DIRECTV seems on track to launch its streaming services, and as we said back in March, there will be three of them. At least one will be free, and the top tier, known as “DIRECTV Now,” will be the richest streaming experience yet. Some good news came to us over the weekend, as it seems that HBO content will be part of the service when it launches. Why is this such a big surprise?
Sidebar: I’ve noticed that AT&T always seems to send out their press releases after business hours and often on Friday afternoon. It’s almost like they don’t want to be part of the daily news cycle.
It’s not a big surprise considering the long history that Time Warner, parent company of HBO, has had with DIRECTV and USSB (a companion service to DIRECTV purchased by DIRECTV in 1998.) But the most important thing to realize here is that HBO is very choosy about its partners; some content is available on Sling TV but no other streaming service offers current HBO content. DIRECTV Now is expected to be the best way to get HBO content without buying a full-price HBO Now subscription.
You see, DIRECTV is taking a very different approach to its streaming service. If you stream a lot currently, you know that you end up paying a lot of different companies (and probably stealing passwords for others) to create a good entertainment experience. If you have a streaming box with universal search, you can probably find things easily, but you’re still jumping a lot from app to app just to watch the things you want. This is true even with Sling TV, arguably the most full-featured streaming service and the one that most closely resembles traditional TV. DIRECTV Now is expected to be as close to watching TV as you can get, with a lot of live content, possibly over 100 live streams at launch. Now we know that at least one premium service has signed on, meaning you’ll have less of a need to give your credit card information to anyone else. It should all be there for you in one easy-to-use package.
I remember when DIRECTV first launched, you used it for “basic” channels, you used an antenna for locals, and you used USSB for premiums. This was still a step up from traditional satellite TV where you had to aim the dish for every different satellite and somehow know where they all were. It wasn’t until right around 2000 when DIRECTV really took off by offering a “one-stop” approach that put more channels than anyone else right at your fingertips with a single remote and no switching back and forth. I think they’re looking to take the fragmented world of streaming and dominate it the way they dominate pay television, using the same strategy. They want to be the one and only app you’ll need.
Will it work? The landscape’s a little different than it was back then and unless there’s some sort of unexpected agreement, you’ll still probably want a Netflix subscription because their original content won’t be on DIRECTV Now. Neither will Amazon’s, if that stuff interests you. Still, with a robust package that includes HBO and will probably include Starz, you’ll certainly be able to find a lot of what you’re looking for without leaving that single app. That should entice older cord-cutters looking for a simple experience.
There still hasn’t been an announcement about what platforms will support DIRECTV now but you should definitely expect the most popular streaming boxes. That simply makes sense. Despite its history, I’d also expect iOS and Android to get the app at pretty much the same time.
Personally, I can’t wait.