Q. I’ve been reading about the new AT&T TV box and I now have DIRECTV. Do you think I should get rid of DIRECTV and get AT&T TV? It looks like AT&T is getting rid of DIRECTV soon. Is that right? — Marie, New Bern, North Carolina.
Marie, for starters, I don’t see AT&T closing DIRECTV anytime soon. The satellite TV service still has around 15 million subscribers, and AT&T would experience a serious financial setback if it suddenly shuttered it. Remember, the company still makes a substantial profit from DIRECTV.
It is possible that AT&T will sell DIRECTV in the coming months because it’s worried that the satcaster will continue losing customers. (DIRECTV has lost a net of more than four million subscribers since AT&T purchased it in 2015.) And largely because of those losses, AT&T has already decided to deemphasize DIRECTV in its marketing plans, choosing instead to focus primarily on AT&T TV.
Which brings us to your question: Should you drop DIRECTV and get AT&T TV instead?
Let me first offer some background on AT&T TV.
The new Internet-based service offers DIRECTV’s programming packages over an AT&T-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. (And, like DIRECTV, you must pay a cancellation fee for every month left in the two-year deal if you leave early. AT&T TV charges $15 a month if you cancel while DIRECTV requires a $20 a month penalty.)
The telco has been promoting AT&T TV as DIRECTV without a dish. For the first time, they say, consumers can enjoy the benefits of satellite TV programming without having to install a clunky piece of equipment on their roof or in their yard.
However, there are some distinct differences between the two offerings.
First, AT&T TV does not have the NFL Sunday Ticket, which is still a DIRECTV exclusive.
Second, AT&T TV does not carry some of the regional sports networks now available on DIRECTV, such as the AT&T-branded RSNs, NESN, the Marquee Sports Network, and MASN, among others. With sports in suspension due to the Coronavirus outbreak, that’s not a big deal. But it will be when play resumes.
Third, while the AT&T set-top is 4K-enabled, the company is not offering live 4K programming now found on DIRECTV such as college basketball games, NFL football games and MLB contests.
Fourth, to watch AT&T TV, you must connect the company-supplied set-top to a high-speed Internet service. That could be a problem for some rural residents who don’t have access to top-quality Internet plans. AT&T’s recommends that you have a minimum of 8 Mbps per stream for optimal viewing; the service permits three simultaneous streams.
So if any of those features are important to you, I would not advise dropping DIRECTV and getting AT&T TV.
However, if they are not, you might want to consider it because it is crystal clear that AT&T plans to emphasize AT&T TV, which means it will likely get the latest technology enhancements and other new features while DIRECTV will not.
That’s also a reason that new customers might opt for AT&T TV over DIRECTV as well because the company no longer plans to invest serious dollars in the satellite TV service.
Marie, hopes that helps. Happy viewing, and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann