AT&T DirecTV Now Streaming Service to Begin in Q4, CEO Confirms

Announced back in March, DirecTV Now will let AT&T wireless customers stream more than 100 channels on their devices at "aggressive" rates.  

DirecTV, AT&T, DirecTV Now, streaming video, wireless, mobile devices, smartphones, tablets, smartphone apps, Comcast, TV

AT&T's previously announced DirecTV Now video streaming services will launch in the fourth quarter of 2016, bringing the carrier's wireless customers more options for receiving television programming at will.

Company CEO Randall Stephenson unveiled the launch window for the upcoming services in a speech at the Goldman Sachs 25th annual Communacopia Conference in New York.

"We'll be rolling it out in a couple of months," said Stephenson at the event. "We're talking 100-plus channels at a very, very aggressive price point. And when you buy this content, the data required to stream it onto your mobile device is incorporated into the price of the content."

AT&T actually first unveiled DirecTV Now back in March, as a way for AT&T and DirecTV customers to dump their satellite dishes and receive a wide range of video content via wired or wireless Internet streaming on any device, according to an earlier eWEEK story. The service will work over a wired or wireless Internet connection from any provider on a smartphone, tablet, smart TV, streaming media hardware or PC. The services will allow several users to view content over simultaneous sessions, and they will not require annual contracts, satellite dishes or set-top boxes.

AT&T wireless customers, however, will have the extra bonus of using the DirecTV Now services without using their AT&T mobile data allotments, said Stephenson. The service is exclusively an over-the-top product that customers will access through an app on their devices.

The offering has been built from the ground up over the last year, said Stephenson, and customers will be able to access it by downloading the app, subscribing digitally, selecting their desired content packages and receiving online billing.

The DirecTV Now is expected to drive more customers to its wireless services and to reduce AT&T's wireless churn rates, he added.

"If you use it on AT&T [wireless], your data costs are incorporated" and you don't use your monthly data allotment, he said.

So far, the company is about 90 percent there on content agreements with content providers, including existing deals with Disney, HBO and NBC Universal, he said. "From a content standpoint, we are basically ready" while the platform is still in the midst of being completed.

AT&T and DirecTV plan to enter the market slowly with a few thousand initial customers, then will expand it as the system proves itself. "I think in 2017 this is going to be a big driver of video for us," said Stephenson.

Asked at the event whether the new service could cannibalize from the company's existing products, Stephenson said there is a danger of that but that AT&T has faced similar concerns when wireless grew alongside its wired phone services.

"Yes, there is risk," he said. "I think we're pretty good at managing these [concerns]."

The company plans to target its DirecTV Now offering "to those 20 million homes that have no pay TV subscriptions today," he said. "That's a big population. We think a significant number of those would like a 100-plus channel pay TV subscription if it were at a very, very attractive price point."

Initially, the services will be offered with one or two streams for people living in apartments of homes who want to view content on televisions and a device such as a tablet, according to Stephenson. "We think this is going to be really important for quite a period of time."

AT&T will continue to offer DirecTV satellite TV services even when the new streaming services begin, and customers will be able to continue to access programming on virtually all mobile devices as they do today. AT&T also will continue to offer its U-verse TV and Internet services, according to the earlier eWEEK story.

AT&T acquired DirecTV for $48.5 billion in July 2015 after having pursued the merger since May 2014, according to an earlier eWEEK story. In August 2015, AT&T began offering $500 in credits per line to DirecTV customers who transferred their mobile services over to AT&T from a competing carrier. AT&T's move to offer enhanced deals to bring over DirecTV customers to grow its own subscriber base was part of the company's vision for making the acquisition in the first place. The merger turned AT&T into a bigger player with its hands in more markets and a ready pool of new prospects to bring into its business coffers.

Cable rival Comcast just announced its own plans to shake up its industry by starting to offer wireless phone services by mid-2017 through phone plans that will use WiFi and the Verizon network for connectivity, according to a Sept. 21 eWEEK story. The upcoming Comcast mobile services were unveiled by Comcast CEO Brian Roberts at the same Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference.