AT&T is planning a major upgrade to its DirecTV Now streaming TV service, and improvements will likely include a streamlined user interface, support for pay-per-view events, cloud DVR service and the ability for customers to conduct multiple, simultaneous video streams.
And, AT&T’s CFO said, the upgrade will allow AT&T to make more money from DirecTV Now. “With all those opportunities go additional opportunities to raise revenues, and revenues that customers would be willing to pay for and improve the quality of the service,” CFO John Stephens said during the operator’s recent quarterly conference call with analysts, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript of the event.
Stephens hinted at AT&T’s planned DirecTV Now upgrade during the operator’s quarterly conference call. But the analysts at Wells Fargo offered more details on it in a report they released this week after meeting with AT&T’s investor relations team.
“DTV Now 2.0 is coming,” the Wells Fargo analysts wrote. “Importantly, this will streamline the User Interface (UI) for the customer (T currently has different UIs for DTV, DTV Now, U-verse and Sunday Ticket). This upgrade will also likely bring with it some additional functionality (i.e. Cloud DVR, additional streams, etc.). Timing is expected in Q1'18 (when we expect T will also own a lot more content and have some anchor tenants to build around DTV Now...yes even with today’s headlines).”
The analysts were referring to a report from the Wall Street Journal this week that the Department of Justice is preparing to potentially block AT&T’s planned merger with Time Warner with a lawsuit. However, the analysts said that the operator still expects to close its merger with Time Warner despite the WSJ report.
AT&T has said it will use Time Warner’s content to bolster its offerings, including its DirecTV Now streaming TV service.
In his comments during AT&T’s quarterly earning call, Stephens said that the operator is also looking to improve its data insights, in order to understand what types of content its customers are watching. And he said the company plans to use that information to improve its own marketing efforts, as well as grow its digital ad insertion and digital advertising business.
But Stephens added that AT&T’s spending to improve and upgrade its DirecTV Now service did impact the operator’s margins, alongside other activities such as its promotions.
AT&T said it lost around 390,000 linear pay TV subscribers across its DirecTV and U-verse platforms in the third quarter. However, the carrier said it was able to add 300,000 new customers to its new DirecTV Now platform during the period, bringing AT&T’s total DirecTV Now subscriber base to roughly 800,000.
That’s a notable figure considering AT&T launched DirecTV Now late last year as a way to break into the streaming TV market and counter customer losses on its traditional satellite and wired pay TV services. DirecTV Now is available on a wide range of devices across any internet connection, not just those connections owned by AT&T. AT&T’s launch of DirecTV Now puts the carrier alongside YouTube TV, Hulu, Sling TV and other so-call virtual MVPDs.