lott // April 17, 2017 at 12:02 am // Reply

      I can’t say much about the satellite version of DirecTV. From what I recall dish always had a softer HD signal. I wouldn’t leave direct for dish unless you wanted a better dvr. Dishes Hopper is a better piece of equipment. Faster and more capable.

      Check satelliteguys.us for more accurate comments on any picture quality changes.

  12. When I expanded my cellular data to 22Gb/month, by way of AT&T One Choice from a 1Gb plan, my Samsung Galaxy 8+ DirecTV now resolution deteriorated. This may be due to One Choice limits on resolution…they provide SD only. And this occurred despite the fact that they promised that watching on your mobile device would be free of related data charges. Now I pay $30 more per month and get 300 – 500 lines of resolution less…only in America. Disgusting.

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