The service is aimed at cord cutters and people who either can’t afford cable television or don’t want to be locked into restrictive contracts. DirecTV Now combines live television from networks like Fox, NBC, ESPN and many others, with a full complement of programs available on demand.
In a launch event in New York City Monday, AT&T representatives said DirecTV Now is the first iteration of a “new platform” that emphasizes mobile experience.
“This is the foundation for how we are going to do things in the future,” said AT&T CEO John Stankey.
DirecTV Now has several packages to choose from, starting with a $35 per month package that includes more than 60 channels. Users have three other packages to choose from, with the most robust offering coming in at $70 per month for more than 120 channels. Users have the option to add premium networks like HBO and Cinemax for $5 per month.
One channel we know won’t be available on DirecTV Now at launch is CBS, which has its own paid streaming service.
The program is device agnostic, so users of pretty much any phone or tablet will be able to install DirecTV Now. The service is also available on Amazon Fire TV, and some smart TVs from Vizio and LeEco. AT&T said the service will be available on Roku boxes, Samsung smart TVs and other devices next year.
AT&T put convenience at the forefront of its announcements Monday, and the internal motto for DirecTV Now is “rules free TV.” DirecTV Now doesn’t require a cable box or satellite. It is free of long-term contracts, and users can shuffle between various packages when they want.
“Consumers want more TV freedom,” Brad Bentley, chief marketing officer for AT&T, said at the event. “They want all that great content and they want it everywhere, and they don’t want limitations around that content, and they want great value.”
Customers won’t have to wait long for DirecTV Now. The service will debut Wednesday, just 36 hours after AT&T’s announcement. AT&T is pushing to get people to sign up right away by offering promotional rates and giving away Amazon Fire TV Sticks and Apple TVs to people who prepay for one and three months of the service, respectively.
The new service follows a pair of deals that AT&T has been working on for years to become one of the largest media companies in the world.
AT&T acquired DirecTV last year, in a $48.5 billion deal that paved the way to create the largest pay-TV provider in America.The merger brought together the nation’s second-largest wireless carrier with the largest satellite video provider and set the stage for AT&T to compete with Comcast.
AT&T followed that up by announcing plans to acquire Time Warner Inc. for $85.4 billion in October. Time Warner owns HBO, Turner, CNN, Warner Brothers and DC Entertainment, and giving the new DirecTV Now additional content cache.
With this move, AT&T has set its sites on disillusioned cable customers, and staked its claim for dominance in the crowded streaming arena. Netflix leads the way in the category, but Amazon is gaining ground. Streaming services like Netflix and Amazon aren’t just competing against each other. They are going after network television, and Amazon and Netflix both more than doubled spending on new shows in the last two years.
AT&T appears ready to invest in original programming to compete with Amazon and Netflix. At the event, they announced a Taylor Swift documentary series as well as a partnership with actress Reese Witherspoon called Hello Sunshine that focuses on content created by women and for women.