AT&T readies DirecTV Now launch without CBS or Fox

Image: AT&T

As AT&T gets set to launch its big virtual MVPD play, DirecTV now, it’s apparently doing so without key channels from CBS Corp. and 21st Century Fox in its bundle. 

According to MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett, AT&T has reached agreements with all major content suppliers except CBS Corp. 

“There is some contention over whether or not a Fox agreement has been reached – some reports citing AT&T suggest that it has; Fox itself said that it had not formally reached an agreement,” Moffett added in a report (reg. req.) published late last week. 

Without these deals, DirecTV Now would launch without two of the four major broadcast networks.

RELATED: DirecTV Now to launch November 4, won’t work on Roku, intercepted memo says

Last week, the website Satellite Guys said it intercepted an internal AT&T memo indicating a Nov. 4 launch date for DirecTV Now. An AT&T representative later told FierceCable that date is incorrect. AT&T officials had said earlier that the launch would occur sometime in November.

Responding to FierceCable, the AT&T rep noted that "this what we've announced to datge: Disney, HBO, Discovery Networks, NBCU, Turner, Scripps Networks, Starz, AMCN, AETN and Viacom will be among the more than 100 channels launching on DirectTV Now."

Agreements with the latter two content companies will impact the margins AT&T receives on its service, which will debut with a $35 consumer price point.

According to Moffett, using SNL Kagan cost estimates for networks, AT&T’s wholesale price for its DirecTV Now programming comes in at around $26 per subscriber.

“Including CBS and Fox, which we believe will ultimately be included in the bundle once the deals are reached, programming costs will be near $34,” he said. 

Factoring in things like leased HD DVRs, margins for DirecTV’s traditional satellite TV service come in at around $60 a subscriber, Moffett added. 

“AT&T’s aim is, of course, to minimize cannibalization of existing subscribers (and minimize piracy and password sharing), so the new service will be limited to a single stream, reducing its attractiveness as a substitute for linear packages that serve whole households,” he said. “Still, there will inevitably be some cannibalization. Indeed, AT&T itself acknowledged that any truly disruptive video product will bring with it significant cannibalization risk. Obviously, the more aggressive the price, the higher the cannibalization.”