What a difference a year makes. In July ’18 when AT&T reported its Q2 earnings, its vMVPD DirecTV Now gained another 325K subscribers. It was the fourth consecutive quarter of 300K+ additions and DirecTV Now was setting the pace of growth for the nascent vMVPD industry that in turn was offsetting traditional pay-TV losses.
Flash forward to this morning’s Q2 ’19 AT&T earnings and the DirecTV Now narrative has changed dramatically. In Q2 ’19, DTV Now lost 168K subscribers, reducing its quarter end total to 1.3 million subscribers. Looking back over the past year, DTV Now peaked with 1.86 million subscribers at the end of Q3 ’18 when it eked out a 49K addition.
Since then, it’s been nothing but losses: down 267K in Q4 ’18, down 83K in Q1 ’19 and down 168K in Q2 ’19. Overall DTV Now has lost 469K subscribers in the past 4 quarters.
All of this reflects a significant strategy shift for DTV Now by AT&T. The company has reduced price promotions for DTV Now which had driven huge subscriber growth. It has also narrowed the DTV Now offering to 2 tiers and raised prices, which has no doubt contributed to higher churn and fewer additions. Meanwhile external pressures have continued: aggressive high-quality vMVPD alternatives (e.g. YouTube TV, Hulu Live TV, etc.) and cord-cutting/cord-nevering due to more/better SVOD and ad-supported video choices.
Put it all together and the recipe for DTV Now’s falloff is totally understandable. AT&T has previously talked about WatchTV, an ultra-skinny bundle that’s free to certain AT&T wireless customers as picking up some slack, but no details were provided this quarter. And of course AT&T is putting a lot of its video chips on HBO Max, which will debut next spring. But that’s an SVOD service which, if priced at $17-$18/month will be well above market rates.
With subscriber losses in its traditional pay-TV segment that includes DirecTV and U-verse growing to -778K in Q2 and DTV Now’s trajectory now obvious, it’s unclear what, if anything, AT&T is going to do to stabilize its multichannel TV business.
Categories: Skinny Bundles