AT&T has been hammering out its streaming strategy in a handful of different ways since the DirecTV acquisition. Today AT&T TV launches in what looks like its final form (at least for now), complete with a branded Android TV box to manage it all. The problem is, it looks almost exactly like a satellite TV subscription, minus the satellite.
According to the new promotional page, you can get packages of streaming TV starting at $50 a month, with a free AndroidTV gadget and cloud DVR service included. AT&T internet is not necessary—it’s available to anyone in the US. But if you look at how it’s set up, things start to look a whole lot like, well, DirecTV.
There are the usual bundles of channels, often including niche content you don’t actually want. There are the extra charges for “regional sports” that are mandatory on all but the cheapest package, and not included in that price. There are the special terms that only apply with a two-year agreement—and those prices skyrocket after the first year.
Yeah, that’s some old-fashioned cable BS right there. The $50, $55, $65, and $70 packages bump up to $93, $110, $124, and $135 a month. Want to cancel? No problem, unless you’ve accepted the free Android TV set top box that’s required to access the service. Then it’ll be $15 for every month left on that two-year term. There’s also a $20 activation fee, plus additional and non-specific charges for keeping the set-top box. Naturally, the prices go down if you also order AT&T home internet at the same time.
In fact, these streaming packages have almost exactly the same tiers, prices, and terms as DirecTV’s conventional satellite service. The only difference is you don’t need a giant dish screwed into your roof. It hardly seems worth it. The only customers this seems designed to appeal to are those who already have DirecTV, don’t mind its onerous contract terms, and recently moved. AT&T TV isn’t competitive with YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV, or any other “cord cutting” service in the US at the moment.
Note that AT&T TV shouldn’t be confused with AT&T TV Now: the latter is the rebranded version of DirecTV Now, DirecTV’s streaming service that’s apparently still operating. It’s not a particularly good price either, but it doesn’t need a service contract and it isn’t tied to a set-top box, just an app.
It’s often hard to find the best deal in streaming TV. But if you’re in the market, I think it’s safe to say that AT&T TV isn’t it.