DirecTV Now’s rebranding to ‘AT&T TV NOW’ is officially rolling out

AT&T’s live TV streaming service, DirecTV Now, is getting a new name. The company in July announced that the service would soon be rebranded to AT&T TV NOW at some point later in the summer. The company today confirmed that change is officially rolling out.

The company teased the rebrand’s launch on its Twitter account this afternoon, but didn’t clarify what it meant by “whole new look.” Many assumed the tweet referred to the fact that DirecTV Now brand — which still remains across all app platforms and social accounts — will finally be removed.

A company spokesperson confirmed the tweet was related to AT&T’s prior announcement of the name change.

That being said, the AT&T DirecTV Now apps haven’t yet been updated in the app stores, so this is the first news that the name change is imminent. (The spokesperson could not speak to the exact timing of the rebrand’s arrival).

AT&T had previously explained that DirecTV Now customers would see the rebranding go live around the same time that the new AT&T TV service began its pilot testing.

The latter is the company’s new home TV service that doesn’t require a satellite. Instead, it offers live TV and on-demand titles over a broadband connection, plus a cloud DVR, and access to thousands of streaming apps like Netflix and Pandora, as well as a voice remote powered by Google Assistant.

Screen Shot 2019 08 13 at 2.29.47 PMBoth AT&T TV NOW and AT&T TV will utilize the same AT&T TV app on mobile devices and on their TV’s big screen. There will be no change for current DirecTV NOW subscribers beyond needing to re-accept the terms of service to continue streaming.

The DirecTV Now app will update automatically to become the AT&T NOW app when the changes go live, the company said.

DirecTV Now rebranding isn’t the only change to AT&T’s streaming plans in recent months.

The company also rolled out price hikes and new bundles for DirecTV Now customers, punted on its original plans for a multi-tiered WarnerMedia streaming service, and last month announced its new HBO Max service would instead launch in spring 2020 for slightly more than the HBO NOW subscription of $14.99/month.

The new name for AT&T’s live television streaming service comes at an opportune time, as the DirecTV Now brand has been in the headlines due to a nearly three-week-long blackout of CBS stations while the companies negotiated a new carriage agreement.

That deal had impacted 6.6 million people across DirecTV Now, Direct TV, and AT&T’s U-Verse in several major cities including New York, Chicago, and LA. A new agreement was reached last week, just ahead of the anticipated announcement of a CBS-Viacom merger. (Announced today!)

 

AT&T to revamp DirecTV Now with new plans bundling in HBO, price hikes

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said in December the company would soon adjust the content mix on its DirecTV Now streaming service and raise the monthly subscription to around the “$50 to $60” point – meaning, at least $10 per month more than it is today. This week, AT&T is preparing to follow through on those plans by increasing the prices for its existing tiers by $10 per month. It’s also launching two new packages to replace its existing multi-tiered lineup, both of which bundle HBO into their channel lineups.

This is not the first time AT&T has leveraged HBO to entice streaming subscribers – it has also tried bundling free HBO in its wireless plans, and is preparing to launch its own WarnerMedia streaming service which will include HBO along with movies and other original content. 

The news of the DirecTV Now plan changes was first reported by Cord Cutter News. We’ve since independently confirmed the report’s accuracy.

Currently, DirecTV Now offers a variety of price points for its streaming TV service, starting at $40 per month for the Live a Little plan with over 65 channels. Its three tiers above that – Just Right, Go Big, and Gotta Have It – increase the lineup to 85, 105, or 125 channels, respectively, for $55, $65 or $75 per month. The service also offers a Spanish language-focused plan, Todo Y Mas, for $45 per month.

All of these packages are now being “grandfathered in” with the changes to DirecTV Now’s service and will no longer be offered to new subscribers. And all will see their prices increase by $10 per month.

The Brazilian International package, DirecTV Now Espanol, and other Premium channels will also see price increases, but not for customers who subscribed before March 12, 2019.

Existing DirecTV Now customers will be notified of these price changes in emails being sent out starting tomorrow, March 12. The increase will go into effect within 25 days of that notification.

In place of DirecTV Now’s currently multi-tiered service are two new plans: Plus and Max.

Plus will offer over 40 channels for $50 per month including local stations, sports and news along with ESPN, CNN, Fox News, Disney Jr., TNT, Hallmark Channel and Bravo, and premium networks HBO, HBO Family, and HBO Latino!.

Meanwhile, DirecTV Now Max will offer over 50 channels for $70 per month. This includes everything already in Plus, along with more national sports channels like CBS Sports Network, ESPNews, ESPNU, Fox Sports 2, Golf Channel, Olympic Channel, and Regional Sports Networks. On the premium front, Max will also include Cinemax.

In addition to the new plans, AT&T will launch streaming versions of its DirecTV packages: Entertainment, Choice, Xtra, Ultimate, and Optimo Mas. These are online-only versions of the plans, and may include fewer channels than offered to satellite TV customers.

Entertainment includes over 65 channels for $93 per month; Choice is $110 per month for over 85 channels; Xtra is $124 per month for over 105 channels; Ultimate is $135 per month for over 125 channels; and Optimo Mas is $86 per month for over 90 channels.

These pricing and plan changes should not be a surprise to those following AT&T’s news.

CEO Randall Stephenson told investors the company was planning to thin out the content available on DirecTV Now in order to keep only those channels that are “really relevant to customers.”

The pricing adjustments come at a time when AT&T’s streaming subscriber base is in decline. In its Q4 earnings, the company lost 267,000 DirecTV Now subscribers, ending the year with fewer customers (1.6M) than it had in Q2 (1.8M). With DirecTV Now’s promotional offers ending, some customers may have fled to rival services like Hulu with Live TV and YouTube TV, which now have a combined 3 million subscribers, according to Bloomberg.

AT&T declined to comment on the changes.

Sling TV closes year with 2.4 million subscribers, but growth slowed significantly

Sling TV’s growth has slowed dramatically as the competitive landscape for live TV streaming services has heated up. Despite this, the Dish -owned streaming service remains ahead of rivals in terms of subscriber count – largely due to it being first to market with streaming TV. Dish said today it closed out the year with 2.417 million Sling TV subscribers. That puts it ahead of AT&T’s DirecTV Now, which ended 2018 with 1.6 million subscribers.

It’s also more than newcomers like YouTube TV and Hulu with Live TV. The latter topped 1 million subscribers this past fall. YouTube TV doesn’t report its numbers, but had an estimated 800,000 subscribers as of last July. It’s likely neck-and-neck with Hulu Live TV at this point.

Dish reported its Sling TV numbers as a part of its Q4 2018 earnings, which also indicated that Sling TV is nowhere near making up for the subscriber loss from Dish’s satellite TV service. The company lost 1.125 million satellite TV subscribers during its fiscal 2018, up from the 995,000 it lost the year prior.

Meanwhile, Dish added a net gain of 205,000 Sling TV subscribers in 2018. That’s down from the 711,000 added in 2017 and the 878,000 added in 2016.

The company closed out the quarter with 12.32 million total pay TV subscribers, including 9.90 million Dish TV subscribers and 2.42 million Sling TV subscribers, it said.

In addition to the increased competition from other streaming services and a price increase, Dish’s carriage disputes have also impacted Sling TV.

The company no longer carries Univision on Dish or Sling TV. Plus, HBO and Cinemax left Dish and Sling TV on October 31, due to a dispute with the premium networks’ new owner, AT&T.

The move to drop HBO and Cinemax had already taken its toll on Sling TV in Q3, when Dish reported a net add of only 26,000 new Sling TV subscribers for the quarter.

In the months since, Sling TV has been trying new tactics to attract customers – including rolling out free content to non-subscribers, offering a la carte subscriptions that don’t require a core programming package, and, most recently, launching personalized recommendations.

Unfortunately for Sling TV, these moves may not be enough. And things won’t get better in 2019 as a number of new streaming video services compete for customers’ dollars – like those from Time Warner, Apple, and Disney.

 

 

 

AT&T’s streaming video device is now in beta testing

AT&T has begun beta testing a streaming device that seems to be something of its own Roku competitor, according to a statement made by John Donovan, CEO of AT&T Communications, during the company’s third quarter earnings call. The device, first scooped a year ago by Variety is an Android TV-based set-top box which integrates other streaming apps and ships with a voice remote, according to an FCC filing.

While AT&T didn’t comment on Variety’s report at the time, it did later confirm the device on an earnings call earlier this year.

The box was then described as a way for customers to watch DirecTV Now or other streaming services from their home. The plan at the time was to have the device launched by the end of 2018, the company had said.

The word today is that timeframe has shifted.

Donovan said the service was in “beta testing” now, but added that AT&T planned to “roll out trials in the first half of next year.”

The thin client-based service – as this product was referred to as by the exec – would be the next step in transitioning traditional pay TV customers to the streaming service, DirecTV Now.

It could also be used to target cord cutters in search of a more traditional TV experience, by offering access to streaming TV without requiring the installation of a satellite dish.

“This will be a more measured roll out,” Donovan said, of the new thin client-based service. “Like our introduction of WatchTV, we expect this service to be EBITDA positive. And over time, it should lower our acquisition cost of our premium video service. And both of these use the common platform we introduced with DirecTV Now,” he noted.

The device’s arrival comes at a time when AT&T’s pay TV business is in decline.

The company reported a 346,000 net loss in traditional TV customers (DirecTV and AT&T Uverse) in the quarter. However, it gained 49,000 for its streaming service, DirecTV Now, which has grown to 1.86 million subscribers.

AT&T said it would also begin evaluating its channel lineups, in order to better “align content costs with the price.” That seems to mean that AT&T may also be thinking about breaking up content into even skinnier bundles – something that Hulu says it’s doing, as well.

 

 

AT&T raises DirecTV Now pricing by $5 per month

Following last week’s launch of its low-cost streaming TV service, Watch TV, AT&T is now raising prices on its original over-the-top offering, DirecTV Now, by $5 per month. That means instead of starting at $35 per month for its basic “Live a Little” tier with 60+ channels, the new service will start at $40 per month. The other tiers are going up by $5 per month, as well.

That means the “Just Right” 80+ channel package will be $55/month, the “Go Big” 100+ channel package will be $60/month, and the “Gotta Have It” 120+ channel package will be $70/month.

The news was first spotted by Cord Cutters News over the weekend. There was also a discussion of the price changes occurring on Reddit.

While there are concerns about AT&T’s price hikes elsewhere in its business, it’s not the first TV streaming service to raise its prices in recent months. YouTube TV also upped the cost of its service by $5/month, going from $35/month to $40/month back in March. And only days ago, Dish’s Sling TV revamped its service with a price change of its own, going up $5/month to $25/month instead of $20/month for its base package without add-ons.

Meanwhile, $40/month is in line with Sony’s PlayStation Vue’s least expensive plan as well as with Hulu’s Live TV service.

AT&T attributed its decision to these shifts in the market for streaming TV.

“In the 18 months since our launch, we have continued to evolve our DirecTV Now products to serve this new customer set and compare favorably with our competitors. To continue delivering the best possible streaming experience for both new and existing customers, we’re bringing the cost of this service in line with the market—which starts at a $40 price point,” a spokesperson said.

The changes were announced via email to existing subscribers, and may see some of DirecTV Now’s early adopters fleeing, as a result. Commenters on Reddit complained about the quality of AT&T’s service, including issues with its streams and DVR, for example. Others, meanwhile, felt that AT&T’s channel lineup was still a good value for the money, even with the increase.

Above: DirecTV Now email – source: Cord Cutters News

As a result of price hike, there are now few services left offering low-cost streaming TV. Sling TV, even at now $25/month remains one of the most affordable, along with AT&T’s far more limited Watch TV, and Philo’s $16/month service lacking sports and locals.

The new prices will go into effect on July 26 for new customers based on their billing date, AT&T tells us.

Update, 7/2/18, 11 AM ET: posted updated with effective date pricing from AT&T

AT&T’s DirecTV Now live TV service launches a DVR, upgrades the app with new features

AT&T’s over-the-top streaming service for cord cutters, DirecTV Now, is finally beginning to roll out its cloud DVR feature – a year and a half after its launch. The DVR has been in testing since last year, with AT&T in seemingly no hurry to push out the feature that’s since become a baseline for live TV services, including YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV, Sling TV and others. In fact, AT&T’s DVR remains in beta today, the company says. But it is now broadly available iOS and tvOS users, along with the launch of several other features, including support for additional streams, an expanded on-demand library, and more access to local channels when traveling.

The DVR – which AT&T calls the “True Cloud DVR” – will offer users 20 hours of free recording, support for fast forward and rewind, and the ability to store shows for up to 30 days. This is far less storage than what beta testers had – they could save up to 100 hours of recordings. As it turns out, AT&T will make expanded storage a paid upgrade. Later this summer, users can opt to pay $10 per month more to save 100 hours of shows for up to 90 days, the company says.

The larger DVR isn’t the only paid upgrade becoming available. Users can also now choose to pay for an additional, third stream for $5 per month.

In addition, DirecTV Now is introducing a new look and feel for its app across platforms. The redesign prioritizes users’ most-watched shows and favorites, and allows you to watch your current stream while browsing for other things to watch.

This new look is rolling out today to iOS and tvOS users, plus supported web browsers, and will hit Android, Fire TV and Roku devices in the weeks ahead.

The revamped app also includes more on-demand content, with over 25,000 titles now available for on-demand viewing, and new episodes on some channels becoming available on-demand right after airing, AT&T says. And users will be able to access their local channels, like ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC, when they’re away from their home market.

The changes to DirecTV Now are critical for AT&T to remain competitive, as they come at a time when the company’s video business is shrinking, in terms of revenue.

But the losses on AT&T’s traditional TV front are currently being offset by the DirecTV Now net new customers. In the past quarter, the service added 312,000 more customers to reach 1.46 million total subscribers. Rival Dish, meanwhile, didn’t offset its pay TV losses this past earnings, with its 91,000 Sling TV adds – though that service is ahead of AT&T’s in total subscribers. Hulu and YouTube TV don’t break out their live TV numbers, but are reportedly angling for third place.