AT&T revealed yesterday that this spring it will add several user enhancements to its live streaming service, DIRECTV Now, including the ability to stream programming on three different devices at the same time.
The disclosure was made yesterday in an AT&T conference call with financial analysts following the release of the company’s fourth quarter earnings report.
The report said DIRECTV Now added a net of 368,000 subscribers in the fourth quarter, bringing its overall total to nearly 1.2 million 13 months after its November 30, 2016 launch.
In contrast, DIRECTV, the company’s satellite service, lost 147,000 net subscribers in the fourth quarter while U-verse lost 60,000. Both traditional TV services have been steadily losing subscribers over the last year with consumers complaining about their rising monthly bills.
Perhaps not coincidentally, AT&T yesterday unveiled the plan to improve DIRECTV Now’s user experience. While company execs are careful not to publicly diminish its commitment to DIRECTV and U-verse, they are banking more heavily on the future of its live streaming initiative, which starts at just $35 a month with no equipment fees.
AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said yesterday that a “next-generation platform” will be added to DIRECTV Now in the spring that will include the three-stream option (subs can now only stream to two devices at the same time) as well as a cloud DVR. (Subscribers will be able to store recorded programming on Internet servers rather than the traditional DVR set-top.)
Stephenson said he’s been using the new platform and “I got to tell you, I think our customers are really going to like this. The experience is very good.” (The quotes in this article are courtesy of Seeking Alpha, which provides transcripts of company investor calls.)
DIRECTV Now has built its subscriber base despite recurring technical issues, particularly in the first several weeks after launch. However, AT&T publicly says the worst of the technical concerns are behind it.
Stephenson also disclosed yesterday that the company will launch a Roku-like streaming device by the end of 2018.
“It’s a very small, inexpensive streaming device plugged into your TV and then you connect it to any Broadband service,” he said. “There will be a voice controlled user interface with an integrated search feature and will allow you to search across any streaming video service that you subscribe to. So, it can be DIRECTV NOW, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, or even YouTube.”
— Phillip Swann