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AT&T TV: The Future of TV Is NOT Here

Less cutting and more extending the cord for another two years.

AT&T TV is now available nationwide. While it does offer another option to consumers, and in spite of being an interesting one, there can be little doubting that this is a bad deal for cord cutters. In fact, most people would do well to steer clear of this one.

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One of the biggest turn offs with AT&T TV is the reliance of a contract. Subscribers will be locked to a two-year agreement, and while that’s enough to already rule this one out, what makes it all the worse is that in the second year, the prices automatically increase. Although, it’s more accurate to say the price spikes, than increases.

To put this point into perspective, the cheapest plan is the Entertainment plan (see at AT&T) and this one jumps from $$49.99 per month in the first year to $93 in the second year. The plans in between increase at a similar rate with the most expensive “Ultimate” plan jumping from its initial $69.99 each month to $135. Again, subscribers will be locked in at that $135 per month for a twelve-month period. That’s $1,620 over the course of the year.

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AT&T’s latest effort to lock consumers down

AT&T is no stranger to attempting to lock consumers to a long-term agreement. In fact, it’s one of the things AT&T seems pretty good at.

Even when one of the terms of the agreement is the option to cancel anytime, AT&T still manages to find ways to trap subscribers down and this was seen in full effect with DIRECTV NOW. When the service first launched, AT&T offered a massive selection of channels at a very low rate. As a result, the service immediately attracted attention and plenty of subscribers.

DIRECTV NOW Go Big
The original Go Big plan offered exceptional value

Since then, the company has increased the price little by little but frequently enough to where the current price is almost double the cost was at launch. In fact, AT&T TV NOW (as it is now called), has crept in price so much that its entry-level package is now the most expensive of the main live TV streaming services. Not forgetting, these price increases have not come alone, with AT&T removing channels from packages at the same time.

Although these continued price increases (and lost channels) have resulted in the service’s subscriber count tumbling over the last year, AT&T has still found ways to encourage subscribers to stick with the service, including their ‘special price’ and the bundling of HBO for free – a service AT&T also happens to own.

Arguably, AT&T is already in the process of repeating this hook-now-charge-more-later strategy with its other new video product – HBO Max. For example, AT&T has already confirmed HBO Max will arrive later this year, and will offer significantly more content than the existing HBO service. However, it will be priced at $14.99 per month which is exactly the same price as the standard HBO product.

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HBO max
Expect HBO Max price rises once everyone’s hooked.

While that seems like a good deal on the face of it, that’s what AT&T does. It launches at a low cost, lures subscribers in, and then slowly the price hikes start to come through. Once HBO Max becomes settled, and the subscriber numbers announced each quarter are impressive enough, the price increases will almost certainly start to arrive.

Expect the usual AT&T treatment with the “new” AT&T TV

Those already experienced with AT&T’s streaming experience will already be (justifiably) cautious, while other will be downright skeptical of the company’s new service. The problem is that AT&T is not targeting those consumers with its new streaming product. Instead, the new service will be directly aimed at the sheer number of consumers who are going to migrate from a traditional package to a streaming alternative in the years to come. Undoubtedly, this includes the current crop of AT&T TV customers who are still tied to traditional packages.

Identical to the approach AT&T and WarnerMedia is taking with existing HBO subscribers, the company will do all it can to encourage existing customers to transition to the new service. Coupled with other consumers new to cord cutting and in need of a soft transition, this will provide AT&T with plenty to work with and benefit from. Not to mention, AT&T is also making a data and advertising play with its new box, and that’s in addition to cutting down on its own operating costs overall.

For those customers, AT&T TV is likely to seem like a good deal. With the price and terms relatively similar to what they already have, and the new AT&T TV coming with all the additional benefits of a streaming platform, including an Android TV box, it is an upgrade.

ATT Android TV
A modern device with a dated plan

With these points in mind, consumers thinking of switching to AT&T TV should be aware of the company’s habitual behavior and consider carefully before signing up. Especially considering that this one is already starting with the confirmation of long-term contracts and second-year price hikes – terms that are likely to reflect the best this service will ever get.

Instead, anyone new to cord cutting or just wanting to get more involved with streaming in general, would be better off avoiding this service altogether. AT&T might market and brand AT&T TV as new, but there’s very little new about it.

It’s the same old TV tricks, albeit with a shiny new wrapper.

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By John Finn

John started Streaming Clarity to help consumers navigate the live TV streaming and subscription service landscape. John has been writing about technology and TV-related services and devices since 2014 and believes the best streaming approach is to bounce between services as needed. Contact John via email at john@streamingclarity.com or on Twitter

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