DirecTV Launches Domestic 18-Channel Live TV Service on Delta Air Lines Widebody Planes

DirecTV is partnering with Delta Air Lines and Viasat satellite network for the launch of an 18-channel TV lineup on select Boeing 767-400 aircraft flying select long-haul domestic routes. The domestic live TV offering marks the first time a U.S.-based airline has integrated live television into seatback screens onboard its widebody planes, including breaking news and weather, and thousands of TV shows and movies.

Channels include: ABC, Bravo, CBS, CNBC, CNN, ESPN, ESPN2, Food Network, GOLF, FOX, HGTV, FOX News, HGTV, MSNBC, NBC, NFL Network, TBS, Telemundo, TNT, and USA.

“We are thrilled to make history being the first airline to offer this type of in-flight entertainment,” Doug Eichler, SVP, DirecTV business solutions, said in a statement.

Ekrem Dimbiloglu, managing director of in-flight entertainment and connectivity at Delta Air Lines, said the Atlanta-based carrier sees planes as the ultimate platform for entertainment and content discovery. DirecTV first began offering in-flight entertainment in 2000.

“This milestone brings us ever closer to ensuring that vision is reality on as many routes as possible,” Dimbiloglu said.

Delta is no stranger to Hollywood, with both Disney+ and Paramount+ offering streaming access aboard select flights.

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DirecTV Launches New ‘Gemini’ Set-Top Dongle, Hires Brian Cox to Sell It

Satellite TV operator DirecTV April 6 announced the rollout of a new set-top dongle and remote, the company’s first significant CE upgrade in 10 years. To help get the word out to consumers, the pay-TV operator has signed actor Brian Cox (“Succession”) as a blunt salesman in a new advertising campaign called “Overly Direct Spokesperson.”

Gemini provides users with an integrated Google voice remote to help them search their favorite apps such as HBO Max, Netflix and others while eliminating the need to switch between TV inputs.

“We’ve made it [easier] for satellite TV and internet customers to experience their home entertainment without switching TV inputs,” Vince Torres, chief marketing officer of DirecTV, said in a statement.

In the ad spots, Cox portrays a tough-as-nails truth-teller who just wants the best for consumers. The campaign highlights many of the major pain points consumers experience with cable TV, and how satellite delivers an elevated entertainment experience through its long-standing sports leadership (including more local Major League Baseball games than any pay-TV service), strong customer satisfaction rating from ASCI, and greater than 99% satellite signal reliability.

DirecTV is majority owned by AT&T, but operationally controlled by minority owner private investor group TPG Capital (formerly Texas Pacific Group), which acquired a 30% stake (and AT&T TV and U-verse) in 2021 for $1.8 billion in cash. AT&T bought DirecTV in 2015 for $48.5 billion.

DirecTV ended 2022 with 13.1 million subscribers.

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Dish CEO Believes Merger With DirecTV Possible After Political Elections

A possible merger between satellite TV operator Dish and DirecTV remains inevitable according to Dish co-founder/CEO Charlie Ergen. Speaking on a Nov. 2 fiscal call, Ergen said M&A activity between the two companies should ratchet up following the midterm elections.

“You’re hesitant to be a political football for somebody to complain about big companies during an election cycle,” Ergen said. “”But that election cycle is over next week.”

Specifically, Ergen believes that post-elections, corporations begin renewing possible M&A strategies with the next political election chatter not occurring for another 15 months.

Charlie Ergen

“If the timing was right [for a Dish/DirecTV] merger, it would be in the near-term rather than the longer term,” he said, adding that the synergies between the two companies remain on the table.

DirecTV is majority owned by AT&T, but operationally controlled by minority owner private investor group TPG Capital (formerly Texas Pacific Group), which acquired the 30% stake (and AT&T TV and U-verse) in 2021 $1.8 billion in cash. AT&T bought DirecTV in 2015 for $48.5 billion.

Both satellite TV operators have been hemorrhaging subscribers for years as consumer sentiment switches transitions toward over-the-top streaming video, including online TV.

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“In a declining industry, taking advantage of synergies is a rational strategy,” Ergen said.

He contends any legal objections to the merger have significantly eroded over time with the degradation of the linear TV business and competition from OTT businesses and proliferation of high-speed internet, or broadband.

“There’s not a home in America that can’t get broadband,” Ergen said, adding that the current pay-TV market remains under siege.

“We’ve seen viewership decline 15 years in a row on the networks and [carriage] retransmissions go up by 1,000%. That’s not sustainable,” he said.

Prime Video Inks NFL ‘Thursday Night Football’ Retail Business Distribution Deal With DirecTV

Amazon and DirecTV have entered into a multiyear agreement to offer Prime Video’s exclusive “Thursday Night Football” slate of games lineup to more than 300,000 sports bars, restaurants, hotel lounges, casinos and sports books, retail shops and services, and other venues nationwide.

Amazon has exclusive rights to “Thursday Night Football” across all media channels for the next 11 years, paying the NFL $1 billion annually for those rights.

“The sports media landscape continues to evolve rapidly, and the focus on delivering a great experience to our entire range of customers must remain at the center of that evolution,” Rob Thun, chief content officer at DirecTV, said in a statement.

The first TNF game available to commercial accounts through “DirecTV for Business” is the final NFL preseason matchup on Aug. 25 between the San Francisco 49ers at the Houston Texans. The agreement also includes the entire 15-game complement of regular season Thursday Night Football games, starting Sept. 15 when the Los Angeles Chargers visit the defending AFC West champion Kansas City Chiefs.

Any current DirecTV customers subscribing to Business Entertainment, Business Xtra, Commercial Entertainment, Commercial Xtra, Commercial Choice PLUS and the Spanish-language Commercial Mas Ultra will automatically receive this new Prime Video TNF feed for no additional cost. The new Prime Video content will reside on DirecTV channel 9526 adjacent to other major sports streaming services and events.

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Thursday Night Football Schedule:
Pregame Coverage Begins at 7 p.m. ET. Kickoff Time 8:15 p.m. ET.

Preseason Week 3 — Aug. 25: San Francisco 49ers at Houston Texans (NRG Stadium, Houston, TX)
Week 2 — Sept. 15: Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs (GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO)
Week 3 — Sept. 22: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns (FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, OH)
Week 4 — Sept. 29: Miami Dolphins at Cincinnati Bengals (Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH)
Week 5 — Oct. 6: Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos (Empower Field at Mile High, Denver, CO)
Week 6 — Oct. 13: Washington Commanders at Chicago Bears (Soldier Field, Chicago, IL)
Week 7 — Oct. 20: New Orleans Saints at Arizona Cardinals (State Farm Stadium, Glendale, AZ)
Week 8 — Oct. 27: Baltimore Ravens at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL)
Week 9 — Nov. 3: Philadelphia Eagles at Houston Texans (NRG Stadium, Houston, TX)
Week 10 — Nov. 10: Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers (Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC)
Week 11 — Nov. 17: Tennessee Titans at Green Bay Packers (Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI)
Week 13 — Dec. 1: Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots (Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA)
Week 14 — Dec. 8: Las Vegas Raiders at Los Angeles Rams (SoFi Stadium, Inglewood, CA)
Week 15 — Dec. 15: San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks (Lumen Field, Seattle, WA)
Week 16 — Dec. 22: Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Jets (MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ)
Week 17 — Dec. 29: Dallas Cowboys at Tennessee Titans (Nissan Stadium, Nashville, TN)

DirecTV Adds Fox Nation, Fox Weather Streaming Services

AT&T-owned DirecTV March 21 announced it has added Fox News Media’s subscription streaming video service, Fox Nation, across the satellite TV distributor’s platforms.

Conservative-leaning Fox Nation will now be available on DirecTV as a premium add-on, which began yesterday with plans to expand availability to DirecTV Stream this summer. Additionally, Fox Weather, the free ad-supported streaming television (FAST) weather service, is scheduled to debut on DirecTV Stream beginning March 29.

“We want to empower our customers with more capabilities in how they choose to watch the content they care about most,” Rob Thun, chief content Officer at DirecTV, said in a statement.

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The move comes after DirecTV dropped One America News Network (OANN), which critics contend has streamed conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 election.

DirecTV subscribers can add Fox Nation for $5.99 per month, which includes a 60-day free trial. Featuring nearly 5,000 hours of original content, Fox Nation’s range of programming includes original series (“Tucker Carlson Today,” “Tucker Carlson Originals,” “COPS,” “Crime Stories with Nancy Grace,” and “What Made America Great with Brian Kilmeade”) and curated programming featuring original and acquired content (the upcoming “Yellowstone One-Fifty” hosted by Kevin Costner, “Grateful Nation,” “Keep the Faith,” “Clint Eastwood: American Outlaw,” “Fox Justice,” “All American Christmas”). Additionally, subscribers will have access to Fox News Channel’s primetime shows on demand the next day with “Fox News Primetime All the Time,” as well as signature opinion programming such as “The Dan Bongino Show.”

Additionally, DirecTV Stream, plans to add Fox Weather beginning March 29 before Fox Nation joins its lineup in the coming months. Fox Weather launched in October 2021 with a team of more than 120 meteorologists. The service features a comprehensive suite of weather products with local, regional, and national reporting, in addition to live programming.

Utilizing multiple radar systems, including an immersive mobile 3D radar, Fox Weather offers viewers an innovative approach to forecasting, including coverage surrounding all weather patterns, from immediate to long-term.

Dish CEO Ergen (Again) Says DirecTV Merger ‘Inevitable’

On the heels of losing nearly 600,000 pay-TV subscribers in 2021, Dish CEO Charlie Ergen again advocated for his satellite TV operator’s business to merge with rival DirecTV Stream. Dish and DirecTV attempted to merge 20 years ago, but federal regulators cited the potential for a monopoly as a reason for their rejection.

But that was before over-the-top video, i.e., Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and Disney+, turned the pay-TV ecosystem on its ear. Dish ended 2021 with 8.2 million subscribers, about the same number of subs Dish had operating as EchoStar Communications in 2002. That was down from more than 8.8 million subs at the end of 2020. At its peak, Dish had more than 15 million subs.

Speaking on the Feb. 24 fiscal call, Ergen reiterated his view that a renewed merger with DirecTV makes a lot of sense in today’s pay-TV market.

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“I think it’s inevitable that Dish and DirecTV go together,” Ergen said. “Otherwise, both companies will just melt away, and there’ll be no service for customers. The regulatory reasons to not allow it, don’t exist anymore.”

AT&T, majority owner of DirecTV, a year ago spun off a minority stake/majority control of the business, including AT&T TV and U-verse pay-TV services, to private investment group TPG Capital for $16.25 billion. Merging the two platforms could result in $1 billion in cost savings.

Report: Dish, DirecTV Merger Getting Second Wind

U.S. satellite-based pay-TV operators Dish and DirecTV have oft been the speculation of a merger, with politics and government regulation impeding a deal. But with the satellite TV market continuing to decline due to ongoing consumer migration toward over-the-top video, the competing companies reportedly are keen again to consummate an agreement.

Indeed, DirecTV has seen a 40% drop in subscribers to 15 million from 25 million subs in 2017. Dish ended its most-recent fiscal period with 8.4 million subs — down from almost 9 million subs in the year-ago period.

DirecTV parent AT&T last year spun off a minority stake (and operational control) of the satellite operator, online platform AT&T TV and cable service U-verse to private equity firm TPG Capital for $8 billion. The consolidated companies were then rebranded DirecTV Stream.

“TPG is driving the conversations. They want their investment back,” a source close to the negotiations told The New York Post.

Dish founder/CEO Charlie Ergen has long advocated for a merger of the two companies — albeit on his terms.

“In terms of DirecTV and Dish, I mean obviously I think that those two companies go together, that’s inevitable,” he said on Dish’s most-recent fiscal call.

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Ergen believes that in the current market, regulatory concerns have been minimized due to the continued rollout of broadband nationwide and ongoing competition from programmers themselves launching streaming platforms. In 2020, the DOJ reportedly quashed a merger between DirecTV and Dish, citing 5G’s sputtering rollout nationwide.

The next-generation wireless format is seen as a competitive alternative against any possible satellite TV market control DirecTV and Dish might wield.

“I think it’s a timing issue more than anything else,” said Ergen, who reportedly wants a seat at the head of the table of the merged distributors.

Regardless, with satellite distribution dying in the U.S., a combined DirectTV/Dish unit would be preferred, especially for rural and RV customers dependent on satellite service.

“The FCC and DOJ would likely both conclude that having one strong satellite competitor is better than none at all — and the future is not terribly bright even together, but especially alone,” Craig Moffett, analyst with MoffettNathanson, told The Post.

Amazon Prime Video Eyeing NFL’s ‘Sunday Ticket’ Rights

With week one of the 2021-22 NFL season almost in the books, Amazon reportedly is in the hunt to expand upon its “Thursday Night Football” exclusive rights. After wresting the mid-week game rights from Fox, Amazon now wants “Sunday Ticket,” the out-of-market game package DirecTV has sold to subscribers for the past 27 years.

With AT&T spinning off DirecTV to a private equity group, and the satellite TV operator’s latest NFL agreement set to expire in 2022, the league is shopping the rights to interested parties for a reported $2.5 billion annual fee. DirecTV currently pays $1.5 billion a year.

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Few companies have the fiscal resources Amazon has entertain such as price tag. The e-commerce behemoth earlier this year agreed to pay the NFL $1 billion annually for 11 years for exclusive rights to “Thursday Night Football” on Prime Video. Other media giants expressing interest in “Sunday Ticket” include Apple and Disney-owned ESPN.

NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service is not expected to make a bid, according to CNBC, which originally broke the story. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told the network last week that the league was looking for unified streaming partner that would also be willing to invest in the league-owned NFL Network and NFL RedZone, the latter switching to live action when any team on offense is close to scoring.

Amazon has not officially commented on the negotiations, which remain ongoing.

DirecTV to Officially Switch to ‘DirecTV Stream’ Aug. 26 as Dish Merger Scuttlebutt Grows

Satellite TV operator DirecTV beginning Aug. 26 will officially switch its brand name to DirecTV Stream. The distributor, which AT&T sold a controlling minority stake of to private equity group TPG Capital earlier this year, is looking to capitalize on the streaming video phenomena birthed by Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu, and now driven as well by Disney+, HBO Max, Paramount+ and online TV.

“AT&T satellite, streaming or IP video customers will automatically keep their video service, any bundled wireless, Internet or HBO Max services, and associated discounts with no action needed,” Bill Morrow, CEO of DirecTV, said in a statement.

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The newly branded DirecTV Stream will become the single brand for video streaming services previously launched by AT&T, with the exception of HBO Max.

Regardless of the name change, media chatter about a merger between satellite operators Dish Network and DirecTV continues to gain steam. Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen contends that with AT&T unloading DirecTV to a private party, regulatory concerns about the two companies combining operations would appear to lessen.

“In terms of DirecTV and Dish, I mean obviously, I’ve said it the last year, I think that those two companies go together, that’s inevitable,” Ergen said on the most-recent fiscal call. “From a regulatory point of view, it is less objection to it because [of the] hundreds of billions of dollars of broadband deployment and continued competition from the programmers themselves in the marketplace.”

Both Dish and DirecTV have been hemorrhaging pay-TV subscribers for years as consumers migrate to over-the-top video alternatives. Dish saw its net sub base (including online platform Sling TV) dip below 10 million for the first time in the most recent quarter. AT&T pay-TV subs dropped 13% to 15.7 million.

“We’ll just have to wait and see whether there is a desire on their[TPG]  part to do that, but I think it’s a timing issue more than anything else,” Ergen said.

AT&T Closes DirecTV Spinoff, Video Services Branded DirecTV Stream

AT&T and TPG Capital have closed their transaction establishing a new company named DirecTV. The new company will own and operate the DirecTV, AT&T TV and U-verse video services previously owned and operated by AT&T.

The newly branded DirecTV Stream will become the single brand for video streaming services previously launched by AT&T, excluding HBO Max. The transition will happen later this month. As a part of the deal, AT&T satellite, streaming or IP video customers will automatically keep their video service, any bundled wireless, internet or HBO Max services, and associated discounts with no action needed.

Not included in the transaction are WarnerMedia’s HBO Max streaming platform and regional sports networks, both of which are part of the pending WarnerMedia-Discovery transaction; Vrio (AT&T’s Latin American video operations, which are being sold to Grupo Werthein); U-verse network assets; and AT&T’s Sky Mexico investment. DirecTV will continue to offer HBO Max to subscribers along with any bundled wireless or broadband services and associated customer discounts.

DirecTV had approximately 15.4 million premium video subscribers at the end of the second quarter of 2021.

AT&T contributed its U.S. video business unit to the new entity in exchange for preferred units as well as a 70% interest in the common units of DirecTV. TPG contributed approximately $1.8 billion in cash to DirecTV in exchange for preferred units and a 30% interest in common units of the new company.

The DirecTV board will include Bill Morrow, CEO of DirecTV, and voting board members Steve McGaw and Thaddeus Arroyo, appointed by AT&T; and David Trujillo and John Flynn, appointed by TPG.

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“This is a watershed moment for DirecTV as we return to a singular focus on providing a stellar video experience,” Morrow said in a statement. “Building on our recent momentum, we are well-positioned to bring unparalleled choice and value to all of our customers under one iconic brand, whether they beam it or stream it.”

At close, AT&T received $7.1 billion in cash ($7.6 billion net of approximately $470 million cash on hand) and transferred approximately $195 million of video business debt.