If AT&T dumps DirecTV, where does that leave the viewer?
If DirecTV were to actually hook up with Dish, it would elevate its rival to the No. 1 spot among satellite providers, with a combined subscriber base (including Dish-owned Sling TV) of about 30 million.
The odds of this union are no better than 50-50 with no guarantee the government will bless the marriage, says industry watcher Philip Swann, editor and publisher of TVAnswerman.com, who has followed DirecTV since its launch in 1994.
But let’s play out the possibilities.
Could subscribers see a price break?
However this plays out, the reality is there’s nothing static about the state of today’s TV scene. Disney and Apple are poised to join a congested streaming and video-on-demand service market that includes Netflix, Hulu, CBS All Access and Amazon Prime.
AT&T is getting in the game, too, through the HBO Max service coming in the spring from the company’s WarnerMedia division.
If that turns out to be football, DirecTV still has a crown jewel in NFL Sunday Ticket.
Such expanded options may not hit every viewer equally.
“I think a Dish-DirecTV merger would reduce choice for rural residents, particularly those who don’t have access to high-speed internet service,” Swann says. “They now depend on DirecTV or Dish for basic and/or premium TV service.”
Why would they break up in the first place?
The landscape for TV viewing has changed quite a bit since AT&T acquired DirecTV in 2015 in a deal valued at $67 billion. A wave of streaming services and cord-cutting caused some static, even when giving customers unprecedented viewing options.
DirecTV has lost about 2 million customers during that span, and “the continued subscriber losses, coupled with outside calls for change, “will force AT&T to take some action,” Swann says.
Though cord-cutting is most definitely a factor, Swann also points to complaints surrounding the company’s customer service and price hikes. AT&T barely made a dent with its DirecTV Now live TV service for phones, which was renamed AT&T TV Now in July.
In a pending class-action complaint, it’s alleged that AT&T pushed sales reps to create fake DirecTV Now accounts to juice subscriber numbers, which AT&T vigorously denies.
“We plan to fight these baseless claims in court,” the company said in a statement.