AT&T started taking signups Monday for its newest streaming video service, AT&T TV. This OTT offering’s channel lineups and pricing approximate those of its DirecTV satellite service—but with much narrower initial availability than that older product’s near-nationwide footprint.
All 10 of AT&T TV’s opening markets are covered by the Dallas-based telecommunication giant’s residential broadband: Orange and Riverside in California; West Palm Beach in Florida; Topeka and Wichita, Kansas; St. Louis and Springfield in Missouri; and Corpus Christi, El Paso and Odessa in Texas.
By early 2020, however, AT&T plans to make AT&T TV available nationwide.
AT&T TV pricing starts at $59.99 a month—for the first year of a two-year contract—for an Entertainment bundle of typical expanded-basic-cable-bundle fare but without regional sports networks.
Plusher packages adding RSNs and other channels raise that promotional cost to as much as $79.99 a month. Premium channels such as Showtime and HBO cost $11 to $15 extra.
AT&T TV—not to be confused with AT&T TV Now, its rebranding of the DirecTV Now OTT service—includes 500 hours of cloud DVR and one required Android TV-based receiver. Additional boxes cost $10 a month per set.
A spot check at an Anaheim, Calif., address revealed that after the first 12 months, the entry-level Entertainment bundle would hit $93 a month. Opting for a bundle of AT&T TV and 50-Mbps broadband yielded first-year costs of $89.99 and second-year rates of $133 a month. Both estimates warned of taxes and fees but did not disclose exact figures prior to the entry of billing info.
An AT&T publicist did not respond to a request for clarification.
Local-channel availability seems to exhibit the same limits as other OTT services. AT&T TV’s site showed NBC affiliates unavailable in sample Wichita, Topeka, and El Paso zip codes; Fox affiliates weren’t on the menu in Topeka and Springfield zip codes; ABC’s Odessa affiliate was also unlisted at a zip code there.
In an email, TV[R]EV lead analyst Alan Wolk criticized AT&T’s overlapping online video options.
“It seems to stem from their phone company heritage where a variety of confusing and seemingly overlapping plans was par for the course,” he said. He pointed to the simpler, easier-to-read offerings at Hulu and YouTube as a better model: “That underscores their commitment to having a great user experience and strong customer service.”
Wolk did, however, note that AT&T’s hardware could boost the prospects of its Xandr advertising subsidiary. “Having their own box seems like a way for them to expand Xander’s partnership with Comscore (Comscore collects set top box data) and use that to sell addressable advertising across all AT&T properties,” he wrote.
AT&T TV’s launch follows some massive video-subscriber defections for the company, which reported second-quarter losses of 778,000 from its DirecTV and U-verse legacy services and a further 168,000 from DirecTV Now.