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AT&T confirms drastic changes to DirecTV Now and raises cheapest plan to $50

AT&T confirms drastic changes to DirecTV Now and raises cheapest plan to $50


Is HBO enough to make up for losing AMC, Viacom, and Discovery?

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Illustration of the AT&T logo on a dark blue background.
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

AT&T has confirmed that it is dramatically reshaping its DirecTV Now streaming TV service beginning today by getting rid of the previously offered channel bundles, slimming down programming for new plans, and raising prices. In hopes of making up the difference, AT&T is adding HBO to DirecTV Now’s latest, smaller channel packages that now start at $50 per month. That’s the most expensive base plan of the big five (DirecTV Now, Hulu with Live TV, PlayStation Vue, Sling TV, YouTube TV), but none of the others include HBO. The step-up $70 Max package adds Cinemax and a few more sports channels from ESPN and Fox.

Getting your Game of Thrones fix is nice and all, but the new plans slash many channels that potential customers might value. Some of those include:

  • A&E
  • AMC
  • Animal Planet
  • BBC America
  • BET
  • CMT
  • Comedy Central
  • Discovery
  • HGTV
  • History
  • MTV
  • Nickelodeon
  • TLC
  • VH1

Those are all channels that were part of DirecTV Now’s previous plans but have gone away entirely with today’s new Plus and Max plans. At least for the time being, AT&T is saying that existing customers will maintain access to their current channel bundles so long as they remain with the service and don’t change anything.

But if you cancel your subscription, there’s no getting the older plans (Live a Little, Just Right, Go Big, and Gotta Have It) back again. Holding onto those bundles — no longer offered to new customers as of today — is also going to get more expensive: AT&T will hike monthly rates by $10 across the entire line as of April 12th. And if you’re currently paying the extra $5 monthly fee to receive HBO, that’s going to jump up to $15 with this month’s bill. This is yet another instance of AT&T increasing rates after it argued that its acquisition of Time Warner would result in reduced prices for consumers. This is actually the second hike for those DirecTV Now subscriptions. But AT&T would likely argue that if you were already paying $50 for Live a Little and HBO before, that price effectively continues on with these revamped packages.

Why is this happening?

Like some of its competitors, AT&T has opted to completely remove Viacom’s lineup of cable networks in an effort to keep its own costs down. Only Sling TV continues to offer those channels among the big five. DirecTV Now is also shedding Discovery’s channels.

Instead, it largely now focuses on the company’s own WarnerMedia networks and those from Fox and Comcast / NBCUniversal. Crucially, the base $50 Plus plan still includes all four major broadcasters: ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC. But there’s no denying that the new DirecTV Now is vastly different from what it was before. AT&T previously boasted that it offered over 125 channels in the biggest bundle. Now, that number tops out at a bit over 50.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson has regularly stated that DirecTV Now’s prior pricing and cable-like channel bundles were unsustainable if the company wanted the service to turn a profit. “We’re talking $50 to $60,” he said back in December. “We’ve learned this product, we think we know this market really, really well. We built a 2 million subscriber base. But we were asking this DirecTV Now product to do too much work. So we’re thinning out the content and getting the price point right; getting it to where it’s profitable.”

What else is changing?

Looking beyond the major changes to DirecTV Now’s channel lineup and pricing, other aspects of the service remain the same. It still allows for three concurrent streams, and it still offers a cloud DVR with up to 20 hours of storage. (Your shows are saved for a maximum of 30 days.) Add-on Spanish channel packs are still available, as are optional Cinemax, Showtime, and Starz subscriptions.

How many video streaming apps does AT&T have?

  • DirecTV Now (standalone subscription service, unrelated to satellite TV business)
  • HBO Now (standalone HBO subscription service)
  • WatchTV (free for some unlimited data AT&T mobile customers, also available standalone)
  • Yet-to-be-revealed WarnerMedia streaming service