As virtual pay TV services approach -- and zoom past -- the $100-a-month threshold and become important conduits for live sports fans, the behind-the-scenes strategizing on pricing is becoming interesting ... and real confusing.
Take Thursday morning's announcement from DirecTV Stream: The vMVPD will give new customers $10 off their bill for 12 months if they sign up for one of the four DirecTV Stream tiers and buy the service's $120 proprietary Android TV set-top.
Starting on Sunday (Jan. 22), three of the DirecTV Stream tiers are rising in price by $5 a month, with the plan that's perhaps the most coveted -- the 105-plus-channel "Choice" tier, which delivers regional sports networks including Bally Sports -- rising by $10 to $99.99.
The DirecTV Stream app is compatible with most popular connected TV device platforms. So if you're a new Choice customer taking advantage of Thursday's promotion, you'll still be paying $99.99 a month, before taxes, getting a set-top released three years ago that you don't need to enjoy the service.
Yeah, pay TV remains a bit of a shell game.
And the complexity is only exacerbated by the "game within the game" played between the operators. Earlier this month, for example, FuboTV -- which competes aggressively with DirecTV for live-sports-loving virtual pay TV subscribers -- also raised its prices.
As Next TV noted, markets with two or more RSNs delivered by fuboTV will now pay $14 a month in hidden regional sports fee -- which also just went up. So a subscriber to Fubo's 144-channel base "Pro" plan, now priced at $74.99 a month, will pay $89.99 a month.
The DirecTV promotion at least gives some prospective Choice customers at least a head fake that they're paying no more than they would for the comparable FuboTV Pro tier.
So how many customers does DirecTV Stream have at this point? Real unclear. DirecTV hasn't released subscriber metrics since it was spun off of AT&T and merged with a private equity firm.
Last week, MoffettNathanson noted in a report that use of the DirecTV Stream app was up a huge 175% year over year.
Since an earlier Fitch Ratings report suggested that the overall DirecTV service rollup was continuing to quickly erode, we postulated that the increased usage wasn't so much about the vMVPD adding subscribers in droves, but rather DirecTV migrating its legacy satellite and AT&T U-verse customers to Stream.
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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!