Q. Do you think AT&T TV, the so-called DIRECTV replacement, is the answer for AT&T? Do you think it will be a successful replacement for DIRECTV? And what does it offer that’s any better than DIRECTV if I was going to replace one with the other? — Abbie, Abilene, Texas.
Abbie, as you may know, AT&T TV, which is scheduled to go nationwide next week, is an Internet-based service that offers DIRECTV’s programming packages over a company-supplied set-top.
(Once you connect the set-top, you can also watch AT&T TV on tablets, smart phones and some streaming devices using an AT&T TV app.)
AT&T TV’s promotional prices, which now start at $49.99 a month, are identical to the satellite TV service. But like DIRECTV’s promotional plans, AT&T TV requires a two-year agreement for the first-year promo prices, and monthly fees roughly double in year two.
The new service has a similar lineup to DIRECTV’s lineup, but there are some noticeable holes. For instance, there is no NFL Sunday Ticket on AT&T TV nor are there local network affiliates or regional sports channels in some markets. (While the AT&T set-top is 4K-enabled, the company is also not offering 4K programming now found on DIRECTV.)
The service does offer 500 hours of DVR storage, the capacity to watch shows on three devices at the same time, and on-demand programming.
AT&T launched in trial markets last August, and is now available in Riverside and Orange, California, Miami, West Palm Beach, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Topeka and Wichita, Kansas, Minneapolis, Minnesota, St. Louis and Springfield, Missouri, New York City, Corpus Christi, El Paso, and Odessa, Texas and Seattle and Tacoma, Washington.
The telco is promoting AT&T TV as DIRECTV without a dish. For the first time, they say, consumers can enjoy the benefits of satellite TV without having to install a clunky piece of equipment on their roof or yard.
AT&T is hopeful that AT&T TV will turn around the company’s TV division which has suffered net losses of six million subscribers since it purchased DIRECTV in 2015. In an ideal scenario, AT&T TV will attract new customers, and persuade current DIRECTV subs to switch to a service that is less expensive for the company to operate.
However, I don’t have much hope that AT&T TV is the answer to the company’s sagging TV fortunes.
The lack of key channels and services, such as the NFL Sunday Ticket, and local sports and programming in some markets, will give current DIRECTV subs pause before switching.
(For instance, AT&T TV is now available in Topeka, Kansas, but doesn’t have Fox or NBC there. It’s in Odessa, Texas, but it doesn’t offer ABC there.; there’s no Fox available in Springfield, Missouri, and so on. AT&T also hasn’t made its AT&T-branded regional sports networks available via streaming yet.)
And new customers will likely hesitate for a variety of reasons, including:
* Live streaming services are not doing well.
Live streaming services, such as AT&T’s own AT&T TV Now, have been fading in popularity since they began raising prices a year or two ago. Consumers are concluding that live streaming is a sub-par alternative to cable and satellite, and there’s no compelling reason why AT&T TV will change that thinking.
After all, the service doesn’t have any special programming, such as the Sunday Ticket, to attract new customers nor does it have any special technological features. In fact, unlike Hulu Live, Sling TV, YouTube TV and the other live streamers, AT&T TV requires a set-top, and we all know that cord-cutting consumers are weary of set-tops.
* The two-year contract.
You can start watching Hulu Live or Sling TV today without any requirements other than a 30-day payment. No contracts. No cancellation fees. AT&T TV’s two-year contract simply can’t compete with that.
* The Brand
AT&T has a short but troubled history with television, having presided over the crumbling fortunes of DIRECTV. I can’t imagine consumers going for AT&T TV because of the name brand. Telephone service, okay. Television? No.
There are other reasons why AT&T TV is likely to fail, but the ones listed above are more than enough in my humble opinion.
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— Phillip Swann