Everything you need to know about AT&T WatchTV

Joe Supan
JS
Joe Supan
Sep 26, 2019
ProsConsVerdict
✔ Cheapest live TV streaming service ✔ Some news channels ✔ Excellent channel lineup for the price✘ No sports or local channels ✘ Only one stream at a time ✘ No cloud DVR storage ✘ Poor user experienceWatchTV has a better channel lineup than Philo ($20/mo.), but it comes without perks like DVR storage and simultaneous streams.

AT&T WatchTV review summary:

  • One plan for $15/mo.
  • Best value of any live TV streaming service
  • Frustrating mobile experience

What is AT&T WatchTV?

WatchTV is the “skinny bundle” live TV streaming service from AT&T. It costs $15/mo. and comes with more than 40 live TV channels, but you won’t get any sports or local channels.

Live TV streaming services generally come in two flavors: skinny bundles like AT&T WatchTV and cable replacements like YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV. These typically start around $50/mo. and more closely resemble traditional TV packages.

At $15/mo., AT&T WatchTV is the cheapest live TV streaming service available. For that price, you’ll have to make some sacrifices (more on that below). WatchTV doesn’t include any sports or local channels, so you won’t get much of the TV that actually has to be viewed live.

That said, local channels are easy to add. They can be had for free with a TV antenna or the free streaming service Locast, and they broadcast almost all of the major live events of the year, including sports. (Last year, all but six of the top 50 most-watched programs aired on locals.)

If you want to seriously cut your TV bill, AT&T WatchTV provides better value than any other streaming service.

AT&T WatchTV channels

You’ll get 41 channels in total with WatchTV, and most of them are actually ones you know. Because AT&T skips the most expensive channels to carry, locals and sports, it’s able to fit an impressive number of other names into its $15/mo. budget.

Here are the most popular channels included with WatchTV, broken into categories:

LocalsNone
SportsNone
ComedyBoomerang Cartoon Network Comedy Central IFC TBS TV Land
DramaAMC BBC America BET Hallmark Channel Lifetime Sundance TV TCM TNT
NewsBBC World News CNN
FamilyNick Nicktoons Teen Nick
EducationalAnimal Planet Discovery History
RealityA&E Food Network FYI HGTV Motortrend MTV OWN TLC VH1 WETV
CrimeInvestigation Discovery TruTV

What channels is AT&T WatchTV missing?

Because it only costs $15/mo., there are a number of popular channels you won’t find in WatchTV’s lineup. Here are some of the biggest names that aren’t included or available to add on:

  • ABC
  • Bravo
  • CBS
  • Cinemax
  • CMT
  • CNBC
  • Cooking Channel
  • The CW
  • Disney Channel
  • Disney Jr.
  • E!
  • ESPN
  • FOX
  • FOX News Channel
  • FOX Sports 1
  • Freeform
  • FX
  • FXX
  • HBO
  • ION
  • MLB Network
  • MSNBC
  • Music Choice
  • National Geographic
  • NBC
  • NBC Sports
  • NFL Network
  • Nick Jr.
  • Oxygen
  • Paramount Network
  • PBS
  • Science
  • Showtime
  • Starz
  • Syfy
  • Travel Channel
  • USA Network
  • The Weather Channel

As we mentioned above, some of these are easy to add on separately. ABC, CBS, The CW, Fox, NBC and PBS can almost always be accessed for free through a TV antenna or Locast. Others, like Cinemax, HBO, Showtime and Starz are premium channels that always cost extra to add on. (AT&T TV NOW is the one exception; HBO is included in all of its plans.)

But there’s no getting around that it’s still a long list. To take advantage of WatchTV’s budget price, you’ll have to give up a lot of channels.

Expensive premium add-ons

Most live TV streaming services allow you to customize your channel lineup with a variety of add-ons. Not AT&T WatchTV. What you see here is what you get, with few options for beefing up its core lineup.

You can add several premium networks to WatchTV, but we wouldn’t recommend it. Here’s how much they cost through the streaming service vs. subscribing separately:

AT&T WatchTVSubscribed independently
HBO$18/mo.$15/mo.
Showtime$14/mo.$11/mo.
Starz$14/mo.$9/mo.
Cinemax$14/mo.$10/mo.

Inexplicably, HBO, which is owned by AT&T, costs $3 more per month to subscribe through WatchTV than HBO NOW. The rest of the channels are just as bad, ranging from $3-$5/mo. above market price.

AT&T WatchTV vs. other skinny bundles

There are three live TV streaming services that offer plans under $30/mo.: WatchTV, Philo and Sling. And like all live TV streaming services, they share a ton of overlap.

The best skinny bundle for you will come down to a few key preferences. Would you rather have Nickelodeon or Disney Channel? Are local channels important to you or can you get by with a TV antenna? Do you need sports channels?

To evaluate each package objectively, we turned to TiVo’s recent Video Trends Report, which asked 3,330 respondents, “Which channels would you be interested in including in your TV package?” More than 100 channels were listed. The more people that said they wanted a channel, the higher it ranked.

Here’s how the major live TV streaming services compare:

After Sling Blue, WatchTV has the most channels in the top 25 and top 50 of TiVo’s survey. It’s also $10 less per month. If saving money is your number one objective, WatchTV is the clear winner here. But if you want a few more channels in your lineup, go with Sling Blue.

Here is how each service compares when it comes to the top 50 most popular channels:

AT&T Watch TVPhiloSling OrangeSling Blue
ABC CBS Cinemax The CW FOX News HBO Oxygen PBS Showtime Starz The Weather Channel
Bravo E! Fox FS1 FX FXX Nat Geo NBC NBC Sports NFL Network SyFy USA
A&E AMC BBC America Comedy Central Food Network HGTV Investigation Discovery History Lifetime
Animal Planet Hallmark MTV Nickelodeon TV Land
Cartoon Network CNN TBS TNT
Disney Channel ESPN Freeform
Discovery TLC
Cooking Channel
Paramount
TruTV
Travel Channel

AT&T WatchTV ranks extremely well in this evaluation, especially when you consider price. But there’s more to a streaming service than channel lineup. WatchTV doesn’t offer any perks like simultaneous streams or cloud DVR storage. If these features are important to you, Philo is probably a better option — even with its inferior channel selection.

Poor user experience

AT&T WatchTV uses the exact same interface and design as its older sibling streaming service, AT&T TV NOW. We did not have many good things to say about AT&T TV NOW’s user experience when we tested it out, and that unfortunately holds true for WatchTV.

To start, we had trouble even getting it to work. When we tested it on an Amazon Fire TV and Roku Streaming Stick, things went smoothly. But when we tried to play it on a web browser, we encountered numerous errors: Too many streams at once (there weren’t), internet wasn’t fast enough (70 Mbps, plenty above AT&T’s recommendation) and sometimes just a plain old buffering wheel. About twenty minutes with WatchTV’s live chat solved the issues, but that was a step we never had to take with any other streaming service.

And once we got it working, we weren’t particularly impressed. WatchTV uses a bland guide featuring varying shades of gray. While it didn’t wow us in any particular area, it is easy to use overall — most likely because it’s the same design every cable provider has used for decades. We did appreciate that when browsing the guide, AT&T TV NOW keeps the channel you were watching open in the corner.

AT&T WatchTV also saves your most recently-watched channels in a section on the homepage. After a few days of testing, we found ourselves hardly ever using the guide. All the channels we ever wanted to watch were right there when we opened the app.

While its user experience was basic but serviceable, our main problem with WatchTV was the quality of its streams. Like AT&T TV NOW, we experienced more buffering and glitches than we did on other streaming services. Often, channels would fail to load on startup. Restarting the app or streaming device would usually take care of this, but other times we seemed to just be out of luck.

No TV Everywhere apps

Unlike most live TV streaming services, WatchTV does not support TV Everywhere apps. These allow you to log in to apps from TV channels like A&E and MTV to access thousands of hours of on-demand content. This would help soften the blow of WatchTV’s lack of a DVR, but unfortunately, it’s not currently an option.

Mobile app

WatchTV has some of the lowest user ratings for its apps that we’ve seen from a live TV streaming service. It received a 1.7 rating on over 4K reviews in the App Store and 3.7 on under 4K reviews from Google Play. Both apps received complaints about issues with casting to a TV. In many cases, the audio doesn’t come through when watching live TV.

Customers also found the ads to be grating, something we experienced as well. If you’re watching on-demand content, you have to sit through about 30 seconds of ads before it starts. And if you happen to get a text or phone call and leave the app momentarily, you’re forced to sit through a fresh ad break when you come back.

Finally, we experienced issues with WatchTV’s “one stream at a time” rule on the mobile app. Even after we’d closed out the app on our TV and browser, WatchTV wouldn’t let us watch TV on the app, saying we had too many streams open at once.

It was an all-around frustrating experience, and one that’s been confirmed by thousands of bad reviews. If mobile streaming is important to you, we’d recommend going with Sling, which has received much better reviews.

No extra perks

AT&T Watch TV ranked dead last in our evaluation of streaming services’ extra perks. That’s because it doesn’t offer any of them. Unlike every other live TV streaming service, WatchTV only allows you to stream on one device at a time, and you aren’t able to record any programs. If these are important to you, Philo offers three simultaneous streams and unlimited DVR storage for only $5 more per month.

AT&T Watch TVPhiloSling OrangeSling Blue
Price$15/mo.$20/mo.$25/mo.$25/mo.
Total number of channels41583247
Simultaneous streams1313
DVR storageNoneUnlimited (stores for 30 days)50 hours ($5/mo.)50 hours ($5/mo.)

AT&T WatchTV FAQs

Which streaming devices are compatible with AT&T WatchTV?

Unfortunately, WatchTV has some of the narrowest device compatibility of any live TV streaming service. It’s only available to stream on Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast and Apple TV. It won’t work with Roku streaming devices, or any game consoles or smart TVs.

What internet speed do I need for AT&T WatchTV?

AT&T recommends download speeds of 8 Mbps or more for uninterrupted HD streaming. According to Speedtest.net, the average household in America currently gets around 120 Mbps, so most people will have more than enough for WatchTV. Not sure what speeds you’re getting? Use our speed test below to find out. The number should be within 80% of the advertised speeds you’re paying for. If it’s outside of that, it might be time to call your current provider or find a new internet plan.

Will AT&T WatchTV save me money?

If the choice is between cable and WatchTV, the latter will absolutely save you money. It’s the most inexpensive live TV streaming service around, and you could potentially save hundreds each year by signing up. That said, you’ll miss out on a ton of channels, and because cable providers often offer deals for bundling TV and internet services, the savings might not be as dramatic as you expect.

Here’s how WatchTV compares in annual costs to some common TV packages:

AT&T WatchTVYouTube TVXFINITY (Starter Pro Double Play)Spectrum (TV Select + Internet)AT&T Internet + DIRECTV
Monthly TV + internet cost$15 (TV) + $60* (internet)$50 (TV) + $60* (internet)$90$90$75 year one, $121 year two
Installation feeNoneNoneUp to $60Up to $200Up to $99
Equipment rental feeNoneNone$13/mo.$5/mo.None
Contract lengthOne monthOne monthOne yearOne yearTwo years
Estimated year one costs$900$1,320$1,296$1,340$999 ($1,452 year two)
Number of channels4191140+125+155+

The bottom line

AT&T WatchTV is truly one of the best deals in streaming. It costs the same as an HBO NOW subscription, and you get more than 40 live TV channels. Unfortunately, it’s missing most of the channels that actually air live programming — sports and locals — but those gaps are easily addressed with a TV antenna or Locast. If you’re looking to seriously save money by cutting the cord, WatchTV is your best option.

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