Wow, the world changes quickly. It was just about three years ago that we first started talking about AT&T buying DIRECTV. Back then it was the cause of a lot of speculation, and if you read what I wrote back then, it’s actually pretty close to the way things have happened. AT&T still rules in wireless infrastructure but they’re getting rid of their homegrown video product, and DIRECTV brought technical expertise and critical contracts that have allowed the company to continue growing in a very mature market where most competitors are shrinking.
Not only that, but changes in the regulatory environment have made it possible to have a live TV service that’s practically free (if you bundle it with AT&T’s Unlimited Plus plan) and doesn’t count toward your mobile data caps, even if you don’t have an unlimited plan. That’s the kind of corporate synergy that I like to see.
In the early days it wasn’t clear exactly how the deal would shake out, how many people would lose jobs and how much the whole communications industry would be affected. A few years later and we see that the new company is very stable, the dealer network is still intact and stronger than ever, and the layoffs have been pretty minimal. Not only that there’s been relatively little disruption, especially compared to high-profile deals like Time Warner Cable, Bright House and Charter all becoming Spectrum or Verizon divesting its west coast residential operations to Frontier. In those two cases, massive customer service interruptions, billing problems, and service outages were the norm for months until things settled down a few months in.
The AT&T/DIRECTV deal took a long time to close but in hindsight that may have been a good thing because it gave both teams a lot of time to plan for the future. The transition has been smoother than anyone expected and for all those who thought that DIRECTV would turn into a low-rent copy of U-Verse TV, they’ve been pleasantly surprised.