DEBUNKING THE BLOGS: Will AT&T drop the DIRECTV name?

It’s time for another episode of… “One guy says one thing and the internet explodes.” The other day, The Wall Street Journal reported that AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson is reviewing every aspect of the DIRECTV acquisition. When asked about keeping the DIRECTV name, Mr. Stephenson agreed that it was one of the things he was reviewing.

And then then blogs exploded. It was as if Kim Kardashian herself had balanced an HR44 on her hindside.

Once again, we have a case where a small number of words were used to create a large amount of chaos and let me tell you folks, it’s not justified. When it comes to TV, DIRECTV is a much better recognized brand than AT&T. DIRECTV has ten times the subscriber base of AT&T U-Verse and the highest customer satisfaction numbers in the industry. A smart CEO doesn’t just throw that away. There’s a lot of value built into the DIRECTV name and Mr. Stephenson must know that considering the amount he’s considering paying for the service. He’s not going to endanger it.

It was revealed earlier that even if the sale goes through DIRECTV will continue to operate largely independently for the short term. The transition between having two companies and having one will take time. If that’s the case, then really the name on the equipment isn’t the point. The point is that the winning team that provides the best entertainment experience isn’t going anywhere.

Let’s look at the facts: The company today known as AT&T was once known as SBC, and traces its roots to a company called Southwestern Bell. It was one of the original “Baby Bells” broken off from AT&T by force when the US government ruled that AT&T was too big to stay intact. It bought up other business units and by the time it came to buying AT&T’s assets, the original company was a shadow of its former self. Yet when the sale went through, the new company was called AT&T because the owners decided on a name that had better marketability. What makes the blogosphere think this is going to be any different?

Personally, if all my equipment said AT&T I wouldn’t care because it’s not about the logo. It’s about what’s inside. That’s why I’m not at all worried about the purchase of DIRECTV by AT&T, and not at all worried about a possible (yet in my opinion extremely unlikely) name change. I certainly am not going to lose sleep over an offhand comment made in the context of a ton of questions that can’t be answered publicly. All Mr. Stephenson said is that nothing is out of the question. That doesn’t imply a course of action or a timeline. It’s just a way for a person to deflect a line of questioning that isn’t productive and move on to something else.

I will say this however, the amount of brand loyalty being shown to the DIRECTV name in the face of this non-statement is certainly enough to give Mr. Stephenson cause to consider the effects of a name change carefully, and that may be his sole reason for having made the comment in the first place. One doesn’t rise to the level of CEO of a multinational conglomerate without at least a little bit of intelligence.