The TV Answer Man!

DIRECTV Now: Did AT&T Pull Back On the Reins?

AT&T last week refused to divulge new subscriber information for DIRECTV Now for the first quarter, other than to say the number of paying customers ‘continues to increase.’

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The telco’s decision to withhold specific subscriber numbers runs counter to what the company did earlier this year when it revealed the live streaming service generated more than 200,000 paying customers in its first month. (DIRECTV Now launched on November 30.)

While it’s unclear if DIRECTV Now’s subscriber growth has slowed, possibly due to recurring technical issues and the expiration of promotional offers, AT&T did acknowledge last week that it reduced its marketing investment on the live streaming service during the first quarter.

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“We deliberately pulled back on marketing to give the platform time to mature and improve, and we’re seeing just that. You should expect us to be more aggressive with DIRECTV Now in the second half of the year, with additional features and content,” AT&T CFO John Stephens said in a conference call with financial analysts.

AT&T executives have publicly said they are satisfied with the performance of DIRECTV Now, but the service’s frequent technical errors has led to poor customer reviews, and possibly, a significant number of cancellations. Stephens’ comment is the first public indication that the company realized it needed to iron out the kinks before adding too many subscribers, which could strain the system and cause even more technical snafus.


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By example, DIRECTV Now had committed to launching an app for the Roku streaming platform by the end of the first quarter, but it failed to meet the deadline. It’s quite possible that AT&T decided to put Roku on hold until it resolved the technical difficulties. The company certainly didn’t want the Roku audience, which measures between 15 million and 20 million, to experience serious technical problems at launch.

But Stephens suggested in the conference call that DIRECTV Now will soon be ready to resume an aggressive marketing strategy.

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“Last week we added 14 FOX affiliates to DIRECTV NOW. You should expect we will be targeting those cities with additional marketing. We’re still only five months since the DTV NOW launch, but we like what we see and feel very good about the service and where it’s headed,” he said.

— Phillip Swann