Mobile carrier AT&T plans to launch three pay-TV choices this year to stream DirecTV, the latest company chasing people who have turned their backs on pricey TV packages.
AT&T didn’t provide details on prices or the specific programming included with each tier, except for one: a free, ad-supported level with some regular shows and digital-era content (in other words, think YouTube) like that through its Otter Media joint venture with media mogul Peter Chernin.
It puts AT&T in the crowd of traditional television providers hoping to minimize the hit from cord cutters by courting them. The trend, in which people who eschew a high-price pay-TV subscription for online alternatives instead, is shaking confidence in the business of bundling hundreds of channels into one big package.
With cord-cutting gaining momentum, companies like AT&T, Dish and Cablevision are rolling out programs and services that make it easier to watch programming online — even if it’s less lucrative for now.
Tuesday, AT&T said it would launch three “affordable” video offerings in the last three months of this year. Subscribers can stream content on any of these tiers no matter what company links their device or home to the Internet — without yearly contracts, satellite dishes or set-top boxes required.
Though details were vague, the most inclusive was DirecTV Now, which the company said would “offer a range of content packages, including much of what is available from DirecTV today” only delivered by the Internet. The product may be similar to Dish’s SlingTV, launched last year, which lets people stream live TV from small clusters of channels for a monthly fee starting at $20.
The second, DirecTV Mobile, is designed for people who want to watch “premium” video and made-for-digital content (again, think YouTube) on a smartphone primarily.
The final offering, DirectTV Preview, would be free for anyone to watch by sitting through ads. It will include some DirecTV programming but will include content from AT&T’s Audience Network, a channel of DirecTV originals; and “millennial-focused” video from Otter Media, which has invested in companies like YouTube network Fullscreen and anime-focused online service Crunchyroll.
The offering sounds similar to Verizon’s Go90, a free, online video app.
“These new video subscription models reflect the flexible content choices, viewing options and simple, transparent pricing that consumers want,” said John Stankey, the CEO of AT&T Entertainment Group. “These offers will provide a broad range of customers with greater freedom and choice to watch, binge and even buy premium content, regardless of how and where they enjoy their entertainment.”
AT&T will continue to provide DirectTV’s regular satellite-TV service, and it will also will continue to offer its much smaller U-verse TV and Internet service, it said.