AT&T Already Backing Off Its Biggest Time Warner Merger Promise: Cheaper TV
from the wink-wink-nudge-nudge dept
AT&T has spent the last few months fending off critics of its planned $100 million acquisition of Time Warner. Most critics say the company’s ownership of Time Warner will make it harder for streaming competitors to license the content they need to compete. Others warn that AT&T’s decision to zero rate (cap exempt) its own content gives the company’s new DirecTV Now streaming TV service an unfair advantage in the market. That’s before you get to the fundamental fact that letting a company with the endless ethical issues AT&T enjoys get significantly larger likely only benefits AT&T.
Responding to these criticisms, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson spent the last few months repeatedly insisting that critics have it wrong, because the merger was allowing the company to introduce a new streaming video service that provides 100 channels of TV for just $35 per month:
“I’m not surprised [by the criticism]. They’re uninformed comments,” Stephenson said in response to a question from Wall Street Journal editor Rebecca Blumenstein at the newspaper’s WSJDLive Conference. “Anybody who characterizes this as a means to raise prices is ignoring the basic premise of what we’re trying to do here, again a $35 product we bring into the market.”
That $35 price point was used again and again by AT&T lobbyists and executives in selling the deal before Congress, the company insisting that only this new mega-merger could possibly make this kind of offer possible. Stephenson at several points proclaimed that the lower-cost option was “a way to drive pricing down in the marketplace,” — a surefire example of AT&T’s dedication to intense video competition.
It’s ironic then that the company is already backtracking and raising rates on its new streaming TV service.
As it turns out, that $35 for 100 channel offer was only a limited-time promotion. AT&T has already jacked the price of the service up to $60 per month as of January 9, and the company is already indicating that pricing for all of its streaming TV service tiers (despite now owning Time Warner content) will be going up sometime in the near future:
“After Jan. 9, new subscribers who sign up for DirecTV Now?s Go Big tier with after Jan. 9 will pay $60 per month. Existing subs will continue to pay the $35-per-month rate for now, but the company also said the fees may increase at some future date. In addition, ?channels, features, and terms (are) subject to change & may be discontinued without notice,? AT&T said in a notice on the DirecTV Now website.”
And this comes as the outgoing FCC is clearly warning that AT&T is using usage caps to give this new content an unfair advantage over streaming alternatives. So while AT&T is busy claiming the Time Warner Merger will help it disrupt and compete with traditional cable, it’s clear AT&T executives are more interested in building cable 2.0: the same old anti-competitive shenanigans and TV price hikes we all know and love, just with a shiny new layer of public relations paint. AT&T has a long history of bogus promises to get big deals approved, but it’s rare to see the company already falling short on its promises before the ink is even dry.