Q. I remember an article you wrote a few years ago that said DIRECTV planned to be a totally streaming service by 2020. Is that still happening? What would become of all these dishes on roofs, etc.? — Carl, Milwaukee.
Carl, the article you refer to was based on a 2016 Bloomberg report that quoted AT&T sources as saying the company planned to replace the DIRECTV satellite service with a DIRECTV streaming service as early as 2020.
At the time, I noted that this was not feasible because there were 20 million dishes in place and DIRECTV would lose a significant number of subscribers if it suddenly told all their owners to switch to streaming or else. The move to all-streaming would take several years, perhaps even a decade, I wrote.
My view has not changed since then, but there is a related development that suggests AT&T wants to accelerate the transformation of DIRECTV from a satcaster to a streamcaster.
Fierce Video reports that AT&T CFO John Stephens yesterday told a Morgan Stanley media conference that it planned next year to launch a set-top that will enable DIRECTV subscribers to stream their entire lineup over a Broadband network. (Stephens’ remarks echo a similar comment from AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson from last May. )
“It’s a device that allows us to, instead of rolling a truck to the home, we roll a UPS or FedEx truck to the home and deliver a self-install box,” Stephens told the industry conference. “This allows the customer to use their own broadband. We certainly hope it’s our own fiber but it could be on anybody’s broadband. And they get the full-service premium package that we would normally deliver off satellite or over our IP-based U-verse service.”
Back in May, Stephenson suggested that the streaming edition of DIRECTV would be less expensive to subscribers because it would require less investment by AT&T in infrastructure and other expenses.
“You (will) have the full DIRECTV experience over any broadband service that you might have in your home,” Stephenson said, according to a transcript supplied by Seeking Alpha. “So a premium video experience is going to be, rather than $110 to $200 (a month), it’s going to be in that $80 to $90 area because the cost structure (of delivering video over the Internet) comes way down.”
However, Stephens yesterday did not comment on whether the streaming DIRECTV would feature lower prices so we’ll see if Stephenson’s promise is kept.
The new streaming version of DIRECTV will be separate from DIRECTV Now and will carry the DIRECTV name. By delivering DIRECTV’s lineup over the Net, AT&T will be able to sell it to consumers who are unable to install a dish in their homes.
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