Q. I’ve been reading your articles about AT&T selling DIRECTV and I am getting excited about the possibility. I don’t think AT&T is the right company to run DIRECTV. New leadership is needed. When do you think this sale will happen? — Richard, Omaha, Nebraska.
Richard, while AT&T refuses to comment on whether it’s trying to sell DIRECTV, multiple reports from publications such as The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, and Fox Business say the company has been taking bids from private equity firms such as Apollo Global Management and Churchill Capital.
The reports say the offers are in the $15 billion range which seems relatively paltry considering AT&T paid $49 billion to purchase DIRECTV in 2015. However, we don’t know if those bids are for a minority or majority stake in the satcaster.
The New York Post’s last article on the subject indicated that AT&T was not satisfied with the bids, and could actually pull DIRECTV off the market if they don’t improve. Since the process is occurring behind closed doors, we have no way of knowing if that’s a serious threat or not. But I suspect it’s a bluff by AT&T to encourage one of the equity firms to sweeten the pot. AT&T needs to get DIRECTV off its plate, even if it remains a majority owner while another company runs it. The satellite service has lost six million subscribers since the 2015 purchase with no end in sight. AT&T wants to turn the page and focus on streaming ventures such as HBO Max.
And speaking of who runs it, Fox Business’ last report said Dish, the longtime satellite rival to DIRECTV, could still be part of this deal. To learn more about what that might mean for DIRECTV, read this.
Now to your question: When will this sale happen, if indeed it does?
I predict that it will be announced prior to AT&T’s release of its 2020 fourth quarter report, which is January 27. The company can set the stage for the coming year (and years) by finally getting rid of DIRECTV and then celebrating a likely strong fourth quarter result for HBO Max, thanks to the Christmas Day premiere of Wonder Woman 1984. Like many of us, AT&T had a rocky 2020, but the twin announcements would give the company major momentum for 2021.
Richard, hope that makes sense. Happy viewing, and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann