June 18, 2018
Fresh off its $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner, AT&T this week will formally launch an online TV service free to its unlimited wireless subscribers; $15 monthly on any other platform.
Dubbed “AT&T Watch TV,” the service differs significantly from $35 monthly DirecTV Now since programming is limited to Turner (TBS, TNT, CNN, Cartoon Network) content and no live sports.
The burgeoning online TV market featuring premium pay-TV channels without a long-term contract also includes Dish Network’s Sling TV, Sony’s PlayStation Vue, Google’s YouTube TV and Charter’s Spectrum TV Plus.
“There’s going to be opportunities to distribute premium video like we never imagined,” CEO Randall Stephenson told CNBC. “The tech companies are just demonstrating that to us. So, we want to participate in this.”
Content distribution is what fueled AT&T’s acquisition of DirecTV, the subsequent launch of over-the-top video platform DirecTV Now and most-recent purchase Time Warner, which includes Warner Bros., HBO and Turner.
Last month, AT&T launched new capabilities and options for DirecTV Now, including an updated user interface. Subscribers can add a third simultaneous stream for an additional $5 per month and will get a beta version of cloud DVR functionality with 20 hours of free storage. This summer, AT&T plans to roll out an option to purchase 100 hours of storage for $10 per month.
The company also plans to launch a broadband-based premium SVOD service aimed at competing with traditional linear TV products for in-home use, John Donovan, CEO of AT&T Communications, told an investor group in May.
The product will be app-based with a small device that connects to customers’ TVs and home broadband. The ($80-$90 monthly) service will offer the content available on traditional linear TV with a great user experience and lower price points.
“We won’t roll a [service] truck. The CPE [customer premises equipment, or network, set-top box, etc.] will be cheaper and have lower operating costs,” Donovan told the MoffettNathanson Media & Communications Summit in New York.