AT&T TV, the telco giant’s answer to DIRECTV’S dwindling subscriber base, has now been available nationwide for 11 days. The Internet-based TV service offers programming packages and prices similar to the satellite TV service with a few notable exceptions. (Learn more about AT&T TV’s features, and programming gaps, here.)
AT&T says AT&T TV will be its primary video service going forward although DIRECTV still has 16 million subscribers. The telco says the satcaster will now be marketed largely in rural areas where high-speed Internet access is spotty.
With so much at stake, it’s not too early to wonder how AT&T TV is being received in the marketplace. We don’t have much consumer data at this point, but we can turn to the nation’s top reviewers of new technology products for their initial assessments.
So, what are the critics saying about AT&T TV?
The esteemed technology site gives AT&T TV a decided thumbs-down largely because it requires a two-year contract, and first-year promo prices roughly double in year two. CNET’s Eli Blumental says the contract restrictions, and escalating prices, are just more of what people have come to dislike about big pay TV operators.
“With all of its fees and gotchas, especially the required contract and price hike after 12 months, AT&T isn’t my first recommendation for people looking to quit cable or satellite,” writes Blumenthal. “In fact you may very well get a better deal from your cable provider. When it comes to choosing a TV streaming service in 2020, price is often the deciding factor and no-contract options such as YouTube TV or Hulu with Live TV are better values. At least for now, AT&T TV will have many looking elsewhere.”
Dallas Morning News
Jim Rossman, a technology writer for the Dallas Morning News, is more divided in his opinion about AT&T TV, saying it both “delights and infuriates me.”
Rossman says the Net TV box comes with an easy-to-use interface, and more channels than any other streaming service he has used. But he is troubled as well by the two-year contract and steep pricing.
“The price is where I’m not really pleased with AT&T TV,” Rossman writes. “AT&T TV is available only with a two-year commitment, with early termination fees ($15 a month) for canceling before your 24-month term is up. Pricing is attractive for the first 12 months, but those prices go way up for the second year of your contract.”
His bottom line verdict: “Great streaming service, but hold onto your wallet.”
The national publication’s Ed Baig also gives AT&T TV a largely negative review. He has issues with the contract and pricing as well, but he also notes that the new service is missing content found on DIRECTV and other pay TV lineups. (AT&T TV does not carry 11 Major League Baseball teams, for example, nor does it have the NFL Sunday Ticket.)
“I’m sure AT&T will get around to filling in the key missing fare…Until it does, however…I’d recommend taking a pass,” Baig says.
The tech site is more bullish on AT&T TV, saying it’s easy to use, has a great interface, and “excellent stream quality.” Mashable is also down on that pesky two-year contract, and escalating pricing, but the site’s Alex Perry does give AT&T TV an overall score of 3.8 out of 5.
“I genuinely enjoyed my time with AT&T TV and if I were looking to jump back into the live TV market full-time, I’d give it real consideration,” Perry writes. “That said, it’s hard not to think about how something like YouTube TV or Sling might be a better fit for me financially, even if they don’t have the same bells and whistles as AT&T’s product. AT&T TV may not be the way forward for live TV in the streaming age, but it’s a compelling alternative in an increasingly crowded market.”
The site, which analyzes new products in numerous consumer categories, is not impressed with AT&T TV, saying it’s basically another version of the company’s AT&T TV Now (formerly known as DIRECTV Now.) But Reviews.com adds that it could be an inferior alternative to the latter because of the contract and pricing.
“Since it still requires a contract, it feels more like a revamped cable service than it does a cord-cutting service,” says the site’s Tyler Epps. “We certainly enjoyed the convenience of having live TV, on-demand content, and integrated apps all on one device, but didn’t feel those features justified the cost for the stand-alone service. If you’re a new buyer looking for a cable-like service with streaming capabilities, there are more cost-effective options on the market that have similar features.”
You can find several other reviews online that make the same points as Reviews.com. For example, ZDNet calls AT&T TV just another cable TV-like service in “geek’s clothing,” meaning it features the worst of cable and satellite (contracts, high prices, etc.) And Reviewgeek.com’s headline reads: “AT&T TV Is Everything You Hate About Cable, But Streaming.”
Based on what the reviewers are saying, AT&T TV may not be ready to replace DIRECTV, nor compel cord-cutters to come back to pay TV. However, some critics are praising the product’s technology, which could be a path to success if the company eventually adds more content, and drops the two-year contract and high prices.
However, that’s a real tall order.
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— Phillip Swann