Earlier today AT&T confirmed it is rebranding its DIRECTV NOW service as AT&T TV NOW.
Presumably, this is meant to fit in with the rebrand, well, the branding of a new DIRECTV streaming service as "AT&T TV."
While many will assume that's the end of the story, the DIRECTV name in general has become quite toxic in recent weeks and months and it seems hard to escape the likelihood that AT&T is also hoping to distance the new services from that toxicity.
The only problem is the AT&T branding might not be any less toxic right now.
Many already associate the recent fall from grace of DIRECTV NOW with AT&T specifically. After all, it was AT&T who raised the prices while at the same time decreased the number of channels the service offered. In other words, AT&T chose to give you, the consumer, less than before while charging you more than before.
What's more, when these changes came into effect AT&T was quick to focus in on how the "streamlined" service was about providing more "quality." The problem with this is when AT&T was referring to "quality" what it really was referring to was "AT&T."
AT&T did not simply reduce the channels, what it did was decrease the number of third-party channels it has to pay for. This was not to keep costs low for the subscriber as it simultaneously increased subscriber prices. AT&T then proceeded to fill the content gap it created with the content it owns. One example of this was the addition of HBO to DIRECTV NOW plans.
AT&T was in effect making DIRECTV NOW more of an AT&T-focused service and it was this focus on its own content that the company opted to refer to as "quality" content.
This in turn did not go down so well with consumers who had their own interpretation of what quality means and especially considering some of their favorite channels (that they pay for) were now being replaced with channels they hadn't asked or agreed to pay for. During this transition Viacom proved to be the biggest casualty with virtually all of its channels being wiped from the DIRECTV NOW books.
This also proved to be a prime example of the contempt felt by consumers as after considerable social media pressure by Viacom and its viewers, AT&T backtracked and agreed to let Viacom return to DIRECTV NOW – albeit in a limited capacity compared to before.
Further adding to the resentment felt by DIRECTV NOW customers, both existing and those who have recently opted to leave, AT&T executives have done all they can to alienate what was once the core and loyal DIRECTV NOW subscriber base.
This has been seen when AT&T's CEO & President, Randall Stephenson, starting explaining in public that AT&T had embarked on a 'DIRECTV NOW clean up'. As part of those comments, Stephenson explained the clean up was why it was cutting down on the channels it deemed not good or valuable enough for DIRECTV NOW.
Adding to this, Stephenson also explained that AT&T was actively looking at "cleaning up" the customer base in the same way it was the channels.
What Stephenson went on to explain was how the goal was to get the service to a point where it was only stocked with "high-quality customers." Evidently, this was also clearly suggesting that the current crop of customers included customers deemed of a low quality.
These also were not isolated comments but ones that were reiterated in some form or another by other AT&T executives. Again, this is AT&T talking out loud and not DIRECTV specifically which further highlights that a change in name is unlikely to result in a change in perception of how many consumers currently view DIRECTV NOW.
On a wider point, and likely one of the core reasons AT&T has made this change is the fact that AT&T is now an extremely powerful force within the industry. Ever since its Time Warner purchase went through AT&T has turned into a media giant and now effectively controls a lot of the content as well as the services, the internet those services run on, and so on.
This single-entity approach and control is unlikely to be viewed by many as a good thing for the industry and especially as companies like AT&T now seem keen on ring-fencing content for the benefit of themselves and their subscribers.
Although bringing all of this together under the one "AT&T TV" banner likely appeals to AT&T as it encapsulates the change that has now taken place within the industry, it is equally susceptible to reminding consumers of just how powerful AT&T is and how this is yet another of the company's tentacles stretching into their lives.
The collective sum of all this is that this rebranding effort is just that – an attempt to paint the service in a different light. AT&T has already confirmed that nothing is meaningfully changing with the rebrand as the service will still be the same and so will those operating behind the scenes.
AT&T TV NOW might be a fresh face on the service, but it is the same DIRECTV NOW that has seen more than 500,000 subscribers leave in the past few months and while AT&T might assume the new name is better and more meaningful, it might find out the hard way the name's meaning is not what AT&T originally anticipated.