AT&T watchers have been waiting to see what it will do with DirecTV now that the companies are united, turning the telco into the world’s largest pay TV provider. That makes the announcement today of what it calls the first nationwide combo wireless phone and TV package interesting, even if it was predictable.
AT&T hopes to lure customers from cable and Dish Network by offering promotional bargains beginning August 10 to people who are new to DirecTV, its wired U-verse service (in 21 states), or its wireless phone platform — and subscribe to both TV and phone. Satellite and phone companies have jointly sold their services, but AT&T is the first to do so across the country with phone and TV under the same corporate roof.
This is “the first of many planned moves to enable our customers to enjoy a premium entertainment experience almost anywhere,” AT&T Entertainment and Internet Services Chief Marketing Officer Brad Bentley says.
The company is pushing the TV Everywhere angle: AT&T says that reps at its more than 2,000 retail stores will help new DirecTV customers install and sign in to its app so they can watch shows on their mobile devices as soon as they sign up, without having to wait for the satellite dish to be installed at home.
Many programmers — and even cable system backers including Liberty Media’s John Malone — have complained that cable and satellite companies were too slow to back TV Everywhere, and still make the sign-in process too complicated.
AT&T says the new plans will simplify TV and wireless phone purchasing, and offer a bargain. For example, new DirecTV and U-verse customers can pay $200 a month for basic service (DirecTV Select or U-verse U-Family) to four DVR-equipped receivers, and have four wireless lines with unlimited talk and text, and 10GB of shareable wireless data.
But even a simplified offering can become complicated when you look at the different levels of available TV and wireless broadband services — and the fine print. The satellite discount requires new customers to sign a two-year contract, while wired has one-year. Users who want out before then will face pro-rated early termination fees of up to $480 for DirecTV and $180 for U-verse. Service prices can change after the first year.
Current DirecTV and U-serve customers who switch from a wireless phone competitor to AT&T qualify for a $100 bill credit when they buy a smartphone on AT&T Next and a $200 trade in credit when they turn over a “good working trade-in smartphone.”
AT&T says it has more than 55 million customers in the U.S., Latin America, and the Caribbean. It also has more than 132 million wireless subs and connections in the U.S. and Mexico.