Just a scant five years ago, AT&T made the official announcement of its streaming service. At the time, they called it DIRECTV NOW. Today, it’s called AT&T TV and you can get it from Signal Connect by calling 888-233-5834. The most interesting thing about that announcement wasn’t really DIRECTV NOW though. It was the other services that… never happened.
Yep, There were going to be three services, not just one. And the other two never launched. Well one of them sort of did, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
There was going to be a phone-only app called DIRECTV Mobile. This was going to be a low-end app that everyone could use, but it would only work on your phone. Given how Quibi crashed and burned, it’s probably good that they didn’t do that.
And then there was going to be this app called DIRECTV Preview. I think this was intended to show people what they could get if they paid more. But honestly it was never really explained super well and I don’t think it was ever mentioned again after the initial press release.
What we did get
The DIRECTV NOW product launched several months later and is still going strong in its incarnation as AT&T TV. You get a lot of live programming, DVR service, and you have the option of a dedicated box that looks and acts like a cable box. It’s consistently top rated among live streaming apps and it’s a great option for people who like DIRECTV but can’t get satellite service for some reason.
For a time there was also AT&T Watch TV, which was similar to the DIRECTV Mobile app they talked about. This app let you watch a small number of channels on your phone and eventually even on a limited selection of streaming devices. It was only offered as a standalone product for a short time. Most people who did get it were AT&T customers who got it for free as part of their high-end cellular plans. AT&T ended that product a while back, preferring to give people free HBO instead.
Will AT&T follow PlutoTV’s lead?
I’m a big fan of PlutoTV. I know it’s not an AT&T product and so I’m kind of rooting for the away team here. But it’s become a really good and mature source of entertainment and it’s 100% free. It’s owned by ViacomCBS so all the CBS and Paramount programming can flow there for free. There are also licenses with several other content providers including WarnerMedia (which is owned by AT&T).
This is old-school TV to be sure. You watch about the same number of commercials you’d watch if you were watching with an antenna. A lot of the content is geared toward older folks. You can binge on everything you remember from your younger days.
AT&T could do something similar with its WarnerMedia library. There are thousands of films and television shows they could offer for free, advertiser-supported. This would depress their TBS offering on cable though, since TBS basically does the same thing. But in my mind these are two different audiences and if you’re still selling commercials, what’s the harm?
The future looks bright
Whether you’re still a satellite customer or are looking to stream, you’ll find great entertainment. And whether you’re looking 5 years in the past or 5 years in the future, that’s not going to change. And that’s worth celebrating.