When it came to streaming television subscriptions giving viewers the chance to cut the cord with their cable companies and avoid putting satellite dishes on their roofs, DirecTV Now was one of the best options available. They offered a variety of packages with an impressive slate of channels, even when they raised the prices on all their subscription options by $5 last summer. But it appears that price hike wasn’t enough, because AT&T is drastically changing their DirecTV Now packages by charging even more for fewer channels. Generally, DirecTV Now has suddenly gotten much worse.
DirecTV New Subscription Prices
Previously, DirecTV Now had four packages available at $35, $50, $60, and $70. All those packages went up by $5 each last summer, but that was still a great deal. Now The Verge points out that AT&T has officially revamped their DirecTV Now service to offer only two packages. There’s the Plus package at $50, which will include HBO, and the Max package at $70, which includes HBO and Cinemax.
You might be thinking that the addition of HBO and Cinemax in these packages should more than make up for the increased price. But take a closer look at those channel line-ups. They’re missing over a dozen popular channels, including AMC, BET, Comedy Central, Discovery, History, MTV, Nickelodeon, TLC, VH1, and more. All of those were part of previous DirecTV Now packages. Many of those are also Viacom channels, so it sounds like keeping those channels was proving to be more expensive for the provider. There’s a chance this could change, but as of now, it certainly makes the service less valuable.
What’s Happening with Old Subscriptions?
The good news is if you are already subscribed to one of the older DirecTV Now subscription packages, you’ll be able to keep your current channel bundles. The bad news is that those prices will also be increased. The monthly rates for the old channel packages will all go up by $10 starting on April 12, 2019. On top of that, if you’re currently paying $5 extra for HBO, the premium channel will now cost $15, starting with this month’s bill. For those keeping track, that’s $20 in new charges for old customers. That’s pretty shitty, especially after AT&T’s claim that their acquisition of Time Warner last year would result in reduced prices for consumers.
It should come as no surprise that DirecTV Now is focusing on WarnerMedia’s own networks, not to mention channels from Fox and Comcast/NBCUniversal. But that means the service has gone from providing 125 channels in their biggest bundle to providing barely over 50 channels. Granted, many of those were useless like the Golf Channel or Lifetime, but still, that’s a drastic reduction.
Why Are Prices Being Raised?
The simple answer is that DirecTV Now in its previous form wasn’t sustainable if AT&T wanted to turn a profit. As CEO Randall Stephenson told investors recently:
“It’s been a year of learning what the market demands. As we matured the project, we looked at the customer segment at the low end using promotional pricing, who were not engaging with the product. We told you in November there were 500,000 on the promotional pricing, and we started allowing those customers to attrit out. Now we have a customer base on the streaming that is growing and is highly engaged. We actually like where we are in terms of how we’re angling the streaming product.”
Stephenson is talking about subscribers who signed up with lower price subscriptions as part of a promotion. Now AT&T is willing to let those customers go in favor of higher prices with their more loyal and active customers. That screws over those customers who are willing to stick with the service a little bit, but that’s what happens when you trust corporations to do something that actually benefits the customer more than their bottom line.
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