AT&T TV Launch: For Now, It's Only A Test

Can you count all the digital media distribution content efforts -- and their permutations -- at AT&T, which include HBO, Turner, DirecTV, and Warner Bros. brands?

Maybe you left one off the list. There’s AT&T TV, which the company describes as a  “thin client broadband TV service.” 

Is this another TV distribution tool yet to be used in big-time content negotiations? Randall Stephenson, chairman-CEO of AT&T, mused in a call with analysts on Wednesday that:

“Later this summer, we’ll beta launch AT&T TV in a few markets, that’s our live TV service over broadband. We have some really high expectations for this product, and we’re going to learn from the pilot. Then we’ll expand to more cities this year.”



All this while AT&T -- and its pay TV services, DirecTV, DirecTV Now, and U-verse -- continue to have their public squabbles, carriage negotiation disagreements with CBS Corp. and Nexstar Media Group.

Stephenson also talked a bit about these negotiations -- especially in light of consumers' new technologies. “Some customers, at a pretty significant rate, find other ways of getting that content,” he said.

Not too sure if these somewhat public comments are part of any negotiation positioning with content providers. Still, there are many ways to get content these days -- new digital TV providers, YouTube and via broadband.

Right now, AT&T has a sizable part of the pay TV market -- some 21 million out of some 80 million to 90 million overall pay TV homes, via cable, satellite, telco, or new broadband-based direct-to-consumer platforms.

One might wonder whether AT&T, at some point, would need to carry CBS stations/programming at all in the future.

Perhaps it may like what CBS is doing with CBS All Access -- in part, giving AT&T some consumer perception relief.

CBS says subscribers are quickly rising at All Access, all due to its problems with AT&T. So, yes, Stephenson is right. Consumers are finding other ways to get content.

Now the usual question surrounding these battles: Are digital platforms a negotiation hedge against future linear pay TV shifts?

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