Don’t call it a “skinny bundle.”
As AT&T prepares to launch its over-the-top DirecTV Now offering on Wednesday, the company is taking pains to differentiate itself from rivals such as Sling, Playstation Vue and Hulu’s upcoming live TV service.
As an introductory price, DirecTV Now will offer more than 100 channels (its “Go Big” package) at $35 a month, and charter members will be grandfathered into that price for a period of time.
“The challenge with skinny bundles is your skinny is different from my skinny which is different from someone else’s skinny,” says Brad Bentley, executive vice president of marketing for AT&T Entertainment Group.
But it’s unclear how long that $35 offer will last, and when DirecTV Now will revert to that “Go Big” package’s normal $60 price tag. The service’s normal $35 offering (“Live a Little”) carries 60 channels.
A full suite of 120 channels (“Gotta Have It”) will cost $70 a month, which is close to a traditional cable or satellite package price tag. Critics say that’s because AT&T is walking a fine line between trying to appeal to young “cord-nevers” who are looking for a robust OTT package, and not cannibalizing existing DirecTV customers who might be interested in downgrading to DirecTV Now’s slightly cheaper OTT service.
Five things to know about DirecTV Now:
- DirecTV Now includes major offerings from Disney, NBCUniversal, Fox, AMC, A&E, Turner, Discovery, Hearst and Viacom. ABC, Fox and NBC affiliates are also available in most major markets. (Video on demand for network shows will still be available in smaller markets where live streaming deals haven’t been made.) But not available yet: CBS and Showtime, as well as NFL Sunday Ticket. And NFL games won’t be available to stream on mobile devices. HBO and Cinemax can be added on for $5 each.
“We’re working actively” on a CBS deal, Bentley said.
- You can only watch DirecTV Now via two streams at any one time, and 4K isn’t included. “But for a segment of the audience, this is compelling,” Bentley said. In targeting a Millennial audience, AT&T is touting “rules free TV,” meaning no credit check, no annual contract and no hardware. Users can also hop between packages.
“This audience we have to speak to differently,” Bentley said.
- DVR functionality isn’t available yet, but could come next year. Meanwhile, streaming won’t count against bandwidth limits for AT&T wireless subscribers – but analysts have already noted that such a move appears to violate net neutrality rules.
- DirecTV Now will be available on most Apple and Android devices. Among other promotions: Apple users who prepay a three-month subscription will be given a free Apple TV; a one-month prepay offer includes a free Amazon Fire TV stick. LeEco smart TVs larger than 55 inches will come with free DirecTV Now service up to a year. Roku, Amazon Fire tablets, and Samsung smart TVs will be added next year.
- AT&T’s programming deal with Taylor Swift, which includes “13 chapters of never-before-seen footage” launches in a few weeks, and will include video of a Houston concert Swift is performing for AT&T customers. Meanwhile, original fare from Hello Sunshine, Reese Witherspoon’s new production company, will start appearing on DirecTV Now next year.
“There’s so little content created for women by women,” Witherspoon said on Monday at the DirecTV Now press conference. “[We will] not only create TV shows but also digital content.”
AT&T Now will also feature programming from Fullscreen, which launched its own app earlier this year.