AT&T says you can now order its struggling U-verse TV service “in select locations” although the company’s web site says it’s stopped selling it.
“U-verse is available in select locations,” Ryan Oliver, an AT&T spokesman, said yesterday when asked if AT&T is still selling U-verse. “We have not made any additional announcements about changes to where we offer it at this time. Customers can call (Customer) Care or sign up at an AT&T store.”
Oliver did not say in which ‘select locations’ you can order U-verse. The IPTV service (Internet Protocol Television) has never been available in all markets. But the statement seems to suggest that it’s never actually stopped selling it in at least some markets. (The TV Answer Man has asked for a clarification and will report back here if we get one.)
That would seem to conflict with the message AT&T posted last April at the top of its U-verse web page:
“To help our employees serve our existing customers, we’re no longer selling U-verse TV. Service for existing U-verse TV customers is not impacted,” read the post, which is still at the top of the U-verse page.
Oliver said the message means “it’s not available at the site.”
But AT&T actually posted a message on the U-verse web page in March that said “U-verse TV is now available only by phone” and not on the site. (There was no mention that you could get it in ‘select locations’ at an AT&T store.) The page was also updated then to heavily promote the features and benefits of AT&T TV, the company’s new Internet-based streaming service.
And in April, the company changed the web page message from ‘phone only’ to say flatly it was “no longer selling U-verse.” The message no longer says “only by phone.”
At the time of the April posting, the TV Answer Man asked AT&T for a clarification, as did other reporters. It was unclear whether the change in April from ‘only by phone’ to ‘no longer selling U-verse TV” was temporary due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Or, was it permanent due to falling U-verse subscription numbers, and AT&T’s strategic decision to make the new AT&T TV Internet TV service its primary video offering?
U-verse has lost a few million subscribers in the last several years due to cord-cutting and other factors, leading to speculation that AT&T might close it at some point.
In AT&T’s defense, the first week of April was the early days of the Coronavirus shutdown, which often made corporate communications difficult to manage.
AT&T’s web site still says it’s no longer selling U-verse.
Final note: Our inquiry to AT&T was prompted by an e-mail this week from a reader, Lonna Workman, who said she recently tried to order U-verse. However, her attempt led to a surprising end.
“It is not true that you can obtain U-VERSE by ordering via telephone,” Ms. Workman wrote. “I just got off the phone with AT&T. I had ordered what I thought was U-VERSE. (using my current account information) and they sent me 2 boxes of AT&T TV. I called up and said, ‘This isn’t U-VERSE.’ I was informed that the AT&T TV is “the new cable,” by the tech rep.”
Update: AT&T spokesman Ryan Oliver says AT&T never stopped selling U-verse, although the AT&T web page still says, “we’re no longer selling U-verse TV.”
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— Phillip Swann