By Phillip Swann
The TV Answer Man –Follow me on X.

You only get one chance to celebrate a 30th anniversary so you want to do it right. But DIRECTV yesterday marked its launch on June 17, 1994 by awarding $5 Baskin-Robbins cards to subscribers who have enrolled in a perks program.

$5 gift cards? That’s it? For 30 years of being in business? For 30 years of being a major player in the television industry? (Albeit less so in the last several years due to AT&T mismanagement and cord-cutting?) That was the best it could do?

DIRECTV could have launched a national ad campaign, as it did last year for the start of the NFL season, using Travis Kelce as its spokesman. The satcaster could have cut subscription prices by $30 as a single day promotion to mark 30 years as a TV provider. DIRECTV could have commissioned a documentary on the company’s history and debuted it on one of its channels. It could have done a lot of things — I’m sure the PR/marketing team was prepared with ideas — but it did next to nothing. (In addition to the $5 gift cards, DIRECTV did send some employees out to participate in community events. But the inexpensive, under-the-radar initiative went largely unnoticed by the media, as expected.)

The only good thing I can say about what DIRECTV did to celebrate its anniversary was that it was better than what the AT&T-controlled DIRECTV team did for the 25th anniversary in 2019. And that was nothing at all. DIRECTV, which is now a separate company established in 2021 by AT&T and the private equity firm, TPG, didn’t even acknowledge the 25th anniversary in 2019.

DIRECTV has lost at least 14 million subscribers since AT&T purchased it in 2015. And while DIRECTV is better run by the current executive team, the lack of vision and enthusiasm for the 30th anniversary celebration speaks volumes about how the company views itself. With its pockets rapidly dwindling, it can only afford $5 ice cream and dream about what was once the sweet smell of success.

The TV Answer Man is veteran journalist Phillip Swann who has covered the TV technology scene for more than three decades. He will report on the latest news and answer your questions regarding new devices and services that are changing the way you watch television. See the bio for Phillip Swann here.

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