AT&T is the latest player to enter the video-streaming market with an announcement that in Q4 it will offer three plans under the brand of DirecTV, the satellite TV company it acquired last year. What’s missing are all the details. AT&T hasn’t provided programming, pricing or a more specific launch date. But one important point was made clear: AT&T’s national, app-based OTT service will be available to those who are not subscribers to its TV or wireless services. Verizon and Sony offer a similar service.
Bloomberg notes that AT&T’s move is in reaction to “the pressures facing large pay-TV providers to respond to revenue-robbing challenges” from Netflix, Amazon and skinny bundles from the likes of DirecTV’s Sling TV.
“This is mostly about giving cord-cutters a way of staying with AT&T and maybe capturing some of the users that don’t pay for TV,” said Jackdaw Research analyst Jan Dawson. “The question is cannibalization. You have customers paying a lot for boxes and programming that they don’t watch; they may decide this offer is more attractive.”
The three tiers of service include DirecTV Now, which offers “a full range of live channels and on-demand shows,” DirecTV Mobile, which provides “a package of premium and made-for-the-Web video aimed at smartphone users,” and DirecTV Preview, which is free, ad-supported content aimed at teens and millennials.
Re/code notes that it is difficult to assess the offerings until more details are revealed. AT&T executive Tony Goncalves says the company does have deals with some programmers in place, but, adds Re/code, if AT&T is just starting its negotiations, “it’s in the same boat, more or less, as Apple, Google, Amazon and many other big companies that have investigated selling pay TV over the Web but don’t yet have a product.”
Another unknown, says Re/code, is whether or not AT&T plans to help defray the broadband costs of the new service for its customers. AT&T’s Unlimited plan provides free data on all devices for subscribers to DirecTV and AT&T U-verse. “It would be safe to say that we’re going to look at every option, and sponsored data is one of those options,” Goncalves said.
T-Mobile’s BingeOn and Verizon’s go90 services have drawn charges of violating net neutrality, but Goncalves didn’t reveal whether or not AT&T has discussed its upcoming service with regulators.
“We know that there are a lot of Americans that are in love with the full bundle of pay TV, and we know some are attracted to skinny bundles,” said AT&T Entertainment chief executive John Stankey. “But not everyone’s idea of what should be in the bundle is the same. We have packages that meet both needs.”