AT&T announced today that the sale of a 30 percent minority stake in DIRECTV to the private equity firm TPG has officially closed, allowing for a separate video company named DIRECTV to begin. The new DIRECTV will include the satellite TV service, the AT&T TV multi-channel, live streaming service, and the AT&T-owned U-verse pay TV unit.
The telco said AT&T TV will be renamed later this month as DIRECTV Stream, but it will continue to offer service with no contract requirements.
“For those who stream it, DIRECTV STREAM will become the single brand later this month for video streaming services previously launched by AT&T, excluding HBO Max. It will continue to be available with no service contract or hidden fees,” the DIRECTV press release states.
Bill Morrow, a former AT&T executive, will serve as the new DIRECTV’s chief executive officer.
“This is a watershed moment for DIRECTV as we return to a singular focus on providing a stellar video experience,” Morrow says in the press release. “Building on our recent momentum, we are well-positioned to bring unparalleled choice and value to all of our customers under one iconic brand whether they beam it or stream it.”
The new DIRECTV’s board of directors will consist of two representatives each from AT&T and TPG as well as a fifth seat for Morrow.
For those searching for clues to the new company’s direction, today’s press release highlights the satellite TV’s exclusive offering of the NFL Sunday Ticket, and its aggressive 4K coverage.
“For those who beam it over satellite, DIRECTV service offers the most live sports in 4K HDR, including the most NBA games in 4K, and the industry’s best picture format,” the release states. “DIRECTV remains the undisputed leader in sports programming, including the NFL Sunday Ticket which remains the only way to watch every out-of-market game live every Sunday afternoon no matter where in the United States. DIRECTV also empowers customers to watch movies and shows from virtually anywhere — on TVs, at home, along with their favorite mobile devices using the DIRECTV app.”
AT&T purchased DIRECTV in 2015 with hopes that the satellite TV service would enhance the sale of other company products, such as wireless service, as well as continue to dominate the pay TV industry. At the time of the sale, DIRECTV had more than 20 million video subscribers, more than any other cable or satellite company. However, due to cord-cutting and management mistakes, DIRECTV has lost several million customers in the last six years, triggering AT&T’s decision to sell the minority stake to TPG which is expected to take a significant role in its operation.
The press release affirms that previous AT&T satellite, streaming and IP (U-verse) customers will keep their video service and any bundled wireless or Internet services, including HBO Max. DIRECTV and AT&T TV have offered a free year of HBO Max with certain programming bundles.
There is no mention in the release if U-verse will retain its name, or take on the DIRECTV brand.
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— Phillip Swann