Why DIRECTV Is Most Vulnerable to the Coronavirus


Q. I’ve been a subscriber to DIRECTV for 15 years, but I am thinking of getting rid of it and I think a lot of people are. I am also wondering if DIRECTV can survive the Coronavirus outbreak. I mean, why would anyone call a dish guy out now to install a dish and receiver. It’s way too risky. Just stream stuff instead. What do you think? — Gordon, Nashville.

Gordon, AT&T, which owns DIRECTV, has stated that it is following CDC guidelines for protecting both its employees and customers during the Coronavirus outbreak.

That said, unlike Dish and some other pay TV providers, AT&T has not specified which steps DIRECTV installers are taking to ensure a safe home visit such as requiring them to wear gloves as much as possible, and cleaning or sanitizing surfaces they touch in or outside the home.

AT&T would be wise to publish any extra measures its installers are taking, in my opinion. But the telco doesn’t seem to value my advice on this and other customer concerns.

Regardless, for two reasons, DIRECTV would seem to be more vulnerable to a business decline due to the virus outbreak than any other pay TV provider.

1. Fear Of the Installer
Whether AT&T explains how it’s ensuring a safe home visit or not, many Americans are afraid to request any service people to come to their home now, even ones that might be bringing food. So summoning someone to deliver more TV channels suddenly seems like a luxury you can’t afford or risk. As you note, Gordon, the average person may conclude it’s safer just to watch Netflix, assuming he or she has a decent Internet service.

(There’s always a flip side, of course. AT&T’s new Internet-based TV service, AT&T TV, does not require an in-person installer; the company sends you a set-top which you install yourself. This could help drive interest in AT&T TV.)

But the fear of the installer, be it rational or not, could trigger a huge decline in new subscriptions for DIRECTV at a time when the satcaster is losing old customers at an unprecedented rate. 

Other pay TV services, such as Comcast, are now facing this challenge as well. But unlike DIRECTV, the cable TV and telco TV services can offer Internet service with their video plans. With many people stuck at home due to the outbreak, the Internet is not a luxury; it’s a must-have. Consequently, despite their fears, consumers will likely be more inclined to request a new installation visit for cable. The need offsets the risk.

Dish, the nation’s second leading satellite TV service, has a problem here, too, because it doesn’t offer a companion Internet plan, either. However, Dish’s recent subscriber decline is a fraction of what DIRECTV has suffered so a falloff in new subscribers will have less impact. And that leads me to reason two.

2. Many DIRECTV Subscribers Are Considering Leaving
As you noted as well, Gordon, many DIRECTV subscribers have stated on social media sites that they plan to drop their service once their two-year contracts expire. You might argue that this is a small subset, but the fact that DIRECTV lost nearly one million subscribers last year strongly suggests there is great unrest there.

So if DIRECTV’s new subscriptions drop to nearly zero, and a large number of current customers drop service, the satcaster’s number of subscribers (thought to be around 16 million in January) could dramatically shrink in the coming months.

(Again, there is a possible flip side. When a DIRECTV subscriber cancels service, he or she has to return the satellite receiver. This could require a trip to the UPS store, and many people might be reluctant to do that now.)

The Coronavirus is creating trying times for everyone, including the leading players in the pay TV industry. But if the outbreak lasts for months, and not weeks, it could be the beginning of a quick end for DIRECTV.

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Have a question about new TV technologies? Send it to The TV Answer Man at swann@tvpredictions.com. Please include your first name and hometown in your message.

— Phillip Swann

31 comments on “Why DIRECTV Is Most Vulnerable to the Coronavirus”

  1. Hi Phillip. I’ve been a follower of yours since you first started when you posted under just your name. 😊 if you can answer me personally as I consider this a dumb question. I’m 74 and sorta not tech savvy.
    Here’s my question: I’m with DirecTv right now. I also have Prime, if i wanted to cut the cord how would I receive my local channels like CBS, ABC, NBC, PBS. That’s what’s holding me back. I have no one to ask, just you. No teenagers in my life, as they have all the answers. 🙄 Thank you for being there over the years, as I have learned a lot from you. Stay safe, and take your vitamins and wash your hands. 😁

      1. Im a cable tv installer and since the covid19 installs have tripled! Mostly internet only installs though!

    1. If your tv is 4k ready or a smart tv. You can get a fire stick from Amazon or antenna to boost your tv signal. Most smarttv will pick up your local channels with no problems.

      * sorry I’m not Philip

    2. If you have a smart tv and internet you should cut the cord with direct tv. We saved $80 per month switching to Hulu and still get all local channels and 95 percent of what direct tv offered. It is a no brainier. Direct tv is way over priced compared to the many other options you can get thru your smart tv. Direct tv is losing customers due to their high inflated prices. If they don’t get realistic they will lose ever customer. Direct tv is like the rotary phone or typewriter. Yet your still paying high prices to have it.

  2. I guess these people better hope their lightning fast internet stays working 100%. Wouldn’t want those repair men coming around either. God, really reaching for reasons to bash regular tv. Streaming is great, but until buffering and wonky pictures are a thing of the past (and internet outages from seconds to minutes) I’ll stick with DirecTV

  3. We love Direct tv…have heard not one good thing about ATT’s new cable service…oh and they are charging rent fees for the equipment! PASS!

  4. I used to love DirecTV when it was DirecTV. As soon as ATT entered the field things began to deteriorate. Many tricks on their part to gain extra money from you. Not even ONE update to increase or maintain customer satisfaction. Instead it’s take away this and take away. It has become totally user-unfriendly. Each and every benefit is gone. I am mad as hell and I am not going to take it anymore. I am extremely dissatisfied with the lack of services and am joining the 1 million people who quit last year alone.

  5. I had to stop service with direct/ATT after 3 & 1/2 years. I was paying 80-85 bucks. Then in January of 2020. They jumped it up to $168.00. They are crazy..thats JUST for tv w/ dvr. Then they gave a price of $138.00. I said no I have been enjoying Netflix and Hulu for less than $8.00. Yea I miss some shows but not for double price on a limited budget. Surprisingly! I can keep up with some on utube or the articles/new feeds online. Direct/ATT your going down like the Titanic.. Bloop bloop!!

  6. I’ve always had DirecTV and loved it…that is until this past September. They have a glitch in their system that every time it updates at headquarters all my local channels are gone reading error code 721. I have had to call over thirty times since then to get my subscirbed local channels turned back on. Thusly I have missed season finales and season openers. Seriously debating switching carriers.

    1. With the “72 hour rewind” feature you can go to On-Demand and go back and watch most programs that have been on within the last 72 hours for free.

  7. With so many people in there homes you would think DirectTV would offer free premium Channels to its customers. I think that would have been a very kind gesture but not one word from Directv!

  8. I hate directv and have had them 18 years. They don’t give me any breaks or discounts. I had my house tented for termites and they charged me 100 to take it down and put it back up after they said over the phone we wouldn’t be charged as a courtesy one time thing. We have a small package and our bill is still over $200 a month. No wifi, I pay another sorry company Viasat for that. They are just as bad. My husband keeps it around because of the Sunday ticket. During football season it goes up over $300. Funny they cant give us wifi in our area but can sure get every football game. I like they menu they have and thats it. They are shutting me off for none payment on the 27th. Just might leave it that way. Hard times. God bless the USA

    1. If you call in a talk to an “account retention specialist” they can and will reduce your monthly bill and can also throw in some premium channels for a limited time for free.

  9. I like Direct TV but are getting to high too keep them they still you that your is one thing a few months later it’s higher and keep getting higher and if you don’t keep direct they call you how could a person keep them when they are so much more than dishe TV the best thing about dish if they turn your service off you can still watch the record movie that you have direct you can’t

  10. I have DirecTV for 2 weeks for 8 days charged 86dollars can’t talk to anyone about that phone lines were disconnected

    1. The $86 wouldn’t be the charge for the 8 days but your total monthly bill based off of what channel package you are subscribed too.

  11. We are also going to cancel DirecTV when our contract is up. We pay to get local channels, but when those channels are interrupted due to price disputes it creates more problems than its worth. True, they will send an OTA antenna for free show you can receive those channels during the dispute but when the next dispute comes, and it will, they turn that antenna off and leave you high and dry. They tell you they can’t help you but we’re still paying for those channels without being compensated in any way. Not a good way to treat customers, especially now when the TV is all a lot of us have right now.

    1. You seem to have a misunderstanding of how it all works Stephanie. You don’t pay for local channels, local channels are just automatically included. If local channels are disrupted due to a dispute DirecTV will send you an OTA. The reason there are disputes is when the local content carriers want more money for the content provider (DTV) to be able to broadcast and provide their content to customers. If DTV pays that higher price then the subscription price to customers has to go up and then customers are unhappy. But there wasn’t a dispute and your local channels weren’t disrupted because DTV is the big bad company, it’s because DTV was fighting to keep your monthly bill as low as possible.
      And an OTA is an “over the air antenna”. DTV has no ability to turn that antenna on and off.

  12. AT&T is a joke and a scam especially for the elderly on fixed incomes. They cater to the Latino community way too much and everyone is sharing the bill. I’m not racist I just speak English only. I hope they do suffer a lost and maybe then they’ll feel how their consumers feel MISTREATED!!!!!!

  13. Directv does not require equipment return, i recently switched to Dish and received directions from Directv to take my equipment to my local recycling center.

    1. Equipment (receivers, remotes, power cords) do need to be returned unless it is old and outdated equipment that is no longer being installed.

      1. Yeah, I cancelled DirecTV last month after my contract ended. I told them they can come to my house and rip the satellite dish off my roof and kiss my a$$ as I’m NOT going to go up on the roof to take it down. They just hung up and never charged me a dime for failure to return their junk which will be end of life soon anyways as ATT started to sunset the entire DirecTV service starting this month!

  14. Entertainment will help people deal with being closed in so I recommend really weighing options of internet and TV providers. There’s far better than ATT and directtv out there.
    With the increase of internet customers, ATT doesn’t offer packages that allow streaming without constant buffering and signal drops. I don’t work for any of these companies but I do run an internet radio station and had to leave ATT because of the poor service and that was before the influx of customers.

    1. DirecTV offers the most channels with the best reception you can get with a 99% reliable signal rating.
      If you are streaming content on AT&T TV and are getting buffering, it’s because your internet service isn’t fast enough to keep up. AT&T TV is designed to offer the best resolution requiring more data thus requiring a high speed internet connection.

  15. Just to make a point. Direct TV is not standing behind the advertisement they issued stating they will work with the American people not to shut us off and give extension to pay your bill. I have already quit Direct TV. Very disappointed in their service and treatment of the American people.

  16. I love my Directv. I’m worried that they will go out of business. My internet is awful. I can’t imagine having to stream anything. I can’t even watch a short video without interruption.

  17. I’ve been with DirecTV for a couple months now maybe six months and they shut my cable off because damn virus and I called up and said that why did you turn me off I know I didn’t pay my bill all the way but why did you turn me off they said they only turn or leave on the phone the landline and internet is it that cable yes I know I didn’t pay that much of my bill but don’t turn me off because of that I was this crisis is my roommate can’t get out of work I can’t get out of work so how am I going to pay you Bill leave me on the name is j a y n e t t e Taylor

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