DirecTV Now, AT&T’s much-anticipated over-the-top streaming service that targets the legions of Americans who have fled their cable companies, is launching on Nov. 30 with four pricing plans starting at $35 a month, the company announced Monday.
The plans are: “Live a Little,” which costs $35 a month for more than 60 channels; “Just Right,” which is $50 a month for more than 80 channels; “Go Big,” $60 a month for more than 100 channels; and “Gotta Have it,” which costs $70 a month for more than 120 channels. AT&T is offering a promotional $35 monthly rate for its “Go Big” package for consumers who sign up for it now. They can be grandfathered into the rate as long as they keep the package (barring routine programming increases).
HBO and Cinemax can be had for an additional $5/month each. CBS and Showtime are not yet available on DirecTV Now, but AT&T representatives speaking at the launch event said the company is working on adding them soon. ABC, NBC and Fox local channels are only available in markets where they are owned and operated by the broadcast network itself, and there’s no DVR. Also, since Verizon holds NFL mobile rights, DirecTV’s popular Sunday Ticket package isn’t on DirecTV Now.
Cell phone customers of AT&T who sign up for DirecTV Now will get a major perk: data used by the service doesn’t count against what’s allocated in their plans, so they can stream video without worrying about the wi-fi.
AT&T unveiled some other promotional offers, such as giving out a free Apple TV for customers who pre-buy three months of the service. Customers can walk out with the Apple TV if they sign up at retail locations. They can also claim a free Amazon Fire TV stick with a one-month prepay. In addition, Chinese tech conglomerate LeEco is offering several months of DirecTV Now for free with the purchase of select models of its smart TVs and smartphones.
And to further tap into a younger customer base, AT&T unveiled a streaming content partnership with Taylor Swift, which will be available on DirecTV, DirecTV Now and U-verse, and one with Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine, set to debut in mid-2017.
AT&T announced two other video streaming services, FreeVIEW and Fullscreen. FreeVIEW has on-demand content from AT&T-backed ventures such as the Audience Network and Otter Media, and Fullscreen is a streaming video on demand service launched earlier this year that AT&T is now offering free for one year for wireless subscribers.
Last month, AT&T agreed to acquire Time Warner, which owns cable channels including CNN, HBO and TNT, for $85.4 billion in the biggest media deal in 16 years. In a conference call after the deal was announced, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes talked about the importance of bringing premium TV content to customers who increasingly want to take it with them — and increasingly balk at hefty cable fees, to the detriment of media networks like Disney’s ESPN. Company executives said they’re targeting exactly those customers.
“We developed it with the mindset that it has to be mobile,” AT&T Entertainment Group CEO John Stankey said on stage at the New York event, calling DirecTV Now “rules-free TV.”
AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson revealed the introductory $35 price tag at a conference in Laguna Beach, California last month, which compares favorably with many of the other streaming options on the market. Dish Network’s Sling TV — which just announced a cloud DVR service — has a basic package that costs $20 a month, but it includes fewer than 30 channels. Sling’s premium tier carries about 50 channels and costs $40. Sony’s PlayStation Vue service also has a package with more than 100 channels, but it costs $54.99 a month. Hulu, which is partially owned by Time Warner, is launching its own live-TV streaming service next year, but a price has not been named.