What an unmitigated disaster AT&T’s 2015 acquisition of DirecTV has been. Not only is the satellite service hemorrhaging subscribers, but its streaming alternative, DirecTV Now, is imploding as well, with 267,000 lost subscribers last quarter. On the satellite side, AT&T lost another 403,000 subscribers last quarter, bringing total TV losses to 658,000 after factoring in a small number of new AT&T U-Verse customers.
Last July, AT&T boasted of 1.8 million DirecTV Now subscribers, as the company had been pumping up the subscriber base with cheap streaming hardware for new customers and discounted service for AT&T wireless customers. The company has since raised prices and eliminated those offerings in a push to make DirecTV Now profitable, and subscribers are fleeing accordingly. The actual DirecTV Now experience isn’t helping, with a stingy DVR (20 hours of recording time, saved for up to 30 days), a clunky interface, and no personalization features.
Strangely, AT&T believes it can turn things around–at least for shareholders–by raising prices on both the satellite and streaming sides. The company has said that it will remove channels from DirecTV Now and hike the price to around $50 or $60 per month, and will refuse to renew discounts for satellite subscribers whose cheap two-year contracts are ending. “2019 candidly is the money year,” CEO Randall Stephenson told the Wall Street Journal this week, seemingly unaware that people can now walk away from the company’s TV services entirely.