Television: Can DirecTV Now replace cable?
“AT&T just unveiled its answer to the cord-cutting wars,” said Brian Fung in The Washington Post. DirectTV Now, the telecom giant’s long-awaited streaming television service, debuted this month, offering customers “a cable-like experience without all the muss and fuss of a traditional cable package.” Like Netflix and Hulu subscribers, viewers will have access to on-demand shows and movies. But unlike those services’ customers, they’ll also be able to watch live television over the internet, no boxes or equipment required. To hook users on its new service, AT&T is charging an introductory price of $35 per month for more than 100 channels, eventually changing to $35 per month for roughly 60 channels, with several higher-priced tiers, including 120 channels for $70 a month. Even that cost “may prove attractive to cable customers fed up with high prices.” The average household pays $103 a month for cable TV.
“Don’t kid yourself: It’s still cable,” said Geoffrey Fowler in The Wall Street Journal. The dream of cord cutting was that we’d be able to pay for only the television we wanted, saving us boatloads of money. Instead, it looks like we’re going to have to choose between the same old bundles of random channels. And don’t forget, “you still have to pay for broadband internet.” “Despite the growing number of options, I’m still clinging to my oldschool, cable-box ways,” said Marcus Gilmer in Mashable.com. DirecTV Now joins SlingTV and Playstation Vue on the streaming television market, but none of them can truly replace cable television. Unlike with a cable box, your picture quality will only be as good as your internet, and all of the packages lack certain desirable channels. DirectTV Now, for example, doesn’t have CBS, as well as many local television stations, meaning you’ll have to buy an antenna to access those. Also, there’s no DVR!
The reason that DirecTV Now isn’t a “cable killer” is “that AT&T doesn’t actually want to kill cable,” said Mathew Ingram in Fortune.com. The company is the world’s largest pay TV provider, and it still makes a lot of money from its regular DirecTV satellite service. That business is shrinking, and AT&T and other television providers know they need to go after the “cord cutters.” But at the same time, they can’t make their new streaming services so attractive that they end up “cannibalizing” their more lucrative cable and satellite television businesses, even though that’s probably inevitable “amid a host of new, more nimble competitors.” What AT&T “is trying to do is walk a tightrope between two equally unattractive options.”