AT&T just announced that DirecTV, the internet-only streaming service coming next month, will include upwards of 100 channels for $35 per month. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson made the announcement on stage at the WSJ.D Live conference.
Worryingly for Netflix (and the future of net neutrality), Stephenson also said that the $35 per month will include unlimited mobile data so you can watch any of your channels on the go.
With AT&T launching this brand-new internet streaming service as a genuine cable competitor, this could be a turning point for the industry. Long term, there’s plenty to be worried about with an AT&T/Time Warner merger. AT&T will own everything related to your TV consumption, all the way from producing the content to delivering it to your phone or TV. Monopoly power has not traditionally gone well for the consumer when it comes to telecoms, so if AT&T starts using its power to price-gouge consumers, it could be bad.
But in the short run, it seems like AT&T is using its newfound power to break the established system of cable TV bundles, and is actually giving people something they want for a change. The price is way below what any traditional TV bundle will cost you, and the integration of free mobile data shows how AT&T is planning to use all the tools at its disposal to make this a success.
Notionally, DirecTV is aimed at people who don’t currently pay for cable. But if the selection of channels doesn’t have any holes (sports in particular has been a sticking point for cable-cutters in the past), it’s possible that DirecTV could eat into the heart of cable TV subscriptions.