Could New DirecTV Streaming Service Be A Replacement For Satellite TV?

Image courtesy of Jeremy P

We’ve known for a while that AT&T plans to launch an online-only version of DirecTV in the coming months, but even though it shares the same brand name as the nation’s biggest satellite-TV provider, it is not being marketed as a replacement for satellite. However, a recent report claims that AT&T’s long-term goal is to eventually migrate the entire DirecTV customer base online.

This is according to Bloomberg, which recently chatted with “people familiar with the plans” about AT&T’s ultimate plan for the soon-to-launch DirecTV Now.

According to these folks, if DirecTV can eventually drive existing customers toward the online-only service, it could cut overhead for the pay-TV provider: Fewer installation and tech service calls, no having to deal with leasing and tracking boxes, routers, remotes, dishes, etc.

While details on DirecTV Now — which reports have said will offer nearly all the content currently available through satellite — are light, the company has said that it will be available for simultaneous viewing on at least two screens, making more of a convenient pay-TV replacement. It’s possible, notes Bloomberg, that DirecTV Now could eventually allow up to 10 simultaneous streams.

One issue that DirecTV will face is that, for most of the country, it has no control over the lines that will bring DirecTV Now to consumers. In fact, its competition does.

DirecTV has around 20 million satellite TV subscribers, which would put it in the same ranks as Comcast and the now-merged Time Warner Cable/Charter. What DirecTV lacks in comparison to those companies is the ability to provide affordable, reliable broadband internet access.

The merger with AT&T is allowing the two brands to bundle satellite TV and AT&T’s DSL/Fiber broadband. Problem is, many DirecTV customers live outside of AT&T’s wireline footprint so they can’t benefit from this sort of bundle.

That may all change with the eventual rollout of 5G wireless, which could end up being significantly faster than current cable or fiberoptic internet service. AT&T is currently testing a project dubbed AirGig that uses power lines, low-cost plastic antennae, and existing infrastructure to deploy next-gen wireless.

An affordable wireless broadband service could allow AT&T and DirecTV to bundle pay-TV and internet service nationally, though that is at least three to five years away.

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