AT&T has ended months (in some cases years) of speculation and has rebranded its DIRECTV NOW streaming product. DIRECTV NOW launched in late 2016 as a full-service streaming alternative to the DIRECTV satellite service. Although subscription numbers were brisk at first, the entire live streaming category has suffered in the last year.
Live streaming is expensive compared to subscription video on demand (SVOD) services like Netflix, and that has made it hard for the service to catch on. Today, in a purely marketing-focused move, AT&T has taken a step to move away from the last three years of DIRECTV NOW stories by rebranding the service.
AT&T TV NOW is the same service, the same app, and the same pricing. (Edit: pricing may drop in the future, according to some sources.) However the name and icon have changed. You’ll start to see the new icon on any device that currently runs DIRECTV NOW and you’ll be prompted to re-accept the terms and conditions when you launch the new app. You’ll probably also be required to login, so it’s time to dig out that piece of paper where you wrote down the password you set up three years ago.
A little bit about the hardware that’s been rumored
The AT&T TV NOW site says,
In select markets this summer, we will pilot an all-new connected TV experience with no satellite needed – AT&T TV.
There have been other statements and a number of people have come forth to break their non-disclosure agreements about the supposed new hardware and changes to the device. A quick google search will lead you to a lot of rumors about that stuff. However, I think we can at least talk about what’s being said officially here.
Obviously there will be some sort of device, and it will run some sort of service called AT&T TV. It will not be called (as some suspected) U-Verse. That name is definitely on its way out. It also seems clear from other statements made by AT&T management that this will be an internet-connected device, not an IPTV box like U-Verse. In other words, it will work on anyone’s internet service rather than being controlled by a local server over dedicated AT&T lines.
Beyond that I think we have to wait and see what we get.
Why I think this name change is a good thing
DIRECTV Satellite and DIRECTV NOW … I understand the desire to capitalize on a good name. But it did create confusion in the marketplace. There were people who thought you needed both, and people who didn’t understand what was better about each. I think the DIRECTV brand is incredibly strong but it didn’t make sense for the streaming space. AT&T is a brand that’s associated with wireless and internet, and I think that name seems to be a little more resonant with people who want that.
After all though, in the end it’s just a name. I don’t think it’s going to drive people away and it may be easier to market as part of an overall general AT&T strategy. So, it’s a good way to go.
Now, the off-topic question:
I have to wonder where this leaves DIRECTV Satellite in relationship to its streaming ability. Other providers like Comcast and Spectrum have apps for streaming boxes. In their cases the apps only work on their hosted networks, but you can use those apps essentially as cable boxes. You can watch recorded programming as well as live TV on them.
DIRECTV has such an app of course but it only works on phones and tablets, not on streaming boxes. Conventional wisdom has been that adding the app to a streaming box would make it too easy to crack DIRECTV’s legendary encryption.
Except, that doesn’t seem to make sense in 2019. Clearly AT&T has live streaming video and on-demand programming through AT&T TV NOW that isn’t a massive security risk. Plus, there have been rumors over the last several years that AT&T has been consolidating its delivery methods so that its streaming and satellite-delivered video are much more similar.
So, with “DIRECTV NOW” out of the picture, maybe can it be time for a “DIRECTV GO” app?
In other words, a version of the DIRECTV app for phones that runs on a streaming box. This is a twist on the idea of the DIRECTV Ready TV, but instead of relying on a DVR, it would stream the same content from AT&T’s servers the way the phone app does. You wouldn’t get every single channel but you would get a lot of them.
I get that in this scenario the company wouldn’t be able to charge for a client box in each room. Some people would opt to use the streaming box instead of a client box. That’s a big issue. But I think the idea of having a streaming box app is important to people. It seems like DIRECTV is behind other providers in this case. I think it’s one of those things you just have to have.
With DIRECTV NOW out of the way, I hope that AT&T ports the DIRECTV app to Apple TV and other popular streaming boxes. I think the time has finally come.