AT&T has announced a fairly major revision to its DIRECTV NOW service. The changes affect not only the number of plans that are on offer, but also the prices, and even the channels you get for the money. All of which means there's quite a lot to digest before deciding which, if any, of the new plans are right for you. Some of these changes affect existing users, as well as new subscribers.
Here's an overview of everything you need to know about the new DIRECTV NOW.
Four plans become two
Up until now, DIRECTV NOW has offered four main plans for most consumers in the U.S. to choose from. These consisted of Live a little, Just right, Go big and Gotta have it. All of these plans have now been replaced with just two plans: Plus and Max.
Generally speaking, the two plans are more alike than different although it is clear the Max plan is the more premium. Max offers access to a minimum of 50 channels for $70 and this is in comparison to the Plus plan which provides 40 channels for $50.
For quick reference, here's a brief comparison of the new plans and the old ones.
As you can see, the plans have changed fairly significantly. This is not only at the number of plans level, but also at the price and content level. For example, the entry-level plan now comes with only 40 channels (compared to 65 before) and costs $10 more.
Likewise, the now-premium plan is $5 cheaper than the previous Gotta have it plan but only comes with 50 channels compared to the 125 that were previously on offer for the $5 more.
These changes result in plans that offer significantly less value than before – when speaking strictly in terms of the number of channels for the price.
HBO and Cinemax for free
What AT&T is banking on being a major selling point for the two new plans is HBO. AT&T picked up HBO when it acquired Time Warner and has slowly been discounting the popular network to its customers, and in some cases bundling it in with its other services.
This is exactly what is happening here as HBO is now included with both Plus and Max plans free of charge.
In addition, Cinemax is another premium channel which previously had to be added to a DIRECTV NOW plan as an additional monthly subscription. That's still the case with Plus, but Max subscribers will now get Cinemax (as well as HBO) for free.
This may or may not be a good thing. If you are interested in HBO and Cinemax then having them included at no extra cost will make a big difference. Although, these two were previously available as network add-ons for just an additional $5 apiece (the add-ons now cost $15 and $11, respectively). So even with the Max plan that factors both in for free, it's technically only a saving of $10 per month compared to before.
For those considering the new Plus and Max plans and not interested in HBO or Cinemax, this will likely impact you the most. As not only are you getting access to two networks you don't particularly want, but you are also getting significantly less channels than you would have gotten before.
There's also the issue of a product overlap for AT&T wireless customers considering the company already offers free HBO to those who are signed up to compatible wireless plan. For those wireless customers, the allure of free HBO is unlikely to hold much weight.
What you don't get
As to be expected, AT&T is less keen on declaring what has now gone from its DIRECTV NOW plans and to be honest, there's a lot.
Missing individual channels largely depend on what plan you would have opted for before as the Gotta Have It plan came with 125 channels compared to Live a little's 65 channels.
Notable networks and channels that were previously available on at least one of the four plans and are now not bundled with the two new plans include A&E, AMC, Animal Planet, BBC America, BET, Comedy Central, Discovery, HGTV, HISTORY, Investigation Discovery, Lifetime and MTV.
Sports fans lose out on MLB Network, NBA TV, NFL Network, NHL Network and the Tennis Channel. While the missing kids options include Baby First, Nick Jr., Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite, Nicktoons and TeenNick.
Here's everything that's now missing: A Wealth of Entertainment, A&E Network, AMC, Animal Planet, American Heroes, AXS TV, Baby First, BBC America, BET, Bloomberg TV, C-SPAN, CMT, Comedy Central, Comedy TV, Cooking Channel, Destination America, Discovery, DIY Network, El Rey, FM, Food Network, Fuse, Fusion, fyi, Galavision, GSN, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, HGTV, HISTORY, IFC, Investigation Discovery, Justice Central, Lifetime TV Shows & Movies, LMN, Logo, MLB Network, Motor Trend, MTV,MTV2, MTV Classic, NBA TV, NFL Network, NHL Network, Nick Jr., Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite, Nicktoons, One American News, OWN, Paramount Network, REELZ, RFD-TV, Science, SundanceTV, STARZ, Tennis Channel, TLC, TeenNick, TV Land, TVG, TV One, Travel Channel, UniMás, Univision, Univision Deportes Network, VH1, Viceland, WE tv and The Weather Channel.
For a better understanding of exactly what the new DIRECTV NOW plans offer, compared to the old plans, see below.
Existing customers don't panic
If you are already a DIRECTV NOW customer then it looks like you are safe from the content changes. AT&T has confirmed existing customers will now be "grandfathered" into their plan and will be able to continue accessing the same content without any channel changes if that's what they want. At least, for now.
That's not to say you are exempt from all that's happening however, as AT&T is now applying a service-wide price increase of $10. That means that regardless of what plan you were on before, from April 12 you will start to pay $10 more than you did previously for the same plan and content.
Due to AT&T's various promotions over the past two years, this means the only standardization here is the $10 increase. Some people will be paying different prices for the same plans and if you are one of those who managed to snag a certain plan at a discounted price, the amount of that discount (compared to the plan's usual price) is still in effect. The only major points to note is that the same discounted plan will cost $10 more now, just like the plan's usual price.
If you cancel your plan at any time you won't be able to return to it again.
Why has AT&T done this?
The reason this is happening is the company's need to turn DIRECTV NOW into a profitable service. All of the so-called "skinny" bundles have reportedly been running at a deficit, or at least, very thin margins and this is the company's attempt to bring the service in line with where AT&T understands the prices need to be.
Back in December, AT&T's CEO, Randall Stephenson said changes likes these were coming and even then hinted at $50-60 being the sweet spot. Which is exactly the price the new plans now start at.
For those unhappy with the new plans, or with the price increase to the existing plans, there are plenty of alternatives available, including a budget option from AT&T called WatchTV.