When it comes to services like DIRECTV, AT&T is less keen on releasing an application that can be used on third-party devices. It is not against releasing such apps, it is just not the company’s preference.
The information on this comes from the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Conference where AT&T’s President of Mobility and Entertainment, David Christopher, was answering questions on various aspects of the business.
One of the main topics of conversation was the upcoming launch of a streaming version of DIRECTV. This is not to be confused with DIRECTV NOW, as this service is the streaming equivalent to the company’s satellite service. It is, in fact, a like-for-like product designed to ensure customers who want to stay with DIRECTV but move to a streaming way of life, can. Similarly, it is equally designed to cater to those who can’t get the company’s satellite service for whatever reason.
Where the app talks comes in is AT&T plans to launch a self-install set-top box with the streaming version of DIRECTV.
As this is a streaming version, AT&T could simply opt to release an app instead. This would not only make it even easier for users to access the service, but it would also make it easier for users to access the service on the device of their choosing.
However, in todays comments Christopher made it clear AT&T prefers DIRECTV customers to use its set-top box. Christopher argued the use of a set-top box is better than an app as it allows the company to release the type of “premium” product it wants to.
Christopher opted to not provide detailed information on these features that the company is “super-excited” about, but did mention a “modern UI” and “really, really great search and navigation capabilities.”
Of course, one of the added incentives from AT&T’s perspective is that a self-install set-top box comes with greatly reduced installation costs compared to traditional DIRECTV set-top box solutions.
This was another element Christopher was keen to mention stating that it can be installed “like you would in Apple TV.” Christopher pointed to the massive savings that will be had with the new hardware and even suggested those savings might be passed on to the customer. What Christopher specifically said was the streaming version of DIRECTV could be released at "a price point that could be slightly below satellite if we choose to.”
As part of the same conversation, Christopher did not completely rule out releasing an app for other hardware in the future, and these comments were also a little revealing. Christopher explained that AT&T is playing with the app idea and will make a decision closer to when the service arrives to market. More importantly, stated “it doesn't mean we won't have an application that can run on somebody else's hardware for a second or third bedroom.”
The last part is particularly interesting as it does suggest even if an app is released for third-party devices, it won’t be released as a standalone app and instead will be designed to work with the set-top box AT&T is packaging with the service.
In other words, those opting to go the DIRECTV streaming route will almost certainly have to go the set-top box route as well.
On a side note, AT&T does offer those who want an app-based live TV experience the option to do so through DIRECTV NOW. However, even though this is primarily an app-based product, AT&T has proved to be less interested in releasing apps compatible with all platforms. This is particularly true when it comes to Android TV.
Android TV is also the platform the new DIRECTV set-top box utilizes and considering AT&T is not keen on releasing a DIRECTV app on third-party Android TV devices, this also might be why the company has been less keen on releasing an DIRECTV NOW Android TV app.