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Should AT&T Sell DIRECTV?

Tilted view of satellite dish on white multi-story house --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Q. I read that someone is saying AT&T should sell DIRECTV. Do you think they should. As a DIRECTV subscriber, I would like to see it. — Berle, Nashville. 

Berle, what you probably read is today’s news about a hedge fund group declaring that  AT&T needs to make wholesale changes, including selling off DIRECTV.

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The group, Elliott Management Corp, recently invested $3.2 billion in the telco, but it charges that AT&T’s management team has made a serious of mistakes. The errors, the group says, include the acquisition of the satellite TV service, and possibly, AT&T’s purchase of Time Warner as well.

Elliott says it wants AT&T to focus on its strengths, such as wireless technology, rather than branching out in businesses it doesn’t understand.

Well, Berle, as the old saying goes, Elliott took the words right out of mouth.

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Since AT&T bought DIRECTV for $67 billion in 2015, it has proceeded to destroy almost everything that was great about it. Customer service has suffered. Technology innovation has declined. Sports programming has diminished. And so on. The DIRECTV customer experience has become a dismal experience in comparison to what it was in the first two decades (1994-2014.)

AT&T’s purchase of DIRECTV has not gone well for the telco, either. Since the sale was made official, DIRECTV has lost roughly two million customers. The spread of cord-cutting is certainly a cause, but subscriber dissatisfaction over DIRECTV’s annual price hikes, and AT&T’s uncertain stewardship of the satcaster, are major factors.

I submit that DIRECTV’s strong brand value, accumulated between 1994 and 2014, would have significantly limited subscriber defections over the last five years if a more suitable company was running the show.

So, do I think AT&T should sell DIRECTV? The answer is an unequivocal yes, both for the sake of AT&T, and the remaining 18 million subscribers to DIRECTV. AT&T has never shown any clue that it understands the TV audience, and I strongly doubt that it ever will.

Now, will it sell DIRECTV? That’s a more difficult question. The list of possible suitors is considerably shorter since AT&T put its clumsy hands on the reins. Rival satcaster Dish is always a likely candidate to be interested, but even Dish might be hesitant unless the price is right.

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— Phillip Swann

About TV Answer Man (1685 Articles)
The TV Answer Man is veteran journalist Phillip Swann who has covered the TV technology scene for more than two decades. He will report on the latest news and answer your questions regarding new devices and services that are changing the way you watch television.

5 Comments on Should AT&T Sell DIRECTV?

  1. I have been a Directv customer since 2002 and my experience is exactly what is described in this report. If not for my regional sports channel and NFL Sunday Ticket, I would be a former Directv customer. AT&T has done long lasting damage to what was once a quality service.

  2. Since AT&T bought DIRECTV for $67 billion in 2015, it has proceeded to destroy almost everything that was great about it.
    Only thing that was NOT destroyed is the Excellent Picture.

    Customer service has suffered.
    Customer Service has NOT suffered, It does NOT exist anymore.
    The DIRECTV customer experience has become a DREADFUL experience.

    Technology innovation has declined. That is an understatement !!
    Any new Technology Dried UP . When was the last time they ADDED any new features ?

    When did they last ADD any NON Sports channels to the “SELECT Package”
    Never since the Buy out. Had NO problem RAISING the price.
    Why won’t AT&T ADD the missing Channels ?? DIY, Lifetime Movie Channel, FYI, Science Channel, Destination America, Great American Country, Weather, Travel, etc. Just a few missing.

    Do want the Customer wants: Have a SEPARATE Package for Sports Fans, Sports fans do NOT want a COMBO Package, neither does the SELECT Group. FIX IT.

  3. I’ve been a subscriber since 1996. If AT&T doesn’t fix the mess they created I’ll be joining the cord cutters too. DirecTV went from fantastic to crap when AT&T came in. Sell it back to the original company for half of what you bought it for. They make money and we get the original service we deserve.

  4. Absolutely agree – AT&T’s customer service is abysmal. Our only other option is Spectrum and they’ve managed to make Time-Warner’s TV service look good with their outdated equipment. Their internet is great, though, especially in comparison to AT&T’s crappy offering at nearly 3X the price per Mbps. And I was limited to a max of 18Mbps download speed – unless I happened to be simultaneously UPloading a large file at a whopping 1 Mbps, then my downloads stalled completely until the very slow upload was finished.

  5. We are extremely frustrated that we continue to lose (at least during negotiation time) local TV channels WHICH SHOULD//WOULD be free over the airwaves. As we live in a neighborhood free of roof top TV Antennas, we are held hostage to these stupid negotiations! What can be done, if anything?

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