January 23, 2017
Since AT&T launched DirecTV Now on November 30, the streaming service has experienced its share of difficulties, including missing features, billing issues and interruptions. The streaming service, developed as a replacement for cable/satellite, offers access to about 60 channels for $35/month and about 120 channels for $70/month. The service competes in the same arena as Sling TV and PlayStation Vue. AT&T acknowledges the problems faced during the launch, but chief technology officer Enrique Rodriguez states that most issues have been addressed.
However, The Verge reports that, as of last Monday, “there have been over 200 active forum threads on AT&T’s website complaining about DirecTV Now problems,” and that the service’s support group has been apologizing on Twitter.
The range of problems reported include live and on-demand content that won’t play (instead resulting in an error message), “frequent buffering or reduced video quality,” interrupted broadcasts, and users who have been logged out of their accounts in the middle of watching TV. Other problems include trouble receiving local sports channels and “difficulties that have kept the 72 hour rewind longer than we expected.”
Other customers have complained of billing problems, including being charged during the free trial period. The Verge says that, it sounds like AT&T may have been better off postponing the launch until the service’s major usability problems were dealt with.” AT&T’s response has been to acknowledge the problems but add that it has “largely received positive feedback on DirecTV Now.”
Multichannel News reports that, although AT&T hasn’t released DirecTV Now subscriber numbers, StreamingMedia.com executive Dan Rayburn, who is also a Frost & Sullivan principal analyst, believes the service has peaked at “around 35,000 simultaneous viewers,” based on data from key third-party video suppliers. From that number, Rayburn deduces that the streaming service has about 140,000 subscribers, “using an industry average that about 25 percent of users are streaming from the service at any given time.”
Earlier, Rayburn reported that AT&T “had reserved enough capacity to support about 1 million simultaneous DirecTV Now customers.”
DirecTV Now subscribers aren’t the only ones to be disappointed by unmet promises. TechCrunch adds that, “at this year’s CES, Dish introduced a 4K-ready streaming media player called Air TV, which is designed to combine Sling TV’s Internet television service with over-the-air channels pulled in through your digital antenna, along with Netflix.”
But the first Air TV subscribers have found out that “the software demoed at CES is not what’s actually shipping on the device.” Sling TV’s chief executive Roger Lynch has responded that the software shown at CES was beta, with unavailable features rolling out soon. Sling TV has also offered to issue refunds to unhappy customers.
Multichannel News also notes that the FCC’s Wireless Bureau has issued a report advising that, “AT&T’s DirecTV Now sponsored data plan appears to violate the Open Internet order per its general conduct standard.” The incoming Republican-led FCC, however, is “unlikely to second that opinion.”