The wait is over.
AT&T on Monday finally shared the details of its much-hyped DirecTV Now mobile video offering at a New York City launch event.
According to the carrier, the service will go live on Wednesday and be offered in four tiers: a $35 per month option offering 60+ channels, a $50 level offering 80+ channels, a $60 tier offering 100+ channels, and a $70 option offering 120+ channels. A free 7-day trial will be available for new customers, AT&T said.
AT&T executives on Monday said DirecTV Now certainly isn’t the first video product in the market place, but emphasized the its unique focus on live TV content made available on the go across a number of devices. DirecTV Now will support two simultaneous streams, the carrier said.
The service will initially be available on phones, tablets, TVs, and laptops via Amazon’s Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, Android devices, Apple’s iPhone, iPad, and AppleTV, Google Chromecast for Android, Google Cast-enabled LeEco ecotvs, Vizio SmartCast Displays, and the Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Safari web browsers. Availability on Google Chromecast for iOS, Roku streaming players, Amazon Fire tablets, and smart TVs from Samsung and other brands is expected in 2017, AT&T said.
As previously announced, DirecTV Now data will be zero rated for AT&T customers. AT&T Entertainment Group CTO Enrique Rodriguez, however, noted streaming speeds and quality for DirecTV Now will depend on a user’s device and connection.
“There’s not a black and white answer,” Rodriguez said. “If you happen to have (a) great data (connection) and we know it’s Wi-Fi, then we’re going to give you a program that looks better, whereas if we know you have a non-zero-rated network then we’re going to throttle the quality to make sure that you as a consumer have the ability to enjoy the content without breaking your data plan.”
Rodriguez said consumers will also have access to controls that will allow them to select whether or not to use more data to get better quality.
The new offering features a look similar to Netflix, with a set of carousels based on both user-selected and curated content. While AT&T touted DirecTV Now will feature the “best” of both live TV and on demand content, noticeably absent from the content lineup were CBS and Showtime, as well as NFL Sunday Ticket, though Stankey said some games will be available through included stations where rights allow. Content from HBO and Cinemax will be available as add-ons at $5 each per month.
Rodriguez said DirecTV Now is the first product to go live on a new platform created by AT&T to improve the user experience. The platform, he said, is designed to cut excess steps to get users off the home screen and into their content as quickly as possible. Channel switching was also designed to be as speedy as possible, Rodriguez said.
“This is the foundation for how we’re going to do things in the future,” AT&T Entertainment Group CEO John Stankey said. “This is bigger than the introduction of the U-verse product 10 years ago when we entered the TV business from AT&T. Why is it bigger? Because for the first time in our history we have control of the full stack – the full stack of software, the platform, and bringing it all the way out to the end user customer experience – and that puts us in a very unique position as we evolve products over time.”
AT&T is planning to migrate more of its products – i.e., satellite and IP – to the new platform, but the carrier declined to provide a timeline for the transition.
AT&T execs said additional features and content will be added to the platform over the coming quarters, but for now, it looks like DirecTV Now will not include cloud DVR capabilities or a pause feature for live programs.
The carrier said it is hoping DirecTV Now will help it capture some of the 20 million households that are not currently part of the pay TV ecosystem with the new product.
Though AT&T execs on Monday declined to give specific expectations for DirecTV Now, Stankey did say the success of the product will be measured in terms of the share of subscribers that come from previously under-penetrated areas, churn, and the proportion of users who sign up for more than one AT&T product – for example, DirecTV Now and AT&T wireless or broadband. Rodriguez also noted another metric AT&T will be watching is user engagement and time spent watching content.
For those who want to get in early, AT&T is running a promotion offering the 100+ channel option for $35. The promotion will extend for an undetermined period of time, and customers will get to keep that rate for as long as they remain a DirecTV Now customer, AT&T said.
AT&T is also trying to woo new customers via hardware this holiday season. The carrier said customers who prepay for three months of the service will receive a free Apple TV set-top box, and consumers who purchase select LeEco TVs will get a free year of DirecTV Now included in the purchase.