What AT&T Will Do With DIRECTV


Q. I just don’t understand what AT&T is doing with DIRECTV. It seems like it wants to get rid of it because it doesn’t do anything for us, the customers, except raise our prices. What is their plan, or do they even have one? — Maggie, Greenville, Mississippi. 

Maggie, DIRECTV subscribers, like yourself, seem to be confused over AT&T’s plans for the nation’s largest satellite TV service. The satcaster has lost millions of subscribers since AT&T purchased it in 2015, but AT&T has done little to improve the product, or the customer service.

The uncertainty over DIRECTV’s future escalated this week when AT&T announced that it was going nationwide with its new streaming service, AT&T TV. The Internet-based offering, which requires an AT&T set-top, features programming packages similar to DIRECTV, and with the same prices.

(The biggest difference between the two is that AT&T TV does not have the NFL Sunday Ticket, nor a complete lineup of local and regionals sports channels in some markets. There’s also no live 4K programming.)

AT&T officials see AT&T TV becoming the primary focus of their multi-channel TV business, which includes U-verse, AT&T TV Now as well as DIRECTV. So if that’s the case, what’s the plan for DIRECTV, which still has roughly 16 million satellite TV subscribers?

John Stankey, president and COO of AT&T, yesterday offered some insights into his company’s plans for DIRECTV at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference in San Francisco.

Stankey reiterated that AT&T believes the satellite TV business is not growing, and consequently, the company needs to emphasize products that will grow, such as streaming.

“I think, back in July of 2015, after we closed the DIRECTV transaction, we (said) that at that point in time that we didn’t see satellite delivery as necessarily a growth vehicle for entertainment moving forward,” Stankey said. “We like the DIRECTV customer base, thought it was attractive. But we felt like the march needed to be to delivering entertainment over software. And shortly after that period of time, we made it clear that we would be developing a software platform that would ultimately not only take our satellite base and offer them a more updated product, but be the replacement for the U-verse space that was already in service and give them the next generation of software-driven TV.”

Stankey said AT&T TV is now the company’s lead TV product. DIRECTV, he added, would be marketed primarily in areas where high-speed Internet service is not easily accessible. (AT&T TV needs high-speed Internet service to operate.)

“We will continue to offer satellite and DIRECTV where it has a rightful place in the market, places where cable broadband is not prevalent, oftentimes, more rural or less dense suburban areas,” Stankey said. “We’ll continue to offer it for customers on a stand-alone basis, who find its superior content offering to be something that they wish to have. But in terms of our marketing muscle and our momentum in the market, it will be about software-driven pay TV packages.”

In practical terms, this means that when you call AT&T looking for video service, the company will push AT&T TV, not DIRECTV or U-verse. In addition, marketing and advertising dollars will likely be shifted from DIRECTV to AT&T TV, except in those rural markets.

This doesn’t mean that AT&T is pulling the plug on either DIRECTV or U-verse. But it does mean the company wants to begin a rapid transition of subscribers to those two services to AT&T TV. Of course, whether that transition is successful is another story. Many DIRECTV and U-verse subscribers may decide simply to drop their service and subscribe to a non-AT&T product, or not subscribe at all.

The prospect of an unseemly transition has prompted some analysts to wonder if AT&T will try to sell DIRECTV to Dish, its satellite TV rival for more than two decades. Stankey seemed to hold the door open for that possibility, although he noted a Dish-DIRECTV merger could face regulatory obstacles in Washington, D.C.

“We believe there’s some limitations, as there always is, in what we can do from a regulatory perspective as we think about asset disposition or consolidation,” Stankey said. “The satellite business would be one of those, where there’s natural places for it to go. I would tell you we don’t see it really running in the regulatory environment. And I would also say, you have to be a little circumspect as an executive right now. If you’re doing anything that requires approval, my read of the environment is it’s a little unpredictable.

He added: “That doesn’t mean that there aren’t some other opportunities around how to structure this (a Dish-DIRECTV joint effort) that might allow you to get some benefits: shared infrastructure, different marketing structures, I don’t know. We examine them all. We’ll continue to examine them all. If something pops up, there aren’t any sacred cows with this management team in looking at those things. There are none at this juncture. It doesn’t mean they don’t arrive at some point in the future.”

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31 comments on “What AT&T Will Do With DIRECTV”

  1. I have been with Directv since 1998. I have Verizon FIOS for internet and phone. I keep Directv due to frequent days long power interruptions in my area that can effect FIOS. ( My backup generator powers my house so I can power Directv ). So if ATT won’t support satellite anymore why would I go with an ATT product when I can just go with FIOS TV?? Who does the thinking at ATT??

    1. I am appalled by the negative in service and I am included in canceling my service with DirecTV/ATT&T. I would recommend this company to anyone.

  2. ATT/DirecTV just changed my local channels from Richmond Va ( 45. miles ), to Washington DC ( 100 miles ). No notification. Trying to find out why – getting the run-around.

  3. If AT&T WOULD DROP ITS PRICING and concentrate on better customer service I don’t think it would have hemmoraged all the subscribers. It’s a shame. Maybe Dish will buy it from AT&T?
    With 16 million active subscribers I just don’t understand why it is willing to lose all that revenue, plus I hate streaming.

  4. At&t and directv suck. You would think that since its in American you would get an American to talk to instead you get non Americans that don’t understand you and you sure in he’ll can’t understand them. On a move from one town to another we got suckered into another 2 yr contract WTH is up with that? And our RV they gave us a big dish instead of a small one like most normal people would dowry is up with that? So now we have 2 dishes same size. You people are ridiculous

    1. Your LUCKY you only got (2) Dishes, Lots of people get Multiple BILLS with OVER CHARGES
      That is AT&T’S way of Thanking you for “TRYING” to Decipher the Over Seas Call Centers

      You would think that since its an American Company, you would get an American to talk to
      instead you get non Americans that don’t understand you and you sure in HELL can’t understand them.

      WHEN is someone going to do something about this ?

  5. What do you do when you have competence you buy it and you destroy it that’s exactly what AT&T did with DirecTV I used to work as a technician for DirecTV and I used to love their customer service the product used to be such a wonderful product. now I don’t think that AT&T will sale DirecTV to the other competence no… AT&T will buy Dish Network to do exactly what they did with DirecTV destroy it

  6. It is a dam shame that I have been a customer for over 16 years,on a fixed income and you people have the adassaty to raise my bill from $80.00 to $144.96 a month. Also like other people have said,you call Direct and you get to speak to someone who can’t speak ENGLISH. They keep telling me that I should change package. What the hell is wrong with you people. Give your loyal customers some perks. Looking for a different provider!!!!!!

  7. I have had Direct TV for over 20 years. If ATT would offer the Sunday ticket I would be glad to drop Direct TV, and go with the Att service. Figure out the Sunday ticket and millions of customers will follow the NFL..I am loyal to the NFL,not Direct TV.

  8. I have been screw by this company from day one watch out if you take your reciever from one resident to another, this is hell. Could not recover local channels,tech comes out can’t fix ,brings in new reciever, problem solved, but called this an upgrade and started my 2 year contract again. THEY GOT TO ME AGAIN, VERY DISHONEST COMPANY!!!!

  9. Called dtv on Feb 12 to get a move of sevice they get to apoint but cant set up a move after many calls the said when they fix problem solved they will call today is March 5th still no call and we have moved so I moved the dish ourselves and working only keeping wife dont like change

  10. As a long time Directv customer I think the service is generally good, but the pricing is nut. Many friends are cord cutters. I’m beginning to see it their way. When I drop Directv, Att wireless will go too.

  11. AT&T drove me crazy. They said after everything was installed, cable ( Direct tv} home phone, hot spot wireless internet, to call them and bundle together. They never bundled me. They kept raising the price, played games and refused to bundle me because they make more money charging you Individually. That’s not what they said when I spent an hour with them on the phone. As soon as they got my debit card number, everything changed. They want me to pay for all their cord cutters, passing their loss to me. I cancelled them right away, and changed my debit card. They lock you in a prison contract, then they pound on you for higher prices. No more damage control contracts for me. Bye cable…had enough of your dishonesties.

    1. Did they send your account to a Collection agency ?
      How did you get OUT of your (2 YEAR) Contract ?
      Don’t EVER use a “DEBIT” card with AT&T. You have NO recourse
      Money is GONE

  12. I wanted to go streaming when I signed up they told me zi would have to sign up for expensive wifi service.I have a hot spot on my cell and it works great.
    They should include the wifi in their package in the regular price and double their number of customers.

  13. Why the hell did at&t buy direct tv if all they were going to do was destroy it? Direct tv was fantastic till at&t got their grubby mitts on it.

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