AT&T TV is nothing more than "cable TV" in disguise. Well, in this case, satellite TV in disguise.
We've known for months now that AT&T was going to try and sell its traditional satellite service dressed up as a streaming service. While you would expect that foreknowledge might protect us from the shock, it hasn't.
It is still shocking to see what AT&T thinks it can sell consumers on with AT&T TV.
AT&T not caring about 'low quality' subscribers is nothing new. The company only caring about revenue is nothing new. AT&T wanting to squeeze every dime out of you, the consumer, is nothing new.
Besides the name, AT&T TV is also nothing new. AT&T TV is just about as non-cord-cutting as you can get.
In fact, other than the streaming method of delivery, there's nothing cord-cutting or TV freedom about AT&T TV at all. It is the same old traditional pay-TV nonsense with the same old pay TV tricks and trappings.
AT&T TV is more expensive than you think
Look, AT&T wants every cent it can get and so it has no shame about pricing the service as expensive as it has. After all, if you're a penny-pinching cord-cutter then AT&T doesn't want you as a customer. Well, not an AT&T TV customer anyway. It has its AT&T TV NOW service for people like you although it also doesn't want the most penny-pinching subscribers to sign up for that service either. It already has its hands full trying to get rid of the cheap subscribers it already has.
Therefore if you are put off by the price, AT&T doesn't care. This is not a service targeted at you and what's more, it's probably even more expensive than you realize.
If you live in one of the few areas AT&T TV is now live in, then you can sign up for one of four plans: Entertainment, Choice, Xtra or Ultimate. These range in price from $59.99 to $79.99.
That's just the advertised rate. AT&T has already made it clear they are just the prices used to lure you in. Well, not clear-clear, but it is in the small print.
The cheapest plan is actually $93 per month and the most expensive, $135 per month. Anyone signing up to these plans at the lower advertised price will only have that price locked-in for twelve months. After which, they'll be moved over to the higher price automatically.
Now, if you're thinking you'll worry about that in year-two, then you're also forgetting about all the other hidden fees that are included. As well as the fact you are signing your viewer life away for years.
AT&T loves a contract
If it's not bad enough that AT&T wants you to use its service, and pay cable and satellite-like prices for it, it also wants you to long-term commit as well.
This is the other absolute non-cord-cutting thing about AT&T TV.
Cord cutting is about choice and that choice extends to the month at hand. Technically, you can sign up for a streaming service today and cancel an hour later and without incurring any charges at all. That's how much freedom cord-cutting offers.
The only problem with cord-cutting services is that they are billed on a monthly basis. Although you can cancel an hour after signing up, you've already paid for the month ahead. With that in mind it would be pointless to not actually use the service for the time you've pre-paid for. In fact, virtually all of the streaming services encourage you to continue using the service for the allocated time after cancelling.
The reason is you've paid for it. It's that simple with cord-cutting. You get what you pay for. Nothing more, nothing less.
AT&T TV couldn't be any different to this. Not only does AT&T want you to commit on a yearly basis, but the initial agreement is a two-year agreement. You have to decide right now that you'll be an AT&T TV customer for the next two years. As we've already discussed, that contract doesn't even protect you from a price increase as AT&T is telling you in the contract that it WILL increase your price during the second year. You are agreeing to a price increase when signing up.
Of course, there's nothing physically stopping you from ending your contract early. You can just unplug the device, throw it out the window or send it back to AT&T and move to a different provider. But to make sure that is less likely to happen AT&T has enlisted the help of one of the industry's old friends – the early termination fee.
Yes, if you do decide AT&T TV is not for you before your commitment is up, you'll have to pay to leave. This is even though the service doesn't requires anyone to come to your home to install connect, or disconnect anything.
To compare: Cord-cutting services let you sign up on a monthly basis and cancel at any time with no additional charge. AT&T TV requires you sign up for at least two years and will charge you additional fees if you cancel.
The return of the box
The box is somewhat seen as a relic in cord-cutting land nowadays. Yes, you can still buy some set-top boxes and arguably the NVIDIA SHIELD offers you the best streaming experience on the market. But, OEMs and content providers now see beyond the box. Whether that's bundling an OS like Android TV or Fire TV within an actual TV, a soundbar, or a stick, the idea of a box that sits there as a separate unit, is a dated idea.
Not for AT&T, of course. Make no mistake, this is not a sign of an out of touch company, or one that fails to understand the direction the market is moving in. It's just AT&T doesn't like the direction the market is moving in and so won't move in that direction. Why should AT&T let you watch its service (that you pay for) on any device you like? Why should AT&T be unable to control your user experience? Why should AT&T not be the one that collects all your user data so it can control the delivery of ads to you or sell that data on?
What makes you think any of this is for your good? The whole reason AT&T is offering AT&T TV is for AT&T's benefit, not yours.
What works for AT&T is a locked-in user experience and that extends way beyond the box or the software. In an ideal AT&T world, you would use its internet, its box, its TV service when at home. When away from home, you'd use its cellular network to access its services.
While that's probably the dream for most multi-service companies like AT&T, it's even more of the dream for AT&T. That's partly why AT&T bought Time Warner in the first place. You see, AT&T just doesn't want you using its internet, its box, its cellular network, and its TV services. No. It also wants you primarily only watching the content AT&T owns as well. It wants to own your attention and dollars at every single step of the delivery chain.
That's all in addition to also selling the user habit data it can collect through a hardware and software combination like AT&T TV employs. This is a smart box and like many smart devices, the amount of usable data it can draw on is massive.
The icing on of all this is that even if you do ignore all of these red flags and still sign up to the service, if you want more than one of these data-hogging set-top boxes, you'll have to pay an additional fee for it. An additional fee for each box you want. An additional fee to be even further locked to AT&T TV and have your data harvested.
Just stay away from AT&T TV
If you haven't got the message yet then the one takeaway you should take away from all of this is AT&T TV is not for the consumer. It is sold to the consumer, and the consumer's data is sold on, but that's about the extent to the consumer's involvement. This is a service for the owner and goes against everything an industry switch to cord-cutting stands for.
The news media also have to take some responsibility here as they are playing directly into AT&T's hands. This is especially true of the many news outlets that are choosing to focus on a 'cord-cutting is now as expensive as cable' narrative.
This is simply not true. Yes, media outlets want to shock you into a click and AT&T is giving them the ammunition to do it with AT&T TV. In return, those outlets are feeding out a narrative that this is where the market is going. In other words, you have no choice and so you may as well stick with your traditional DIRECTV subscription. Or if you want an upgrade – move to AT&T TV.
The truth is very different. This is a consumer-first market now. Yes, there's a lot of subscriptions that you'll now need to have and manage, but you, the consumer, are now in the ultimate control. You can choose to subscribe to all of them or just the one. In fact, you can, and should choose to jump and bounce between them often. Either way, the choice is now all yours and that's what matters.
Don't make the mistake of thinking AT&T TV is the same as other streaming services. It's not. Just because it is a live TV streaming service, and uses an Android TV streaming box, it is still traditional TV. Yes, a cleverly disguised service, but a traditional pay-TV service nonetheless.
The truth is, AT&T TV couldn't get any more "cable TV" if it tried.