AT&T TV Launches in Handful of Test Markets

AT&T has finally launched its streaming version of a full traditional pay TV bundle, with the portal for the new OTT service (opens in new tab) now live.

AT&T TV is now available in parts of five states: Orange County and Riverside, California; Corpus Christi, El Paso and Odessa, Texas; West Palm Beach, Florida; Topeka and Wichita, Kansas; and St. Louis and Springfield, Missouri.

The service is delivered over-the-top with a proprietary self-installed Android TV-based set-top box and cloud DVR.

But make no mistake, this isn’t a typical cheap and cheerful “cancel anytime” vMVPD service . In fact, the service tiers being offered, however, appear much like AT&T’s linear DirecTV satellite TV service, both in terms of pricing, nomenclature and commitment.

Yes, there are early termination fees.

For example, the “Entertainment” package is $89.99 for the first 12 months of a 24-month commitment, when bundled with a 25 Mbps - 100 Mbps AT&T wireline internet plan. The price shoots up to $133 a month for the second year. The Entertainment tier is also available as a stand-alone for $59.99 a month for the first 12 months and $93 a month starting the second year.

The tiers move up the ranks—$64.99 for the first year for “Choice,” $74.99 for “Xtra,” $79.99 for “Ultimate”—with each upgrade adding 20-plus channels. There’s also a Latino-targeted bundle called Optimo Mas for $64.99 a month. Notably, all of the bundles except for Mas include ESPN.

Also notable: There’s a rather hidden-in-the-fine-print $8.49-a-month regional sports network fee tacked onto the Choice tier and higher.

Overall, however, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of other hidden landmines—a set-top lease fee, say—and the service appears slightly cheaper than traditional DirecTV satellite service.

For their part, AT&T executives say the IP-based service is far more sustainable in an era of high program costs, given AT&T TV doesn’t requires truck rolls to residents, or the launch of expensive satellites.

And not to be overlooked, the Android TV-based service provides customers access to the full flora and fauna of the Google Play Store, meaning OTT apps like Netflix and YouTube are already integrated.

For AT&T, which lost 778,000 linear pay TV users in the first quarter, change is probably good. 

Daniel Frankel

Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!