Well, to be fair, we know more than we did last week. It wasn’t exactly a secret that AT&T was planning a DIRECTV-centered streaming service. They’ve been talking vaguely about it for about four months. Add to that, both Verizon and DISH, which could be considered the company’s biggest competitors, have some sort of streaming service. Both Verizon’s Go90 and DISH’s SlingTV service are aiming straight for millennials who probably don’t even own TVs, and while neither has been super-duper successful yet, it’s still early in the world of streaming TV when you think about it.
So, AT&T is going to launch not one but three services, and we don’t really know when, and we don’t really know a lot of details, but at least there’s a bit of detail over at AT&T’s landing page. Here’s the basic stuff:
•DIRECTV Now is probably going to be a SlingTV-style program source that you’ll be able to pay for without a satellite subscription. Expect a smattering of national networks and possibly some sports stuff (but possibly not ESPN.) Also expect the price to be, well, somewhere between $0 and $100 a month, which obviously doesn’t tell you much. This is DIRECTV’s service for cord-cutters and streamers who either don’t have a TV or don’t want a pay-TV subscription. Odds are you’re going to see it on computers, tablets, and streaming devices.
•DIRECTV Mobile is going to be mobile-focused which probably means lower-quality video and no access to large screens unless you cast or AirPlay. This is going to be a mid-priced offering for people who want a little bit of this and a little bit of that without a whole lot of cash outlay. I would also guess that this service won’t count against your data plan if you’re an AT&T Wireless customer.
•DIRECTV Preview is really a way for non-DIRECTV subscribers to get Audience Channel and other DIRECTV-specific content without a DIRECTV subscription. It will be free and advertiser supported.
What about the details?
There aren’t any, yet. We don’t know how much it will cost. We don’t know what devices will be supported at launch. We don’t know what the real difference between the packages is going to be. And most of all we don’t know how any of these is going to work for existing DIRECTV or AT&T subscribers. The announcement was very light on details and that could be simply a matter of some contracts that aren’t signed yet. Or, it could be that DIRECTV is looking to keep excitement going for a while to stop people from signing up from competing services.
Bottom line we don’t know a whole lot more than we did last week.
And so, what do I think?
First of all, I’m not a millennial. All this stuff is aimed at people young enough to be my kids or possibly grandkids. But I get that there’s a big millennial problem that video providers are desperate to solve. Millennials just don’t think it’s important to watch TV on a large screen in a single room, and they don’t see the value in a $100+ per month subscription. They probably will change their minds in the future, but in the meantime, pay-TV companies have to build bridges with them and supply the sort of services they want. This is DIRECTV’s attempt to do that.
For years, the conventional wisdom was that pay-TV companies didn’t want to build streaming-only packages since they would cut into the profits from more expensive packages. Obviously at some point you have to do what customers want and so we have seen a move toward these packages. So far, results have been mixed. Streaming packages have been focused mostly on live programming, something millennials also don’t care about. What DIRECTV needs to do is package its streaming stuff with its on demand library so that you have DVR-like functionality, which would put them ahead of the competition instantly.
I personally don’t know if I’ll subscribe to these new packages but I will recommend them to my younger friends and my friends’ kids. I guess that’s probably what DIRECTV wants anyway. They already have my business… and my admiration.