Ah, the rumor mill. Head on over to one of the longstanding enthusiast forums for a few minutes. You’ll hear stories of how DIRECTV’s full satellite lineup is coming to the internet. Not the abbreviated version that you see with DIRECTV NOW, but every single channel. Heck, I’ve speculated about it myself. There are some very committed people who say we’ll see it before the end of 2018.
Only one problem: 2018’s ending soon.
Personally I have no reason to think we’ll see DIRECTV’s full satellite TV lineup available over the internet anytime soon. I’ve heard nothing through back channels, I haven’t been in any confidential conference rooms, and the people I talk to… aren’t talking about it.
We’re pretty much three-quarters through 2018 and you would think if it was going to happen, you would have seen some sort of movement on it at this point. Some sort of beta program would be out there and someone would have leaked it. That’s how those things go. So, I feel pretty comfortable saying that you won’t see the full DIRECTV Satellite experience over a wire this year.
Will it ever happen?
Yeah, actually I think it might. AT&T is still dealing with legacy U-Verse installations all throughout the country. They’re in long-term contracts and if they stopped delivering TV those contracts would be in jeopardy. Yet, they don’t want to support the aging U-Verse infrastructure. It wasn’t that good back in 2014 which is the last time it was updated at all. It’s certainly nowhere near state-of-the-art now.
What is state-of-the-art, though, at least in some areas, is the internet infrastructure. There’s plenty of capacity for internet video baked into some of the newer installs. Even better, AT&T plans to start working on “fixed wireless” 5G to the home that will open up even more capacity. So replacing U-Verse with DIRECTV-over-IP could make sense there.
Which means, it might be available, just not for you. If it’s strictly a replacement for U-Verse, it’s not going to go out to regular customers.
How will they do it?
That’s the real question right? DIRECTV NOW and other live streaming services rely on the ability to deliver a single channel to the each device over the internet. That’s not how satellite TV does it. If you’re going to keep things as simple as possible, you would want a device that captures video over the internet and feeds it into an existing DIRECTV SWM infrastructure. Unfortunately that would require four separate streams, each one about 500Mbps. AT&T’s internet backbone probably has that much bandwidth to spare, but that could put a crimp in their expansion plans.
In order to get out of providing a real-time 2Gbps stream to each home 24/7, they would have to engineer some other way to get the signal into the home without re-engineering too much equipment. Using the U-Verse video pathways wouldn’t give you enough room for every channel. That, in fact, is the problem with U-Verse as it sits today.
“Forward facing statements”
For those who want to reply that someone over at AT&T said it was going to happen in some speech, yeah I heard that too. But then with any statement made by any head of any large company, it could just as likely turn out to be wrong. As I understand the law, these people can’t intentionally lie or mislead anyone in a way that would affect the stock price. But if they personally believe it’s going to happen… even if it doesn’t… that’s ok.
My own personal forecast?
I personally don’t think we’ll see the entire DIRECTV experience over satellite. I think that some of it will be trimmed. It may only be the shopping channels or pay-per-view or the international packages. Those are all important but not as important as the central, basic, DIRECTV experience. That would make it more possible to provide the rest of the signals with only minor hardware changes to the home experience. That seems like a good way to keep AT&T’s current U-Verse customers coming back for a while.