AT&T says TV losses have risen since the last loss of 1.3 million customers

Enlarge / AT&T service bus driving in June 2019 in Oakdale, California.

Getty images Andrei Stanescu

AT&T believes that the loss of TV customers has reached its peak, but that does not mean much, since the company has lost 5 million subscribers and more than 1.3 million in the last quarter alone since 2016.

“It’s tough and we’ll go through it for the rest of this year. But we’re optimistic that we’ve reached the peak of losses in the third quarter,” said AT&T CFO John Stephens at a Wells Fargo investor conference yesterday, according to Hollywood Reporter.

In the third quarter, AT&T reported a net loss of 1,163,000 customers in the premium TV category, including DirecTV satellite and U-fresh wired TV services. AT&T also reported a net loss of 195,000 customers of AT&T TV Now, the online streaming video service formerly known as DirecTV Now, bringing the total loss of TV customers to 1.36 million.

To go further back, AT&T has lost nearly 5 million satellite and wired TV customers since the end of 2016, with a total of 25.3 million subscribers in that category.

Even losses of 1.2 million customers per quarter will claim that Stephens is right that AT & T’s losses have peaked. Rope-cutting trends suggest that the growing days of DirecTV satellite and U-fresh TV are long gone, but AT&T will try to find success in online streaming.

The company hopes part of its hope for AT&T TV, a streaming service that is separate from AT&T TV Now despite their almost identical names. It is delivered over the internet, but AT&T TV has the same contract hurdles and add-on costs that are common in cable and satellite TV packages. Until now it is only available in some cities in California, Florida, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Texas and the state of Washington and can be purchased alone or in bundles with AT&T internet at home.

AT&T TV will launch nationwide next year, Stephens said yesterday, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript. AT&T TV will be an “important aspect” of the company’s video strategy, he said, noting that customers can set it up themselves without sending AT&T a truck to their home. AT&T also has high hopes for HBO Max, a service of $ 15 per month to be launched in May 2020. AT&T has said it aims to get 50 million subscribers to HBO Max within five years.

Despite all the losses of customers, Stephens said that video is still an “important segment” for the company. “It is important for many reasons,” he said. “It is important based on the information we receive from customers, knowledge about what they want to view, what is important, what is being viewed. It is important for packaged and bundled services, bundling with our wireless connection, bundling with our broadband It is also very important on an independent product basis in the sense that it is profitable. “

Although TV is “a challenging venture,” Stephens said AT&T’s fiber optic and wireless broadband networks are “tools to work with” while trying to increase revenue from video streaming. “We are still committed to making this work and continuing to do what we can,” said Stephens.

AT&T has been trying to reassure investors about its TV outlook in recent months, as activist investor Elliott Management Corp. AT&T’s TV strategy criticized and encouraged the company to dispose of DirecTV. Elliott pointed out that the acquisition of DirecTV in 2015 by AT&T “reached the absolute high point of the linear TV market”.

AT&T reached a deal with Elliott at the end of October whereby DirecTV was not sold, but AT&T promised to perform a “disciplined assessment” of its portfolio and said it would “not make major acquisitions” for the next three years.

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