AT&T Loses Another 1 Million TV Customers As Cord Cutting (And Greed) Take A Toll

from the not-the-sort-of-death-star-we-planned dept

2019 saw a record number of consumers ditch traditional cable television. 2020 was already poised to be even worse, and that was before a pandemic came to town. The pandemic not only sidelined live sports (one of the last reasons many subscribe to traditional cable in the first place), it put an additional strain on many folks' wallets, resulting cord cutting spiking even higher.

Among the hardest hit continues to be AT&T, whose customers have been fleeing hand over fist even with AT&T's attempt to pivot to streaming video. According to AT&T's latest earnings report, the company lost yet another 954,000 pay TV subscribers -- 886,000 from the company's traditional DirecTV and IPTV television offerings, and another 68,000 customers from the company's creatively named AT&T TV Now streaming video platform. All told, the losses left AT&T with 18.4 million video customers, including both Premium TV and AT&T TV Now, down from nearly 25.5 million in mid-2018.

That's a fairly amazing face plant for a company that spent more than $150 billion on megamergers (DirecTV in 2015, Time Warner in 2018) in a bid to dominate the pay TV sector. The problem is the deals saddled AT&T with an absolute mountain of debt, which the company then attempted to extract from its customers in the form of relentless price hikes. During an economic crisis and pandemic:

"Higher prices helped drive the customer losses. As it has in past quarters, AT&T said its practice of giving out fewer promotional-pricing deals contributed to the customer losses for AT&T TV Now. AT&T said the Premium TV loss was "due to competition as well as lower gross adds from the continued focus on adding higher-value customers."

While AT&T executives are trying to pretend this was all part of some master strategy to only retain higher-revenue subscribers, this is absolutely not the sort of sector domination company executives originally envisioned. The entire point of releasing a cheaper streaming TV service is to lure cost-conscious customers fleeing traditional cable. Raising rates relentlessly sort of defeats that purpose. The company also managed to shoot itself in the foot with such a bizarre array of discordant TV brand offerings, it, at one point, managed to confuse the company's own employees.

Even AT&T's investors (who usually adore megamergers) balked at the company's spending spree and sloppy execution, and for months rumors have indicated that AT&T could wind up selling DirecTV for a pittance. Overall, just another day for a telecom and media sector that's utterly obsessed with mindless merger mania and growth for growth's sake, even when it makes absolutely no sense.

Filed Under: competition, cord cutting, fees, john stankey, tv
Companies: at&t


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  1. icon
    Gumnos (profile), 31 Jul 2020 @ 6:48am

    Let me fix that for you

    due to competition as well as lower gross adds from the continued focus on adding higher-value customers

    Here you go, ATT: "due to competition as well as lower gross adds from the continued focus on adding h̶i̶g̶h̶e̶r̶-̶v̶a̶l̶u̶e̶ ̶c̶u̶s̶t̶o̶m̶e̶r̶s̶ suckers who are willing to overpay."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Pixelation, 31 Jul 2020 @ 7:05am

    Whirlwind

    Well, AT&T is reaping the benefits of the stacked deck they and other large corporations have pushed to create. The system pushes money to the top. Lower wages and less money for the working class leaves many people unable to afford the continually increasing hidden fees. Others, like myself, see the greedy little sheisters for what they are and say, no thank you and look elsewhere. Perhaps, if they start pushing for a system that brings money back into the hands of those who will spend it when they have some disposable income, they might find more people willing to pay their exorbitant fees.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Jul 2020 @ 7:07am

    High prices drive customers away, not a surprise.
    Also millions of people are now unemployed , shops going out of business, of course this will effect the cable TV industry not just At.&T.
    This is the worst depression since 1930.
    Cable TV is a luxury.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    BurningWoodchipper (profile), 31 Jul 2020 @ 7:43am

    Cord-cutting is under-reported

    I know, anecdote =/= data, but ...
    I wanted to cut the cord and go streaming-only, but AT&T caps on speed and data would have jumped my monthly bill 120%. AT&T kept a TV subscriber with creative billing.

    As long as I continue to pay for Uverse TV, my bill actually went down. I get the cheapest TV package, but that "allows" me to have their "best" internet (DSL? Really? in 2020?) with unlimited data, and keeps my bill around $75 total.

    My only other option is Comcast, which is installing fiber in the neighborhood, but plans to roll out fiber sometime mid-next year - and at twice the price I'm paying now.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Jul 2020 @ 7:56am

    Re:

    Actually, 1933 is the worst since 1930 at 24.9% unemployment. The US is currently at 11.1% unemployment which is the worst since 1940 (14.6%). 1982 was very close at 10.8% and 2009-2010 was pretty bad at 9.9% and 9.3% respectively. Ref: https://www.thebalance.com/unemployment-rate-by-year-3305506

    It helps to keep this in perspective. It's bad but hyperbole doesn't help.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Jul 2020 @ 8:01am

    Re: Cord-cutting is under-reported

    and at twice the price I'm paying now

    Are you sure? I know it varies by region but we have Comcast gigabit service (non-symmetric, with a cap) for $70/mo. What they call "fiber" service is actually fiber only up to their local center and coax the rest of the way.

    We also have Frontier fiber which comes all the way up to the house for $70/mo but their service is only 100Mb (symmetrical, no cap, 80% minimum guarantee).

    Yeah, we pay for both because my wife and I both work from home and we can afford to have both a lot better than we can being without internet if (when) it goes down.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Glenn, 31 Jul 2020 @ 8:02am

    AT&T's "follow the money" plan: find out where the money is... then go the other way.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    arp2 (profile), 31 Jul 2020 @ 8:02am

    Re: Cord-cutting is under-reported

    Agreed. Xfinity is one of the few providers in my area. I have the phone service because it's cheaper to get the phone service combination rather than bare internet. Is it just to drive up their phone numbers (pun intended)?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Jul 2020 @ 8:09am

    Re: Re: Cord-cutting is under-reported

    Absolutely. Who on earth wants a land line in this day and age?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Jul 2020 @ 8:17am

    Re: Re: Re: Cord-cutting is under-reported

    Anybody who has a poor mobile signal that makes a mobile more miss than hit whilst indoors.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Jul 2020 @ 8:25am

    Re: Whirlwind

    Letting your racism shine for all to see by using terms like "sheisters".

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Jul 2020 @ 8:43am

    Re: Re: Cord-cutting is under-reported

    we have Comcast gigabit service (non-symmetric, with a cap) for $70/mo

    The previous poster wanted the best service with unlimited data. Giving the price of a capped service doesn't help with that. In their pricing, ISPs tend to vastly underestimate how much data one can transfer on an unlimited connection. E.g., around 2003, I was downloading 15+ GB/month on a Bell Canada dialup connection because Bell Canada DSL would have been capped at 5 GB/month—the overage charges would've made DSL literally 5 times the price of dialup for 15 GB/month ($7.90/GB in those days).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    JoeCool (profile), 31 Jul 2020 @ 8:52am

    Re: Re:

    There's more to a depression than just unemployment, and it hardly hyperbole if someone says something is the 2nd worst when it MIGHT really be the third. Sounds pretty accurate in fact.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Jul 2020 @ 9:12am

    Re: Re:

    What was the under-employment rate? I doubt they measured it back then.

    Seems the methods used to measure unemployment change often, are the unemployment numbers from back then and today even comparable?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. icon
    sierratango (profile), 31 Jul 2020 @ 11:34am

    Re: Re: Whirlwind

    Letting your ignorance shine for believing sheisters[sic] or shysters has any racist connotations.
    It is derived from the german Scheißer or "shitter"; meaning an unscrupulous person - especially pertaining to lawyers.
    The ill-informed frequently conflate "shyster" and "shylock", the latter being a reference to the villain of The Merchant of Venice and, hence, possessing antisemitic tones.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Not THAT AC, 31 Jul 2020 @ 11:39am

    Re: Re: Whirlwind

    "Borrowed word", and not from where you think.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shyster

    (I like the possible Germanic origin)

    C--. Probably well meaning but should learn the differences between derogatory terms for non-racial characteristics borrowed from other races/nationalities because they are aptly descriptive, and derogatory term
    s FOR other races/nationalities.

    (I refer you to James Nicoll's quote on the purity of the English language. If it's good word, we'll use it. See "cromulent")

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Pixelation, 31 Jul 2020 @ 12:30pm

    Re: Re: Whirlwind

    You are entitled to your interpretation. My use of sheister was not the anti-Semitic comment you believe.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Jul 2020 @ 1:25pm

    Re: Re: Re: Whirlwind

    This is the same person, i would guess, who thinks any use of a word that "sounds Yiddish enough" = racism. Or at least that's how they play it. I don't really think it is a good-faith, if crap belief. It looks more like the racism lies elsewhere...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Jul 2020 @ 1:29pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Yep.

    Most measures of employment, or the proxies chosen for "how good the economy is" and the measurement thereof, are crap anyway.

    Don't forget that there is an enforced base unemployment rate to begin with.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    justin, 31 Jul 2020 @ 1:41pm

    Re: Re: Cord-cutting is under-reported

    Xfinity is the only internet provider in my town.I also want to cut the cord .But they only have a couple internet plans. From $95 to $120 I have triple play. 2 year contract.250 channels 600 mbps speed no cap and Netflix and show time. DVR and one a 2nd X1 box. Total cost for triple play is $ 175 per month including modern rental fee. Not bad. I'll keep my plan until my contract expires. Then, We will see.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. icon
    ECA (profile), 31 Jul 2020 @ 1:42pm

    Old but worth it,.

    At the time the 5 highest paid TV execs..

    https://www.investopedia.com/articles/wealth-management/041316/5-highest-paid-executives-tel ecommunications-sector-s-t.asp#:~:text=Randall%20L.&text=As%20the%20CEO%20of%20AT%26T,stock%20aw ards%20and%20other%20compensation.

    And the ATT list of exec's and the money, not Stocks.

    https://www1.salary.com/ATandT-INC-Executive-Salaries.html

    Cash = ~ 104 million just the top execs..
    4 million for the board.

    150 billion?? How in hell can you Figure this amount spent? Even with 25 million subscribers. your profit from the subscribers would need to be $100+ per person to get even Close to paying it down yearly.

    And if we believe what we are told, that cable pays for every channel, so they have to Charge for every channel..It would be a con, to add more channels to Seem like you are getting more, but you arnt.
    Its asif they are charging $1 per channel, but you dont watch all of them all the time, and you CANT watch them all.. and in many cases you cant even record the ones you WOULD LIKE to watch, while watching another that you WANT to watch.

    We can bring up the Old list of the channel prices, but as I show my family members.. 200 channels, mark off the ones you dont watch. religion? Sports? News? Justice? Cartoons? Now look at the list and figure whats left you WOULD watch every day IF' you could. and you end up with about 20 channels.. ANd at $1 per channel, I WOULD NOT MIND, paying $20.

    I think Much of their problems end up being contracts like ESPN, over charging Everyone, including those that DONT watch ESPN programs. Even looking at the internet, and how much Some of these channels WANT you to pay, shows the problem Cable/sat has with the contracts.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Jul 2020 @ 6:30pm

    Richard Bennett blowjobs just ain't as profitable as they used to be.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    NPS, 31 Jul 2020 @ 7:45pm

    We are still a traditional Sat DirectTV customer, I actually priced out how to replace that and if I lose my incentive per month discounts I AM GONE.

    I don't get how they think paying 25% more over prior rates is a WINNING situation. With broadcast networks less interesting and internet based sports on demand apps that will stream to your TV - WHY THE HELL do you need to pay for a cable/sat service that makes you pay for way more channels than you will watch,

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. icon
    PaulT (profile), 1 Aug 2020 @ 3:50am

    Re: Re: Re: Cord-cutting is under-reported

    Not bad in your market maybe. I essentially get the same for 80 euros (around $95 US), minus the second box but I did automatically get 6 free months of Disney+ when they launched here.

    I wonder what your price would be if there were competition?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Aug 2020 @ 3:43pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    To be clear, 11.1% is the 10th worst since 1930.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Aug 2020 @ 3:46pm

    Re: Re: Re: Cord-cutting is under-reported

    Previous poster asserted:

    My only other option is Comcast, which is installing fiber in the neighborhood, but plans to roll out fiber sometime mid-next year - and at twice the price I'm paying now.

    I doubted that the prices will be $150/mo given there will be competition.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    Oktober, 2 Aug 2020 @ 5:28am

    Re: Whirlwind

    we already have that system and it's clearly working. As noted in the article, a million customers left for something else. There won't be money left to "push to the top", eventually. So, they don't need to "push for a system that brings money back..." because we literally have a system that is doing just that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. identicon
    Oktober, 2 Aug 2020 @ 5:33am

    Re: Re: Re:

    this is true, much more than just unemployment. Which makes this "depression" comparatively insignificant considering the media hype and inflated covid numbers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. icon
    DebbyS (profile), 2 Aug 2020 @ 6:56am

    Re: Re: Re: Cord-cutting is under-reported

    Land lines work to call the power company when a storm or anything else has knocked out ones power. I'm rather lucky, our power company's main headquarters is about 2 blocks from me, so after a storm and the power is out, I can go over and knock on PNM's door once covid allows that. Someone will be there even on a weekend... I think.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Aug 2020 @ 8:12am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You forgot to mention the outright lies coming from the present administration, the resulting detrimental affects upon the economy, and the overall mental stability of the public as a result ... these asshats are trying to kill us and all you can do is make excuses.

    Go ahead - attend that rally, party, church, concert, protest, whatever ... but do not bitch and moan about your illness trying to blame others for your own stupidity.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Aug 2020 @ 8:19am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "enforced base unemployment rate "

    Enforced??

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32. icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 3 Aug 2020 @ 12:28am

    Re: Re:

    "It helps to keep this in perspective. It's bad but hyperbole doesn't help."

    Yeah, the economy may tank and bad times will continue until we finally have a vaccine for covid - at which point we'll be giving the anti-vaxxer plague rats their well-earned Darwin awards, I'm guessing.

    What is more concerning by far and is somehow rarely being mentioned is the death rate equivalent to about a 9/11 every two days with a total sum of dead american civilians higher than the amount of soldiers they lost in World War 1 - over twice what they lost in vietnam.

    So the threat to the economy is invariably hyperbolic sky-is-falling doomsday talk but the actual death rate barely registers as a blip in the US.

    How the hell did you guys get to that point of national disregard for lives over money?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33. icon
    PaulT (profile), 3 Aug 2020 @ 12:41am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "How the hell did you guys get to that point of national disregard for lives over money?"

    It's never really changed. Token moves toward workers rights have taken place in history, but a lot of these were gutted by Reaganomics and the industries that fought the loudest were the first to have their industries offshored. Safety nets for workers, especially with regard to healthcare, have been sabotaged or destroyed and there's plenty of examples of US companies literally poisoning people around them rather than pay for basic safety measures. The EPA was set up when Nixon was shocked at the sight of rivers on fire, but most recently Trump has been trying his best to stop them doing anything that would interfere with corporate profit.

    The current pandemic has exposed how little some people care about lives so long as there's profit to be made, but deep down corporate America hasn't changed the way it thinks at all.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Aug 2020 @ 6:55am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    If the unemployment rate drops too low, the government will increase immigration or raise interest rates to push up unemployment and so constrain wage growth. In practice the organic unemployment rate usually exceeds the target and they keep pushing the target up, so it doesn't happen very often.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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