Stephens: Second Half Better for AT&T Video Subs

AT&T senior executive vice president and chief financial officer John Stephens told analysts Monday that he still expects to end the year with positive growth in video subscribers, fueled by DirecTV’s NFL Sunday Ticket package and an expansion of its wireless/video bundle.

AT&T lost a collective 54,000 video customers in the first quarter, driven mainly by losses at it U-Verse TV unit, which shed 382,000 video customers in the period, compared to a gain of 49,000 in the prior year. The decline added to the string of video losses the unit has had in the prior three quarters – U-Verse shed 23,000 video customers in Q2 2015, 92,000 in Q3 and 240,000 in Q4.

Part of the decline can be attributed to AT&T’s desire to shift its higher-cost U-Verse TV subscribers over toe the lower cost DirecTV platform.  DirecTV has steadily added customers since the third quarter when its rolls increased by 26,000 net new customers, followed by a gain of 214,000 net new video subscribers in the fourth quarter.

On a conference call with analysts, Stephens said despite the recent increased losses at U-Verse TV, he expects the second half of the year to swing the company to overall positive subscriber growth, bolstered by its exclusive NFL Sunday Ticket out-of-market pay-per-view package, and a recent wireless/video bundle that is showing some promising results.

“In the second half, our ability to add future integrated products and expand the wireless bundle further will grow customers,” Stephens said.

AT&T’s streaming video offerings – the over-the-top DirecTV Now, DirecTV Preview  and DirecTV Mobile, scheduled for launch in the fourth quarter, won’t be included in those numbers, Stephens added.   Stephens said the company is making progress on the offerings, is talking to content companies and is on track to meet its Q4 launch goal.