Will AT&T retire the DIRECTV name?

I’ve been hearing this one for about 3 years. Supposedly, DIRECTV will be so completely swallowed by AT&T that even the name will go away. People say it will be changed to “AT&T TV” or something similarly prosaic. I’m here to tell you, it’s not going to happen, at least not now.

I don’t know why this rumor seems to be gaining steam again. In fact the DIRECTV name has only gotten stronger in 2017. Let’s take a look at the history (images courtesy Logopedia)

1990: Most people aren’t familiar with this logo, but even before launching the service, Hughes Electronics used it for the company they were building.

1993-2004: These were the glory days of the name for sure, although it was referred to as DirecTV in upper lower case. This was the time of the company’s strongest growth when it went from nothing to 16 million subscribers.

2004-2011: This wasn’t the only logo used in these days, and interesting there’s still a distinction between the “DIREC” and the “TV” but internally the brand started to be known as DIRECTV, all upper case. Name recognition was strong, and the company conquered the marketplace as the undisputed HD leader.

2012-2014: This logo, overwrought as it is with special effects, was the last logo used by DIRECTV as an independent company. It marked the last use of the “Cyclone Device” (that’s what they called the logo) which had been in place since 1993. By this time, there were rumors swirling around that the company was up for sale. Those rumors ended up being true, but even at that time, then-chair Mike White said that the DIRECTV name was strong. He pointed out that even in the world of the internet where everyone streams, the name still has a really strong resonance.

Present Day: Although AT&T swallowed up the old logo, they kept the name DIRECTV to refer to the satellite TV service first, and eventually the streaming live TV service. It’s not going anywhere.

In 2016, AT&T introduced DIRECTV NOW, the streaming live TV service that allows you to get live TV without touching your data plan, as long as you have AT&T wireless service of course. This was the first time that the DIRECTV name was used without being associated with the satellite service, and overnight the value of the brand doubled. DIRECTV NOW continues to grow and the DIRECTV name seems really secure as a result.

Now it’s true… that within AT&T, the DIRECTV name has diminished somewhat. Internally they say it’s “transitioned from a company to a product” so all employees are AT&T employees, all dealers are AT&T dealers. However, the product is still called DIRECTV (and the streaming product is still called DIRECTV NOW) so it’s like being a GM employee who works on Buicks. The fact that Buick is a GM product doesn’t make it any less popular or strong.

So what about the future?

Obviously no one knows about the long term future but for now, AT&T is putting serious effort into the DIRECTV name, and I have heard absolutely nothing from any credible source about the name going away. They have 24 years of goodwill associated with the name DIRECTV, plus 26 million subscribers. While it’s possible that some longtime AT&T workers might like the “AT&T TV” name, it makes absolutely no sense for it to be used for the television product as long as it continues to be the strongest television product in the market.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.