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Published on December 5th, 2017 | by Brad Gibson

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Analysis: DirecTV Now’s future looks a mirror of DirecTV and why you should care

AT&T, the owners of DirecTV Now, have big plans for its streaming service in 2018 and all indications are that vision looks a lot like the look, feel and some of the features of its sister satellite service, DirecTV.

Over the past few months, AT&T executives have been giving hints of its plans for the service that added nearly 300,000 customers in the third quarter and now has over a million subscribers. The latest revelations make for interesting reading even for Apple TV users and potential customers considering ‘cord-cutting’ to cheaper alternatives like DirecTV Now.

We already know they will be revamping the service sometime in the first quarter of next year, as BESTAppleTV.com reported in early November. Now, we have a few more pieces to the puzzle.

After meeting with top executives with AT&T, Jefferies LLC analyst Scott Goldman wrote last Friday the company is focused on adding value to DirecTV Now “to drive lower churn (or fewer subscribers canceling) over time.”

‘Churn’ is the worst possible nightmare for any programming service, whether it be streaming, cable or satellite provider. The goal is to get customers and keep them using and paying. As fast consumer adoption of services like DirecTV Now grows, high turnover often follows, much like the problem Hulu has reportedly had in the past few years in keeping its subscribers.

The facts and what they mean

So what is DirecTV Now’s strategy to grow and keep customers like you? Goldman reports AT&T management “believes the platform could ultimately yield higher customer lifetime value when leveraging the value of collected consumer data and the potential for adding broadband and/or wireless to the mix.”

Translation #1…AT&T thinks it can find the right balance between value, features, and price and maybe even create a good package of Internet access to bundle with DirecTV Now. Whether that strategy will work with consumers is debatable, but so far none of the competition – from Hulu, to Sling TV, to YouTube TV – are offering any type of similar bundles.

Goldman’s report, obtained by BESTAppleTV.com, re-confirms some of the ‘2.0’ features customers will be seeing next year, including being able to watch pay-per-view events, a cloud-based DVR that is currently being beta tested, and the ability in that DVR to fast forward through commercials. In addition, executives confirmed to Goldman 4K content will be available, but further details on HDR capabilities or improved audio to match it were not mentioned in the report.the ability in that DVR

In the end, AT&T is hoping the DirecTV Now revamp will pay off in added revenue for the company, but that could take some time.

Translation #2…With the addition of 200-plus local network affiliates and growing (comparison chart viewable online from our friends at Streambuzz.net), DirecTV Now is clearly trying to mirror many of the features and channel choices of its much bigger brother, DirecTV.

Consumers surveys are clear evidence that people not only want cheaper TV options, but they want local channels through the same service without having to install an antenna. DirecTV Now is clearly listening and like DirecTV are inching toward fulfilling that need.

What you can expect that impacts you

What remains to be seen is how much different, and hopefully better, the user experience will be for consumers.

Much of what DirecTV Now is and will become centers around the customer perception of value and functionality of the user interface (UI) people will experience through their remote. Many existing users are less-than-thrilled by the usability of the on-screen commands and guide at present. There’s hope – and there are some indications it’s a valid hope – that improved changes to the UI will mirror many features found on DirecTV.

Examples of improvements we’ve seen include a cleaner layout, foreground images that are easier to read on top of darker, gray backgrounds, and pop-up displays that better indicate when user-controlled tasks have been completed, such as a confirmation of a program being scheduled to record.

Moving into the New Year, it’ll be interesting to see the usability and marketing strategy of DirecTV Now and its parent in improving the service to be a more grown-up version of its older brother, but with lower pricing cord-cutters will demand.

DirecTV Now is not the most popular service out there right now. Sling TV has double the subscribers. But there is strong indication that as the streaming TV industry exists its infancy, improved content and features from the various services will end up a huge benefit to consumers looking for choice.

(DirecTV NOW launched in November of 2016 using the Apple TV app with an entry-level package price of $35 per month for over 60 channels. For optimal streaming, DirecTV NOW recommends a minimum of 12 Mbps for broadband connections to the home and to an Apple TV set-top box.)

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About the Author

Brad is co-founder and editor-in-chief of BESTAppleTV.com. He has been a technology reporter since the late 1980s having previously worked for MacUser, MacFormat, and iCreate magazines, as well as MacNN.com, MacObserver.com, MacCentral.com, MacMinute.com, and Macworld.com. He hosted and produced the MacFormat This Week podcast for three years. He was also a reporter, editor, and producer for the Associated Press and United Press International.



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