AT&T added more than 200,000 video subscribers in the last quarter of 2016, driven by DIRECTV NOW. The DIRECTV NOW online television service launched at the end of November with a promotional price of $35 a month for over 100 channels, and a free Amazon Fire Stick or Apple TV for those signing up for one or three months respectively. The question is whether DIRECTV NOW can maintain the momentum, after a troubled launch, with many users reporting problems with the service.
DIRECTV has been gaining satellite television subscribers as its new parent company AT&T has been promoting the service over its own U-verse telco offering. DIRECTV gained 993,000 subscribers in the first three quarters of 2016, while U-verse lost 1,099,000, according to the informitv Multiscreen Index
In the third quarter alone, DIRECTV gained 323,000 satellite subscribers, while U-verse lost 326 U-verse television subscribers.
AT&T reported “More than 200,000 video net adds” in the fourth quarter of 2016, “entirely driven by DIRECTV NOW.”
Signing up 200,000 subscribers in a month sounds like an impressive start for DIRECTV NOW, although it may be difficult to maintain that momentum after the initial promotional period.
One source has reported that usage has peaked at around 35,000 concurrent viewers. That suggests that the peak usage is only around a sixth of the total number of subscribers, which is rather less impressive.
There were also widely reported technical issues affecting DIRECTV NOW. Users have complained about intermittent problems with the service, suggesting that it is not ready for prime time. AT&T has been using social media channels to apologise to customers.
Compared to the total of over 25 million television customers that AT&T has, of which 20.78 million are DIRECTV satellite subscribers, the DIRECTV NOW online television service still has a long way to go to make a material impression.
The key question will be whether it continues to add to total television customer numbers for AT&T or simply reduces subscriber erosion.