AT&T’s DirecTV Now: Legacy pay-TV offering in sheep’s (streaming) clothing

By Jim O'Neill on Nov 28 2016 at 2:30 PM
AT&T’s DirecTV Now: Legacy pay-TV offering in sheep’s (streaming) clothing

AT&T today detailed its new DirecTV Now streaming offer, targeting the growing number of cord cutters and cord nevers in the United States who are looking for alternatives to the traditional pay-TV landscape.

The service will launch Wednesday and promises “on-demand and live programming from many networks” in addition to premium add-ons and some significant gaps (notably CBS and Showtime).

DirecTV Now will be available on Amazon Fire TV and the Fire TV Stick, Android mobile devices and tablets, iPhone, iPad and Apple TV, Chromecast (Android at launch; iOS in 2017), Google Cast-enabled LeEco ecotvs and VIZIO SmartCast Displays and Internet Explorer, Chrome and Safari web browsers. AT&T said other devices, like Roku, will be added in 2017, too.

The rumor of 100+ channels for $35/mo. was, well, not 100% correct. AT&T is offering a promotional $35 price for the “Go Big” 100+ channel package (normally $60/mo.). The limited time offer is good for initial sign ups, as long as they keep the package subject only to “future reasonable programming price increases applicable to all packages.”

Otherwise, prices (for 60+) channels start at $35/mo. and go up to $70/mo. for 120+ channels.

AT&T has carriage deals for DirecTV Now with Fox Networks Group, ABC/Disney, NBCUniversal, Viacom, Discovery Communications, Scripps Networks, A+E Networks and Turner, but it’s not yet clear if all packages in all parts of the country will have all of those channels.

Like Sling TV and Sony Play Station Vue, the two streaming services already in the market, DirecTV Now will have premium channels available, most notably HBO on-demand content for just an extra $5/mo. and Cinemax for $5/mo., which is less than it is anywhere else.

A bit of a bonus: Subscribers can watch two streams at the same time. On the other hand, there’s currently no plans to allow viewing of 4K content, which could eventually become a big deal as more virtual reality content gains traction.

If you are an AT&T wireless customer, DirecTV Now content viewed on your mobile devices won’t count against your data cap.

“We’re extending our entertainment portfolio for those who value premium content but also want more TV freedom suited for their lifestyle, whether watching at home or on their mobile devices. This is TV your way,” said John Stankey, CEO, AT&T Entertainment Group. “Our new customer-centric offers show that mobility and entertainment are better together.”

A ‘revolutionary’ offering? Nah

AT&T touts its new offering in a press release under the headline “The Revolution is Here.” But it’s not, not really. It’s a very big offer at a reasonable price, but, frankly, it’s missing the mark if it’s really targeting cord cutters and cord nevers.

Because, what the telco really is doing is repackaging its legacy TV offering as a streaming service and, unlike some other operators who are listening to consumers (“We want fewer channels for less money”), it’s trying to shove huge bundles of content at a slightly reduced rate onto the plates of Millennials, who’re notoriously picky about their video consumption.

That’s not going to cut it, even with the added value (and it’s pretty legit) of not counting streamed mobile data against a user’s cap. (There is some fine print to read.)

The best deal out there at the moment? Charter Communication’s Spectrum streaming package. It includes the Big 4 networks live, ESPN, and a collection of other watchable channels for $20/mo.

Now if Charter could only get it to work consistently…

Stay tuned.

Follow me on Twitter @JimONeillMedia and on LinkedIn

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