Q. I’m thinking of getting AT&T TV, but I have a few questions. Do I need to use the AT&T box that they send you? Could I just use the AT&T TV app instead and watch the channels in the package I get? I really don’t want another set-top in my TV table. I already have a Blu-ray player, a PS4 box, a cable TV box and other boxes. I know the AT&T box is free, but I just don’t want it. — Pete, Laramie, Wyoming.
Pete, I understand your concern. Set-top clutter is a problem in many households, and is an often overlooked reason why streaming has become so popular. Rather than connect three or four set-tops to your TV, one streaming device, such as a Roku or Fire TV box, can deliver a multitude of programming services.
I also understand why you might think AT&T would require you to use its company-supplied set-top to subscribe to AT&T TV. The company has heavily promoted the box as a revolutionary device, which comes with your subscription.
“The AT&T TV service comes with a proprietary entertainment device that has the power to become the new entertainment hub of your home,” AT&T TV says at its web site. “You’ll be able to combine your favorite apps with live TV, sports programming, and Cloud DVR. No more constant switching between devices and inputs—with AT&T TV, it’s all in one place.”
And if you watch this AT&T video ad for AT&T TV, you would never know that you didn’t need the set-top:
However, you do not need to use the AT&T set-top to subscribe to AT&T TV. You can download the AT&T TV app on devices such as Roku and Fire TV and start watching immediately after subscribing online.
Let me repeat that: You do not need the AT&T TV set-top to subscribe to AT&T TV.
In fact, when AT&T sends you the box in the mail, you don’t even have to open the package if you don’t want to. It’s not necessary to continue watching.
Jim Greer, an AT&T spokesman, tells the TV Answer Man that “you can use the subscription without the box, but the box is included.”
Meaning AT&T will send you the box even if you don’t plan to use it.
Greer adds that you might want to use the box because it has a voice remote “and other features, like being able to switch between live TV and the app tray/screen.”
However, note that Roku and Fire TV have voice remotes as well.
As I said earlier, the AT&T TV set-top is free to what AT&T describes as “well-qualified customers.” So there’s no harm in getting it. You don’t even have to send it back after you cancel your subscription, as long as your cancellation doesn’t come in the first 14 days after your order.
“If you cancel in the first 14 days of order, you must return the included AT&T TV device within 14 days of order to avoid $120 non-return fee,” AT&T states at the web site.
So, Pete, if you don’t want to use the AT&T set-top, you don’t have to.
Last point: AT&T TV’s programming packages start at $59.99 a month for the first year, but they require a two-year agreement with year two prices nearly doubling. There’s also a $15-a-month cancellation fee for every month left in the two-year agreement if you cancel early.
Have a question about new TV technologies? Send it to The TV Answer Man at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your first name and hometown in your message.
— Phillip Swann