Mar 2, 2020 - Technology

AT&T launches live TV service aimed at taking on cable

AT&T is launching a new TV service and a series of offers it hopes will allow it to sell TV service even when people don't want to give up their current broadband provider.

Why it matters: The streaming field is crowded, but some of the most lucrative customers are those willing to pay for live TV. This is AT&T's latest effort to go at that market.

How it works: AT&T TV, which launches nationally today, provides a cable-style bundle of channels with regional sports and more arcane offerings, on-demand options and a cloud-based DVR. It is an over-the-top service, so it works regardless of who provides broadband service, though AT&T is reserving some of its best deals for those who bundle AT&T TV with broadband service from the company as well.

  • AT&T is launching with promotional prices ranging from $49.99 to $69.99 per month for the first 12 months.
  • Customers who bundle with AT&T home internet or wireless will save $10 per month.
  • In month 13, though, prices rise substantially, to $93 to $135 per month.
  • It features a small set-top box and a voice remote and is also accessible via apps for Apple TV, smartphones and some Samsung smart TVs.

The big picture: AT&T TV joins DirecTV, DirecTV Now, U-verse TV, HBO Now, HBO Go and HBO Max in the company's stable of linear and over-the-top TV services.

Our thought bubble: I had a chance to try out the service and can confirm that setup is indeed easy and doesn't require a professional. Downloading software updates took a couple minutes, but the interactive trivia questions provided while that took place were a nice touch — and I got eight out of eight right.

  • The integration with the Google Assistant and Android apps is nice, as is the universal search, though for now that integration is limited to a handful of services, including Netflix.
  • The biggest issue I see — beyond AT&T's not currently offering the Pac-12 Network — is that the pricing is a lot like the traditional TV it hopes to replace, including two-year contracts and low teaser prices that rise substantially in the second year.

The bottom line: Perhaps the best thing AT&T TV brings is more competition into a part of the TV market known for high prices.

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