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Week In Review: AT&T Rebrands DTVN, Locast Gets Sued

AT&T Rebrands DTVN

AT&T rebranded DirecTV Now this week, changing the name to AT&T TV Now (to match its new AT&T TV service) because people won’t realize how much it sucks if it has a different name.

I mean seriously, what else could they have been thinking?

Why It Matters

AT&T now has at least seven different TV services according to my friend Kirby Grines.

The new AT&T TV is a thin client service, which is Technologese for “runs on an IPTV connection” which translates into English as “uses an internet connection that is not the open internet/world wide web thing.”

The idea there is to shift DirecTV subscribers away from cable to an AT&T-powered broadband connection (5G or Uverse) and then have them get their TV that way using a proprietary Android set top box rather than a Roku or Amazon Fire TV. 

A decision clearly based on years of consumer research.

That was sarcasm, in case it wasn’t obvious. The only thing most viewers want less than an AT&T set top box is a Facebook one and that’s seemingly not stopping Team Zuck from rolling one out, so why should Team AT&T be any different?

OTOH, 5G is many years away—all those towers to install—so things will likely change many times over before (and even “if”) it becomes real. Though moving from satellite to IPTV means that thunderstorms won’t interrupt the football game, so there’s that.

This seems to be further proof of our theory that AT&T figured out the business reasons why all of their recent deals made sense without ever stopping to figure out where consumers fit into it. So now they’ve got to deal with that part of it, on everything from AT&T TV Now to HBO Max and well, good luck to them.

What You Need To Do About It

If you’re us, you’re going to have to make a bunch of charts that now say “AT&T TV Now, FKA DirecTV Now” which is really hard to do in the legend area of a chart. 

If you’re a consumer and your promo deal with ATVN runs out, you need to figure out if you want to stay with them, switch to another MVPD or vMVPD or whether you want to cut the cord entirely.

If you’re AT&T, you need to actually revamp your newly renamed vMVPD so that it’s competitive with Hulu Live TV, YouTube TV and FuboTV. Because in the month-to-month contract world we live in, consumers are just going to vote for the better service with their feet and right now that’s not you.

(Plan B of course, is to offer them HBO Max at a severely discounted price. Come to think of it, that could work too.)

2. Locast Gets Sued

Not much surprise here. Locast, which retransmits local broadcasts over the internet, is getting sued by the big broadcast networks: ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox.

Why It Matters

While Locast bills itself as a non-profit and asks for donations, that’s always seemed like a wink-wink, nudge-nudge attempt to circumvent the ruling in the Aereo case, where a similar service was shut down by the Supreme Court. (Aereo claimed to be renting its antennas and then sending the signals to consumers, an argument the Court was not buying.)

Broadcasters make billions (literally) from the retransmission fees they get from MVPDs, so they are not about to let that cash cow out of the barn.

They’d been ignoring Locast because its user base was small and inconsequential but then AT&T decided to use Locast as a tool in its carriage war with CBS (our subscribers don’t need you CBS! We’ll just have them use Locast! That’s L-O-C-A-S-T!!!”

And so it was just a matter of time before the lawsuit got filed.

What You Need To Do About It

Not much to do here. Nobody really expects Locast to win—the “donate” piece isn’t really fooling anybody.

Bigger question, one we’ve asked before, is if CBS/Viacom buys Discovery post-merger, as many are predicting, then all of the major network groups will have a Flix. So how long (if ever) until they decide that the hassles of retrans aren’t worth the money and that they’ll be better off running their linear feeds on their OTT apps?

You never know. Stranger things have happened.