AT&T says DIRECTV Now’s subscriber totals are still ahead of company projections despite a recent Bloomberg News article that said the live streaming service actually lost 3,000 customers in February and March combined.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Brad Bentley, AT&T’s top marketing executive for entertainment, was asked about reports that sub growth for DIRECTV Now has stalled.
“We have been very pleased…with the performance. From the subscriber standpoint, we are ahead of our targets for the quarter and for the year,” Bentley said.
The AT&T executive, however, did not reveal any specific subscriber numbers, or the company’s ‘targets.’
“There’s nothing I can share. What I’ll just reiterate is that (DIRECTV Now) isn’t a hobby, this is something that is a core part of our proposition. We’re putting the right pieces together to continue to play to win. Our goal is to be at the top there. We’re excited about it, we have a great plan ahead of us and the product keeps getting better and better every day,: Bentley told The Hollywood Reporter.
Quoting “people familiar with the matter,” Bloomberg wrote last week that DIRECTV Now had 328,000 subscribers at the end of January, but lost a net of 3,000 in February and stayed flat in March.
AT&T has publicly reported that the live streaming service had more than 200,000 paying subscribers at the end of 2016. (The service launched on November 30.) But it has since refused to divulge specific numbers.
In contrast to the Bloomberg report, Discovery CEO David Zaslav said recently that DIRECTV Now had 400,000 paying customers at the end of the first quarter. In addition, Leitchman Research has estimated that the live streaming service added 175,000 in the first quarter, which would bring its first quarter total to around 375,000.
If DIRECTV Now’s subscriber growth did stall in the first quarter, the service’s recurring technical issues during its first 3-4 months would likely have been a major reason.
Bentley acknowledged in The Hollywood Reporter interview that DIRECTV Now has had “little bumps on the way like any new product.” But he added: “We feel good about where we are at. We continue to optimize around the customer experience around the feedback, and we’re really pleased where we are at this stage.”
In other issues:
* Bentley refused to comment on whether DIRECTV Now is close to signing a carriage agreement with CBS;
* DIRECTV Now is attracting customers who have been unable to subscribe to DIRECTV because they could not install a dish at their residence for various reasons. In addition, young people who live in small apartments have been a leading source for new customers.
* DIRECTV Now’s ‘Live a Little’ package, which offers 60 channels for $35 a month, has been its most popular to date. That’s the service’s cheapest plan.
* Bentley says recent live streaming launches from services such as YouTube TV and Hulu Live has helped DIRECTV Now attract new subscribers.
“When those additional launches happen, you actually see the numbers bumped a positive way as it creates more awareness about alternative products and about cord-cutters coming back into the space and looking at their options. So at this stage, I think it’s actually helped the category,” Bentley said.
— Phillip Swann