AT&T Preps Next TV Moves

Traditional pay TV service providers continue to face headwinds as cord-cutters seek out new alternatives, but that trend is not dampening AT&T’s enthusiasm about the video sector.

“We’re very bullish on video,” Randall Stephenson, AT&T’s chair, president and CEO, said Jan. 31 on the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call.

Though U-verse TV and DirecTV’s satellite TV service took it on the chin, losing 207,000 subscribers between them, DirecTV Now, AT&T’s OTT-delivered service, balanced it out by adding 368,000 subs, extending DirecTV Now’s base past 1.15 million.

OTT, and the experience that streaming services can deliver, will serve as the centerpiece of AT&T’s video strategy going forward.

AT&T, for example, is preparing for the spring debut of an upgrade for DirecTV Now that will add in a cloud DVR service, a third concurrent stream (up from two today), a refreshed interface, a bulked up VOD library and support for 4K.

Stephenson also shed some light on AT&T’s plans to introduce a new “home-centric” streaming device that will “repurpose” the company’s traditional linear TV platform.

He said the new in-home offering will take the form of an inexpensive, “very thin client” that can be connected to any broadband service and include a voice-controlled interface. In addition to supporting DirecTV Now, it will also integrate access and search to other OTT services, including Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and YouTube, among others.

Stephenson didn’t elaborate on that product further, but FCC documents that emerged last fall showed that DirecTV is working on a 4K-ready, Android TV-based streaming device that includes voice search and access to apps and services from Google Play.