What Should AT&T Do With DIRECTV?


Q. I read your article about AT&T losing so many DIRECTV customers. What do you think they should do to make the service better? Or they should just get rid of it and move on? What do you think AT&T should do with DIRECTV? — Monica, Reno, Nevada.

Monica, what a great question that is! AT&T has lost more than six million DIRECTV and U-verse customers combined since taking over the satellite TV service in 2015. Although cord-cutting is a contributor, AT&T’s TV losses are far greater than any other pay TV service, and it’s become abundantly clear that the telco doesn’t understand how to run a TV business.

So, what should it do with DIRECTV?

AT&T would like to start transferring DIRECTV subscribers to its new Internet-based service, called AT&T TV. That would enable the company to reduce the costs of running a satellite-based operation, and possibly, keep prices from rising due to overall fewer expenses. In that scenario, AT&T would also reduce the number of people dropping TV service due to ever-escalating monthly fees.

But that’s not a feasible option in the short term. There are still 16 million DIRECTV subs and they have dishes and receivers. You can’t just snap your fingers and hope they’ll all switch to a new, relatively untested venture that doesn’t even have all the channels that DIRECTV does. (For instance, AT&T TV doesn’t offer the NFL Sunday Ticket.)

So, to rephrase the question, what should AT&T do with DIRECTV now?

There are three obvious options, but likely not all (if any) appealing to AT&T.

1. Sell
AT&T could try to sell DIRECTV to Dish, or merge with its satellite rival. This is easier said than done, particularly considering Dish is still run by Charlie Ergen, arguably the most difficult negotiator in the business. But my guess is that Ergen would be interested; he’s lusted after DIRECTV for years, and the two companies even agreed on a merger nearly 20 years ago only to have the FCC squash it for anti-competitive reasons.

2. Recommit to What Made DIRECTV Great
In 1994, DIRECTV launched and the satcaster soon acquired millions of subscribers thanks to an unique channel lineup, exemplary customer service, and the latest in technology features. But as Meg James recently noted in the Los Angeles Times, AT&T has oddly never embraced the satellite business although it paid $49 billion to acquire DIRECTV.

“AT&T has slashed funds that had been devoted to recruiting new DirecTV subscribers and used that money instead to develop new platforms (such as AT&T TV and AT&T TV Now), according to analysts,” James writes.

It’s as if AT&T executives woke up the morning after the sale and said, ‘Oh my God, what did we do?!”

While many DIRECTV subscribers are fed up with AT&T, it’s not too late for the telco to recommit itself to making DIRECTV great again, to borrow a phrase. The company could launch a well-publicized initiative that promised to make every DIRECTV customer a happy one with greater investment in customer service programs, technology, and yes, channel acquisition. Instead of saying no to almost every new channel, DIRECTV could say it’s adding SportsNet LA (TV home of the Dodgers), the Pac 12 Network, and a few others. It would be costly, but it would send a signal to existing subscribers that AT&T is willing to make sacrifices to keep them on board.

3. Close Down the Satellite Business In 2023
AT&T could announce that it plans to close DIRECTV in a few years so existing customers need to start transferring their subscriptions to AT&T TV. (January 2023 would be a good time for the closure because the company’s NFL Sunday Ticket contract expires after the 2022 season.) The telco could offer discounts and other perks for subscribers who make the move early. As part of the effort, AT&T could stop installing dishes; future customers would be encouraged to subscribe to AT&T TV.

Undoubtedly, DIRECTV would lose some subscribers in the transition period, but it would ensure a quicker switch to a less-expensive platform (AT&T TV.)

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30 comments on “What Should AT&T Do With DIRECTV?”

  1. I suspect Charlie, will lie low and gather up all the subs as they leave a sinking ship…. Why buy or merge when you will be the last “dish” left standing?

  2. I strongly believe that Cable TV and Satellite TV, is on a death march, with internet tv the big winner even though cable tv generally has better video quality over streaming ATT and Satellite tv. Cable Generally preserves the broadcasters original Data rate
    were as the other services limits the data rate to accommodate more video streams because lack of bandwidth.
    Eventually you will probably see the price of the internet to rise because, of the loss of cable TV programing.

  3. First thing AT&T HAS to DO is MOVED it’s Customer Service BACK to the USA.
    It will NEVER get better with it’s HORRIBLE Overseas Service.

    And definitely consider SELLING the Company..
    I don’t believe they have their heart in TV and NEVER will.

    Closing down Satellite service will really HURT Millions of Rural Customers.

    They can NOT count on internet TV with all it’s BUGS to be a success now.

    1. I totally agree with moving customer service back to the US. I live in the country. I don’t even have internet or a computer. At least when I had Dish if I call and said money was a little tight they would give me a credit for six months. AT&T won’t do anything to help their customers. My contract ends in May, will be moving back to Dish.

  4. Like many people, I live where the internet is unreliable and power outages are common. With a generator and sattelite tv, you are golden. We will never be able to depend on streaming. As soon as AAT bought Directv it went downhill. You used to be able to calll with a problem and get a technician who quickly solved your problem, now you get someone, usually with a heavy accent, insisting on telling you a scripted answer. I’ve been a customer for over 20 years, I already know how to reset the receiver, etc. The last time I called I knew my receiver was broken, but it took about 40 minutes to FINALLY get transferred to a technician, 10 minutes later they agreed it was dead and set up the shipment of a replacement. Now I’m seeing messages that tv channels are going away. If this downhill slide continues I will have to jump to Dish.

    1. I went that route. 24 yrs.with direct. I would of stayed if they offered me what they were offering new scribers. Plus, I couldn’t understand customer service. It will be two years at a better rate with cable. Then Anteena service here I come

  5. AT&T ruined Directv. Plain and simple. Ruined customer service. Ruined calling and getting promotional discounts. Even paying the bill you aren’t sure if you are paying the phone bill or DirecTV. I have been a customer for 17 years. Was the best service out there. I have DVR’s in 3 different locations. That is the only reason I haven’t switched to Dish Network. AT&T GO AWAY and stay with phones and internet. You suck at TV.

    1. You are RIGHT ON . The billing is a JOKE. They think putting “AT&T” on EVERY Service they have will make it easy for customers to know what they are paying. YEA, Right. It is WRONG. The only way to tell which bill is what by the Amount, but that doesn’t always work. They keep changing the Price.
      Trump is a BIG Help. De-regulate every thing. Let the Monopolies Screw every one Over is his solution.
      AT&T needs to have “SEPERATE NAMES on each bill. AT&T LAND LINE, — AT&T CELL, — DirecTV, — AT&T UNIVERSAL CREDIT CARD, — etc.
      Keep them separate.

    2. They did ruin a very good service..rmor has it thawed only acquired DRV was for their technology UI
      AT&T is mental..
      16 year subscriber thinking of calling it quits since AT&T is clueless with Directv, too many issues to name on here… AT&T I hope you burn to the ground..,

  6. If you like sports, which many DirecTV customers do, channel flipping isn’t very easy with streaming services. When it works good, streaming is great, but there are bugs and lags and internet related issues that make it difficult more often than cable or satellite. Plus, there are 16 million customers paying for service. Really? Do you dismantle that? Insane. Insane idea

  7. AT&T stop playing games with your customers give top shelf service because customers are really everything! Do something about the weather interruptions, like free heaters or shields for snow. Choice packages and no passing calls around when customers call all for under a hundred dollars a month. Oh yeah stop the damn India customer service reps that nobody can understand.

  8. I ended my Direct TV service in September 2019. I had the protection plan and had 5 different repair techs out. Every one of them said nothing is wrong. They changed everything but the cable. I just cut it cable loose from my house and wouldn’t you know the coating had a crack in it and it had water in the cable. I did enjoy the service for almost 20 years. Pricing, poor service and customer service went away when AT&T bought the company. AT&T here is a comment – You bought it and you are the one that messed it up. What a 49 Billion dollar throw away.

  9. I have been a DirecTV customer over 20 years and AT&T longer. DirecTV was a great company until acquired by AT&T. Calling customer service was no problem whatsoever. Now you can barely understand what they are saying, but even worse is getting any kind of satisfaction from them.I have my wireless service with them, internet & satellite with AT&T. They recently talked me into combining 2 of them but in doing so they somehow screwed up my e-mail account: the one I have been using for over 10 years. I cannot get logged in because somehow they did away with it. And it was this e-mail account where I got my bill each month since I had went paperless. I stayed on the phone over an hour, talking to 4- 5 different departments but I cannot get my e-mail account back. And it is this account I use to log into my NFL Sunday Ticket. They screw up everything they touch. I really believe they are trying to up dissatisfaction with DirecTV so switching customers over to some AT&T TV service will be easier.

  10. Dtv has been good on service, their bill is to High for the working blue collar worker. Now ATT has the company ,says to switch to their phone line service. We can not even get there service from there BAD lines phones
    They shouldn’t put the cost on the Costumer .

  11. They should cut the cost for existing customers your die die hard customers been with you a long time cut their cost and you will stop losing business you give new customers a better deal than old wake up before you lose me and others

  12. What if you live in a rural area with unreliable internet? Directv only goes out during very stormy weather. Internet goes in and out many times a day even in very good weather

  13. They should lower their price and include premium TV channels at low price.

    Current price with included TV channels not worth it unless you upgrade. But people don’t want that overpriced and then service will be interrupted for unknown reason.

    They offer me Direct TV with internet bundle 50MBPS internet and its F**** slow. They should just make it the lowest 200MBPS with the same low price they offer for the 50MBPS.

    TBH I just wanna cancel this Direct TV and just have the internet. Internet somehow works okay at 50MBPS. But the Direct tv is useless with the channels included.

  14. I just left Direct after 17 yrs. I loved it. I got several credits for referring new customers. But I knew trouble was coming the day they announced ATT bought them. Lies and more lies for months about changes they made. Customers are just not as stupid as they thought. So many things I loved about Direct went away. When I called it was “we don’t offer that anymore”. Finally I did something I thought I would NEVER DO I went back back to Comcast. Its OK but I wish who ever SOLD DirecTV would buy it back.

  15. They need to stop charging so much for tv packages. When someone signs a contract for two years, keep it the same price for both years. When my contract is up in May I’ll be going back to Dish. I wish I never would have signed up for it. I went in to a Verizon store and of course they offered good deals if I signed up for Direct TV and of course I stupidly fell for it. Never again will I go with Direct/AT&T.

    1. What does Verizon have to do with AT&T ??
      They are Competitors

      Why did you go into a Verizon store. ?
      Most people go there to do something with their VERIZON PHONE

      How did you get mixed up with DirecTV ? Sure you have the story right ?

      1. I’m sorry should have said AT&T not Verizon. I was looking for a new phone carrier at the time. I now have Sprint phone service. Can I edit the post to change Verizon to AT&T?

      1. Yes but with there 2 yr contract the price is the same for both years, not one and then price almost doubles thru Direct.

  16. Wish i never subscribed to directv. When you finally get help you cant understand what their saying and i signed a 2 year contract at a certain price and they’ve raised it. I have a little over a year left then im done with AT&T. THEY SUCK

    1. When AT&T took over DirectTV everything went to hell. The Genie has an awful format, I should never have switched over. You can’t even record a program without it wanting to recording all the seasons. I didn’t ask for that. And then wanting to automatically show the next recorded show in that series. Can’t even delete the program recorded unless you ask everyone else if the have seen the show because all TV’s are connected to one main unit. The Genie sucks. I don’t even have the movie channels and my bill is sky high and keeps going up. Let’s see how long I keep this aggrevating Genie before I cancel.

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