The TV Answer Man!

AT&T: 5 Things We Just Learned About DIRECTV & DIRECTV Now

AT&T yesterday released its third quarter report, detailing subscriber trends for its three TV services: DIRECTV, U-verse, and DIRECTV Now.

The news was bad for both DIRECTV and U-verse with net video sub losses of 251,000 and 134,000 respectively in the quarter. But DIRECTV Now, the company’s live streaming service, generated an additional 289,000 net subscribers, bringing its overall total to nearly 800,000 just one year after its debut.

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After the report’s release, AT&T’s John Stephens took questions from financial analysts on the third quarter results, and what lies ahead for the telco’s TV division.

Here are 5 things that we learned from the discussion:

* Stephens, AT&T’s chief financial officer, said half of the subscriber losses for DIRECTV and U-verse could be blamed on two factors: The hurricanes that severely damaged Texas and Florida during the quarter, and the company’s decision to jettison some subscribers due to stricter credit policies.

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“Management’s decision to tighten our credit policy and focus on overdue accounts impacted customer counts,” Stephens said. “That and the losses from severe storms explain nearly half of our traditional TV decline. While these efforts are impacting customer counts, these steps are the right long-term approach for the business.”

In its third quarter report, AT&T also blamed increased competition in the streaming category for the losses with some consumers opting to cut more expensive pay TV service in favor of cheaper live streaming plans.

* Stephens said AT&T expects to post a net gain in video subscribers in the fourth quarter, combining all three video services. The addition, he predicted, will include an improvement in subscribers from the company’s two traditional TV services, DIRECTV and U-verse.

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* Stephens said roughly 700,000 of DIRECTV Now’s 800,000 paying customers are new to AT&T. (They did not have previous subscriptions to an AT&T-owned DIRECTV or U-verse.)
The executive said half of DIRECTV Now’s customers are coming from pay TV competitors; about 40 percent are people who never subscribed to pay TV, or live in apartments that can’t get a dish; and 10 percent are people who previously got DIRECTV or U-verse.

* AT&T will introduce a “new platform” early in 2018 that will permit DIRECTV Now subscribers to record programming on a ‘cloud DVR’ as well as get Pay-Per-View events. You can learn more about the cloud DVR here.

* Stephens refused to comment when asked if DIRECTV could merge with its satellite rival, Dish. There has been increasing chatter of a possible merger due to shrinking subscriber bases for both satellite services.

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— Phillip Swann