He offered few details about the offering, but says that it will include “new capabilities, integrated products, and pricing” that will build on the telco’s DirecTV, and rights to 40 Mhz of contiguous airwave spectrum. It also complies with the FCC’s net neutrality rules, which AT&T and other broadband providers are challenging at the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in D.C.
Stephenson teased that AT&T wants to reach value-conscious consumers — including about 30 million who don’t subscribe to pay TV.
“Putting together a bundle of DirecTV content they can acquire over a mobile device or a single screen in the home: that is something we are very interested in…You should assume we’re doing something.”
He adds that AT&T has “a lot of irons in the fire” in programming — especially in its Otter Media joint venture with Peter Chernin. “We’re developing some unique and exciting things” that could go to DirecTV or mobile customers.
DirecTV has been dabbling with original programming, including series such as You Me Her.”They’re not at the level of Netflix content,” Stephenson says. He adds, though, that AT&T might “do more of that.”
Since it bought the No. 1 satellite company this year “we have as robust an entertainment portfolio as any over-the-top provider.”
The CEO says that AT&T offers DirecTV customers opportunities to use mobile devices out of the home to watch past and current seasons of shows on premium networks including HBO, Showtime, and Starz, and basic services from A+E and Viacom. It also has live sports with ESPN, TNT, and NFL Sunday Ticket.
Cable companies including Comcast have said that they might try to compete by introducing mobile services with devices that primarily use WiFi but also — by virtue of a deal with Verizon — can piggy back on a national cell network.
“They need it” to keep up with consumers who increasingly watch video out of the home, Stephenson says. But “it’s going to be tough to come into this space without owner’s economics.”
The AT&T chief says that his company and others feel burdened by the FCC’s net neutrality rules. The agency “has succeeded in creating a first rate jumbled mess” with its effort to promote competition.
The telco and other opponents are challenging the FCC’s authority to regulate wireless broadband, interconnection agreements, and last mile connections. “If any one piece of it is invalidated, our question is: Does the whole thing collapse of its own weight?”
Meanwhile, Stephenson says, “we are undoubtedly going to be in a state of limbo” until there’s a final ruling on the matter — which could run into 2017.