AT&T is eliminating the DirecTV Now brand name it uses for its struggling Internet-based TV service. DirecTV Now will become “AT&T TV Now” later this summer, AT&T announced today. DirecTV Now (the future “AT&T TV Now”) offers a bundle of linear TV channels, similar to traditional cable or satellite services, and AT&T said its core offering won’t be changed.
AT&T’s 2015 purchase of DirecTV, the nation’s largest satellite TV network, doesn’t seem to be paying off as AT&T hoped. AT&T launched DirecTV Now—a stripped-down, online-only version of DirecTV—in 2016, and it was immediately plagued by multiple outages, unexpected blackouts of live local sports games, and missing channels.
While the technical problems got sorted out, AT&T’s subscriber gains were short-lived. As we wrote last week, AT&T lost 946,000 TV subscribers in Q2 2019 after announcing a series of price increases.
The 946,000-subscriber loss consisted of a net loss of 778,000 subscribers in AT&T’s DirecTV satellite and U-verse wireline TV services, as well as 168,000 lost subscribers to DirecTV Now. The losses are much bigger when you look at the past year instead of just the past three months. Including all three services, AT&T’s total number of video subscribers dropped from 25.4 million in Q2 2018 to 22.9 million in Q2 2019. DirecTV Now subscribers dropped from 1.8 million to 1.3 million in the past year.
DirecTV satellite is still called DirecTV
While the streaming service is dropping the DirecTV brand, the satellite TV service will keep the DirecTV name, at least for the time being.
“We continue investing to enhance our satellite experience, and that brand remains unchanged today,” AT&T said in a statement to Ars.
AT&T said the actual DirecTV Now service will remain the same despite the name change. “Our DirecTV Now subscribers will simply need to re-accept the terms of service and their streaming will continue as usual without interruption,” AT&T said.
The name change comes as AT&T plans multiple new services to prop up its TV business, and it could get confusing for customers. The company will offer AT&T TV Now and AT&T TV—two separate services with near-identical names—from a single app called AT&T TV.
“In select markets this summer, we will pilot an all-new connected TV experience with no satellite needed—AT&T TV,” today’s announcement said. AT&T continued:
Both the AT&T TV and AT&T TV Now experiences will be accessed through the same AT&T TV app either on mobile or the big screen. Customer login credentials will determine what content appears. In the coming weeks, the AT&T TV app will be available for download across various app stores, and current DirecTV Now customers will see this update automatically on their devices. We’ll share more details on this rollout when it begins.
How AT&T TV will be different from AT&T TV Now isn’t totally clear. AT&T TV’s webpage says it will include “access to live TV, thousands of titles on demand, 500 hours of Cloud DVR, and access to other apps like Netflix and Pandora.” But the page doesn’t say how much it will cost.
Services like Netflix and Pandora would still require separate subscriptions, but AT&T will provide a set-top box that can access the apps. “AT&T TV comes with our 4K-enabled next-gen device and voice remote with the Google Assistant built-in,” the webpage also says.
AT&T TV sounds awfully similar to DirecTV Now (the future “AT&T TV Now”), even though they’re going to be separate services. Like the future AT&T TV, the current DirecTV Now has live TV, on-demand programming, and a cloud-based DVR. But DirecTV Now allows just 20 hours of cloud DVR recordings, compared to the 500 hours planned for AT&T TV. We assume there will be other differences in channel offerings and prices, but AT&T hasn’t revealed specifics yet.
In March of this year, AT&T raised the price of DirecTV Now for existing subscribers and reduced the number of channels new customers receive. The current version of DirecTV Now offers two plans that cost $50 or $70 a month, with extra charges for premium networks.
AT&T is facing a class-action complaint accusing it of lying to investors in order to hide DirecTV Now’s failure. AT&T told investors that DirecTV Now was succeeding even as its subscriber base fell due to price increases and the discontinuance of promotional discounts, the lawsuit alleges.
AT&T TV, HBO Go, HBO Max, U-verse, DirecTV etc.
AT&T also offers WatchTV, a $15 streaming plan with 35 channels, and multiple HBO-branded services thanks to AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner Inc. The other big release planned by AT&T is HBO Max, which is coming in spring 2020 and will combine the HBO library with other Time Warner content.
Including today’s services and future launches, Wall Street Journal reporter Drew FitzGerald pointed out on Twitter that AT&T will be offering TV shows through HBO Go, HBO Max, HBO Now, AT&T TV Now, AT&T TV, AT&T WatchTV, AT&T U-verse, and DirecTV. We already mentioned most of these services in this article. The others are HBO Go, an online service for people who buy HBO through their cable or satellite TV provider, and HBO Now, which is similar but purchased directly from HBO for $15 a month.