The numbers are staggering. And if you have any doubts why AT&T was happy to sell a 30 percent stake in DIRECTV at a loss, just look at them.
In the last five years, AT&T’s TV services, which include DIRECTV, U-verse and AT&T TV, have lost a net of 9.5 million subscribers, plummeting from 25.3 million on March 31, 2016 to 15.8 million on March 31, 2021.
Considering that AT&T TV has more than 500,000 subscribers by the company’s most recent public disclosure, that means that DIRECTV and U-verse have combined for a net loss of more than 10 million subscribers during that time. (AT&T TV’s streaming services, formerly known as AT&T TV Now and DIRECTV Now, didn’t launch until November 30, 2016.)
By comparison, Comcast lost 3.3 million subscribers from the fourth quarter of 2015 to the fourth quarter of 2020. (The cable operator will not release its 2021 first quarter report until next week.)
In the last two years, AT&T has lost 6.5 million video subscribers. Total video subs on March 31, 2019: 22.3 million Total video subs on March 31, 2021: 15.8 million.
It’s unclear how many subs DIRECTV and U-verse have lost separately; AT&T does not break out the numbers for each service, choosing to lump all three TV units under the category of ‘Premium Video Connections.’ But it is clear that the defections are nowhere close to ending. In today’s 2021 first quarter report, AT&T said the premium video department lost a net of 620,000 subscribers.
AT&T announced in February that it has sold a 30 percent stake in DIRECTV to private equity firm TPG in a transaction giving the telco $7.8 billion in cash. The telco bought DIRECTV in 2015 for $49 billion, but most industry analysts agree that the satellite TV industry is in rapid decline and today’s report only reaffirms that.
TPG and AT&T said they will establish a new company named DIRECTV that will own and operate the satellite TV service as well as the streaming service, AT&T TV, and the AT&T-owned U-verse.
Under the agreement, the new DIRECTV will be governed by a board with two representatives each from AT&T and TPG as well as a fifth seat for the CEO, who will be Bill Morrow, a top AT&T executive.
The AT&T-TPG deal is expected to close in the second half of this year.
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— Phillip Swann