AT&T’s television fortunes suddenly reversed last quarter, as DirecTV satellite subscriptions plummeted and DirecTV Now streaming subscriptions failed to pick up the slack.
DirecTV Now gained just 49,000 subscribers in Q3 2018, while AT&T’s traditional TV business (including DirecTV and AT&T U-Verse) shed 346,000 subscribers. That adds up to a net loss of 297,000 customers last quarter. Two quarters ago, AT&T gained 80,000 TV customers, with 342,000 new DirecTV Now subscribers offsetting a loss of 262,000 subscribers in traditional TV.
Why the sudden shift? In July, AT&T raised DirecTV Now prices by $5 per month across the board in hopes of making the service profitable. More importantly, AT&T also stopped offering incredible device deals to new subscribers. Until this summer, new customers could get a free Roku Streaming Stick (regularly $50) with a month of $35 prepaid service, or a free Apple TV 4K (regularly $180) with three months of prepaid service at $105. There was nothing stopping customers from signing up, immediately canceling, and walking away with a new streaming device at far below retail prices.
DirecTV Now is still in second place among live TV streaming services, with 1.86 million subscribers, but the stalled growth means it probably won’t overtake Sling TV’s 2.21 million subscribers this year. For now, AT&T says it will focus on “improving profitability” by retooling its channel lineups and beta testing a new streaming device with DirecTV Now built in.