AT&T TV is no longer offering the option to sign up to a two-year live TV plan on its website, with new customers now only able to choose between the company’s no contract packages. This appears to be a permanent change, and only the latest in a long line of adjustments that AT&T has made to its video business in recent years.
Originally launched as DirecTV Now, AT&T’s live TV streaming service was rebranded as AT&T TV Now in 2019. In early 2020, AT&T further expanded its presence in the market with the launch of AT&T TV. Different to the Now service, AT&T TV acted as a direct streaming alternative for its cable plans, even requiring a long-term contact and subject to early termination fees. The two separate services remained available up until January of this year, when AT&T TV Now was folded into AT&T TV. Following this change, new AT&T TV customers were able to choose between two-year and no contract plans when signing up.
The ability to switch between the two-year contract and no contract plans has now been removed from AT&T’s website, suggesting the company has ended the option to sign up on an annual basis. In addition, the Xtra plan, previously only available as a two-year option, is no longer available at all, with new customers only able to select from the Entertainment, Choice, Ultimate and Premier plans.
All indications do suggest this is a permanent change. While the two-year plans were still being offered as recently as May 3, according to the Internet Archive, they were removed as early as May 10. Likewise, the dedicated Xtra package page (see here for an archived version) now redirects to the AT&T TV home page. Furthermore, some recent AT&T employee social media posts (example) suggest that May 4 was officially ‘AT&T TV No Contract’ launch day. At present, there are no suggestions that existing annual contract subscribers are affected.
A more streamlined AT&T TV?
Earlier in the year, AT&T struct a deal with TPG to form a new company to oversee the U.S. arm of its video business, similar to the deal AT&T’s WarnerMedia more recently agreed with Discovery. Once complete, the ‘New DirecTV’ company will take control of the AT&T TV, DirecTV and U-verse services. Although that deal is not expected to close until the second half of 2021, it is possible the removal of the two-year packages is part of some longer-term strategy related to New DirecTV.
Considering the Now service was specifically advertised as the contract-free alternative, it does seem unusual for AT&T to discontinue that service only to then remove its favored two-year packages and focus exclusively on no contract plans. Regardless, the change does also now mean that consumers have lost the option to subscribe to AT&T’s more robust live TV packages.
While the two-year plans locked consumers down with longer agreements and a price increase after the first twelve months, they did offer more choice at the channel level. For example, the $74.99 per month Xtra plan came with a minimum of 120 channels. In comparison, the $84.99 per month no contract Choice plan only offers access to a minimum of 90 channels. The next upgrade is the 130-channel Ultimate plan, priced at $94.99 per month. With the annual contract plans removed, consumers now have to choose between AT&T TV’s four no contract plans. All of which start at a higher monthly price than fuboTV, Hulu Live TV, Sling TV and YouTube TV.