DirecTV Now Launching With 3 Of Big 4

The new streaming service from AT&T that debuts on Wednesday will carry live the owned stations of ABC, NBC and Fox in their entirely within their markets as well as offer the networks' primetime shows on demand the day after their initial airing. But deals aren't in place yet to carry the networks' affiliates. For the time being, subscribers in those markets will have to settle for watching network programs the day after on demand. AT&T exec John Stankey says he's also working to bring the CBS stations on board, but could live without them.

AT&T is promising that at launch tomorrow all subscribers to its ballyhooed DirecTV Now streaming service will be able to watch the primetime programming of ABC, NBC and Fox, although those in the many markets where the networks do not have their own stations will have to wait a day to see the programs on demand.

Speaking at a packed New York press conference late Monday, John Stankey, CEO of the AT&T Entertainment Group, said DirecTV Now will carry live the owned stations of ABC, NBC and Fox in their entirely within their markets as well as offer the networks’ primetime shows on demand the day after their initial airing.

However, he said, AT&T doesn’t yet have deals to carry any of networks’ affiliates. That will leave subscribers in most of the country without the ability to watch network programming when it is initially broadcast. The Fox and NBC O&Os reach only about 39% of TV homes; the ABC O&Os, around 22%.

“You still have an opportunity [in affiliate markets] to get to the premium primetime content [on demand the day after] … that is stacked up and is available to you in the current season,” Stankey said. He added that AT&T hopes the situation is temporary.

He said that he intends to strike deals with the affiliates to carry them as they do the O&Os, but conceded it would take a while because of the sheer number of affiliates, even though “there are lot of incentives for the affiliates to come on fast.”

In lining up the affiliates, Stankey said, AT&T will not be negotiating through the networks. ‘We have to deal directly with the affiliates,” he said. “It’s their business.”


Responding to a question, Stankey said that NBC and Fox have obtained the digital rights to the NFL so that the games will not have to be stripped from the networks’ O&Os before they air on DirecTV Now.

In the addition to the ABC, NBC and Fox affiliates, he said he also hopes to bring the CBS O&Os and affiliates into the fold.

Three of the Big Four networks “are willing to bring their content to us in a way that we think is reasonable and right for our consumers,” he said. “We are … optimistic we will get to a similar place with CBS down the road.”

However, he also said, given the demographics DirecTV Now is chasing, it might be able to do without CBS.

DirecTV Now has attracted a lot of attention primarily because AT&T executives have been promising more than 100 channels for $35 a month — a huge bargain compared to other streaming services.

That turns out not to be the case.

One hundred-plus channels will actually go for $60.

The 100-plus channels for $35 channels is an introductory offer available only for a limited time. How limited, AT&T marketer Brad Bentley couldn’t say. “We are going to take a look and see how it is performing and we will go from there.” He noted, however, that subscribers who grab the introductory deal will be “grandfathered” — they will be able to keep it as long as they continually subscribe.

At launch, the service will comprise four basic bundles.

  • For $35, subscribers get 60-plus channels, including the broadcast networks and the most popular cable networks from Fox,  NBCU, Disney, Discovery, Time Warner, Viacom, Scripps and AMC.
  • At $50, the bundle expands to 80-plus channels to include more sports, including the subscribers’ regional sports networks, and a smattering of secondary cable networks like IFC and OWN.
  • At $60 ($35 during the introductory period), the bundle grows to 100-plus channels
  • At $70, it shoots up to 120-plus channels, including eight Starz and Encore movie channels.

On top of all that, DirecTV is offering the HBO and Cinemax channel packages for $5 each.

As a standalone streaming service, HBO Now goes for $14.99 a month.

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