Q. It seems like AT&T is done with DIRECTV. So do you think it’s a good time to cancel DIRECTV and get AT&T TV? AT&T seems like they care about AT&T TV right now, but not DIRECTV. What do you think? — Nancy, Easton, Maryland.
Nancy, I agree that AT&T is looking to either sell DIRECTV or dramatically reduce its time and investment in the once-powerful TV service. The telco clearly believes that satellite TV has a limited future.
This is why AT&T launched AT&T TV, an Internet-based service that’s designed to be an alternative to DIRECTV. AT&T executives think that today’s consumers prefer a TV service that’s easier to manage and use. (Translation: You don’t need to install a dish.) With either an AT&T-provided set-top, or another streaming device, AT&T says AT&T TV allows you to watch live channels no matter where you live or where you are.
Of course, that’s not helpful to the millions of Americans who don’t have a reliable Internet service in their areas. But AT&T is more interested now in providing TV to everyone else. For rural Americans, there’s still DIRECTV. And if AT&T no longer owns DIRECTV in the coming months, they’re okay with that.
Considering that AT&T is likely to invest more in AT&T TV than DIRECTV, I was asked last April here if it would be wise to drop the satellite service in favor of the new streaming venture. My answer is basically the same, with a few notable exceptions:
AT&T TV’s promotional prices, which now start at $59.99 a month, are $5 a month less than DIRECTV. $5 a month isn’t much, but it’s better than nothing.
However, 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.)
There’s no dish. That’s a big plus for consumers whose homes do not have an unobscured view of the southern sky, which DIRECTV requires.
AT&T TV has fewer channels than DIRECTV. For example, the AT&T TV Choice package, which costs $64.99 a month, features 90 channels while DIRECTV’s Choice plan, which costs $69.99 a month, has 185 channels.
AT&T TV does not have the NFL Sunday Ticket, which is still a DIRECTV exclusive in the pay TV category.
AT&T TV requires a decent Internet connection, which, again, is bad news for many rural residents.
AT&T will devote more resources to AT&T TV in the coming months, if not years. (You can’t project too far ahead with AT&T.) That means better technology and features.
Since my article in April, AT&T TV has added several regional sports channels, including Marquee Sports Network, MASN and the AT&T-branded regionals. DIRECTV has had these for some time, but now AT&T TV is on par with its sister service when it comes to RSNs.
Bottom line: The decision is yours, but in my view, the argument for switching is not particularly strong. Perhaps AT&T will further bolster AT&T TV’s lineup and feature base at some point. But as of now, you will lose some significant programming and features if you drop DIRECTV.
Nancy, hope that helps. Happy viewing, and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann