AT&T expands DirecTV Now discount to more wireless customers

AT&T is bundling DirecTV Now with its unlimited wireless plans at a discounted price.

AT&T said it will expand its DirecTV Now discount to more of its wireless customers. Specifically, the carrier said that it will offer the discounts to its wireless customers on its $60-per-month unlimited data plan in addition to its $90-per-month unlimited plan.

As a result, AT&T will offer its DirecTV Now service bundled with its "Unlimited Choice" wireless plan for a total of $70 per month for a single line of service. AT&T's Unlimited Choice plan costs $60 per month and limits speeds to 3 Mbps and video streams to 480p quality; AT&T customers who bundle that Unlimited Choice plan with DirecTV Now service will receive a $25 per month credit—thus, AT&T's Unlimited Choice customers can add DirecTV Now's 60 streaming channels for an extra $10 per month.

“Customers shouldn’t settle for plain-old unlimited plans," David Christopher, chief marketing officer, AT&T Entertainment Group, said in the company's official announcement. “We’re giving customers entertainment where, when and how they want it.”

No contract is required, the company emphasized.

The action is noteworthy for cable pay-TV providers and others as it represents AT&T's continued efforts to expand sales of its DirecTV Now service—potentially stealing pay-TV customers from other operators.

AT&T previously offered the DirecTV Now discount only to its Unlimited Plus customers; those customers pay $90 per month but their speeds aren't throttled and their video quality is not constrained.

Since launching DirecTV Now last fall, AT&T has leveraged its wireless status to boost signups on the TV side. DirecTV Now customer growth came out of the gate strong, hitting internal company projections in just two days, but those 300,000-plus subs right out of the gate also brought a host of tech struggles, the company has conceded.

Further, a Bloomberg report last week said the service shed subscribers in February and had a flat March ahead of a major marketing push with ads featuring Mark Wahlberg. That slowing growth in DirecTV Now may have spurred AT&T executives to extend the company's DirecTV Now discount from its Unlimited Plus plans to its Unlimited Choice plans. (It's unclear how many Unlimited Choice and Unlimited Plus customers AT&T has; the carrier does not disclose those figures.) 

However, in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Brad Bentley, executive VP of marketing for AT&T Entertainment Group, said the company is pleased with the progress of its DirecTV Now efforts through the first six months.

"This is not a hobby," he said. "We have learned a lot ... about how to optimize [new subscriptions] and improve satisfaction and going after the right kind of customers. Like in any new business, you learn a lot. We have been very pleased, though, with the performance. From the subscriber standpoint, we are ahead of our targets for the quarter and for the year."

Bentley said deep discounts on HBO, which DirecTV Now has offered at just $5 a month, has been a growth driver.