Bad News for Cable TV: AT&T Launches DirecTV Streaming

People thinking of cutting the cable or satellite cord will now have another strong reason to make the jump and not look back.

There was bad news Nov. 29 for cable networks and companies that rent or sell satellite receivers: AT&T is starting a new video streaming service on Nov. 30.

People thinking of cutting the cable or satellite cord will now have another strong reason to make the jump and not look back.

While it cost more than Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and other established competitors that charge about $10 per month, AT&T's new DirecTV Now service starts at $35 per month but offers a competitive number of content choices.

DirecTV Provides the Content for Web Streaming

AT&T's $48.5 billion acquisition of July 2015, DirecTV, will provide the satellite service for the foundation of the DirecTV Now content, which subsequently will be streamed over the web.

AT&T said at a press event Nov. 29 in New York City that DirecTV Now will offer four pricing bundles for starters. Users will be able to get about 60 channels for $35, 80 for $50, 100 for $60, and 120 for $70. As an introductory promotion, AT&T will offer 100 channels for $35; the company did not say when the promotion would end.

Buyers of DirecTV were asked for a two-year commitment and credit check previously, but those requirements will not be required for the streaming service. Initially, DirecTV Now will work on Chromecast, Amazon Fire, Roku and Apple TV streaming devices, as well as mobile devices with Android and iOS and PCs.

The starting programming lineup includes ESPN, AMC, Turner Broadcasting, several Disney channels, NBC Universal, Fox channels and others. Premium cable channels are also available; HBO and Cinemax, for example, can be added for $5 each. AT&T said CBS and Showtime are expected to be added soon, as is NFL Sunday Ticket.

One key consideration in using this service is that local news, sports and other channels aren't included in the package.

Cloud DVR Service on the Way

AT&T said it also plans to add a cloud DVR service in the coming years. Subscribers will be able to watch two streams simultaneously on separate devices, the company said.

Conventional ratings services such as Nielsen and others will become irrelevant when lots of viewers start using services like this one, because DirecTV Now will be able to track the programs users are watching and provide recommendations based on categories. The searchable interface will list the trending shows people are watching at all times.

DirecTV Now becomes the third major streaming television provider, following Sony's PlayStation Vue and Dish's Sling TV. It's similar in price to Vue, which starts at $40. Sling charges 420 per month, but it offers fewer channels.

DirecTV Now is as important to AT&T as the U-verse broadband launch about 10 years ago, AT&T Entertainment Group CEO John Stankey said at the press event.

"This is the foundation for how we'll do things in the future," Stankey said.

It remains to be seen how the ripples of this announcement will be impacting other players in and around the television business. But purveyors of antennas for local television broadcast stations stand to get a boost from this.

VOXX Accessories Corp., which owns the RCA and TERK antenna brands, will be one of them. Because a large part of the U.S. won't have access to live local broadcast if users drop cable, these antennas offer an easy, cost-effective option. They cost anywhere from $30 to $70; go here for more information.
"We've seen incredible growth in the streaming and cord-cutting space," Ian Geise, President, VOXX Accessories Corporation, told eWEEK. "Now with the new DirecTV Now streaming TV service, cutting the cord couldn't be a more attractive option for consumers.

"With mainstream TV providers like DirecTV joining the movement, viewers have more options and control over their home entertainment. In addition to DirecTV Now's channel offerings, our RCA and TERK antennas provide the added benefit of supplying live broadcast to networks like CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox, which a lot users won't have access to, since these local channels are only available in owned and operated markets, leaving a large portion of users without access.

"We are thrilled to see what the future of streaming and cord-cutting holds while continuing to provide our customers with more affordable and convenient offerings."

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 10 years and more than 3,500 stories at eWEEK, he has distinguished...