The United States Patent and Trademark Office received a trademark application for the term "AT&T TV" from the wireless carrier on March 6, suggesting AT&T may be looking to launch a new TV service or is planning to rebrand some of its existing television offerings - U-verse, DIRECTV, and DIRECTV NOW. The application specifically mentions set-top boxes with voice controls, thus being indicative of an Internet TV solution.
The Dallas, Texas-based telecom giant was reportedly interested in replacing the U-verse and DIRECTV brands since at least 2015, before its $67.1 billion acquisition of the El Segundo, California-based TV company was even completed. The firm is understood to have dropped those plans by late 2016 when it launched DIRECTV Now, with the new trademark hence being more likely to replace the U-verse brand than that of its flagship subsidiary. Alternatively, the company may be looking to phase out its traditional TV brands and consolidate them under the AT&T TV name while leaving the DIRECTV NOW service as it is. The fact that DIRECTV NOW isn't available on set-top boxes which AT&T's latest trademark filing refers to adds more credence to that possibility.
The latest move comes as AT&T is preparing to fight the U.S. Department of Justice in court over its proposed $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner which the regulator blocked primarily due to its implications for the TV industry, suggesting AT&T may force rival distributors to pay more for Turner's programming and consequently drive up the annual TV bills by hundreds of millions of dollars. The telecom giant repeatedly dismissed such claims as baseless, asserting that its proposed tie-up is a vertical merger which doesn't remove any competition from the market and stating Washington has no precedent for blocking it. The trial on the matter is scheduled to start on March 19 and is expected to last for several weeks. AT&T's latest internal deadline for the completion of the consolidation is April 22, though the company should extend it if its dispute with the DOJ isn't resolved by then.