Skip to main content

AT&T TV reinvents cable for a new age, but keeps the tired old pricing model

AT&T TV Overview | AT&T

AT&T’s subscription TV service, AT&T TV — not to be confused with AT&T TV Now (formerly DirecTV Now) — rolls out nationwide on Monday, March 2, after launching in more than a dozen markets last year. When you sign up for a two-year contract, you’ll get an Android TV set-top box and a remote with a Google Assistant button. Frankly, it looks a lot like cable, which is exactly what AT&T TV is going for.

Unlike popular month-to-month streaming TV apps such as YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV, and Sling TV, AT&T TV’s contract-based system is aimed to provide a better cable or satellite alternative, rather than a cheaper one. As more and more consumers cut the cord from DirecTV, AT&T is trying to convince them to keep the cord (and the contract) in exchange for an improved experience.

Just like cable, you can watch AT&T TV on your television using the Android TV box or use the AT&T TV app on iOS, iPadOS, or Android to take your subscription with you. To set it up, you just plug into your TV’s HDMI port, enter your Wi-Fi info, and sign in to your AT&T TV account — no installation scheduling necessary. With a custom “home screen,” the Android TV experience always shows the last channel you were watching live, an approach that’s similar to the live-streaming aspect of NBC’s upcoming Peacock streaming service.

AT&T TV includes cloud DVR that lets you save up to 500 hours of shows and movies (which deletes after 90 days) and allows up to three concurrent streams so the whole family can watch in different locations. The Google Assistant remote makes it easy to navigate channels.

With easier setup and accessibility options, the package does indeed look like a better version of cable … until you get to the pricing.

The base package includes local broadcast channels, ESPN, AMC, FX, FXX, CNN, and some other cable networks, and starts at $50 per month. The middle-tier Choice package starts at $55 and allows you to add some premium channels and regional sports networks.

AT&T is also currently offering a bundle of gigabit home internet (where available) with AT&T TV for a total of $80 per month. HBO is included for the first three months with all plans. AT&T TV also lets you install apps such as Netflix, Disney+, and other streaming apps from the Google Play Store, giving you a more on-demand experience. (Here’s the full channel lineup for your viewing pleasure.

That pricing is decent until you realize that it’s only locked for the first year of service. That second year of your contract, the packages all nearly double in price. Entertainment goes up to $93, Choice to $110, Xtra to $124, and Ultimate to $135. Like the worst parts of cable, the contract includes activation fees and early termination fees if you cancel before the service agreement is up.

Ultimately, AT&T TV sets you up for a seamless honeymoon period before reminding you exactly why you wanted to cut the cord in the first place. As the service rolls out nationwide, time will tell whether the company will recapture any former subscribers.

Editors' Recommendations

Nick Perry
Nick Perry is a freelance writer who bounced from Hollywood to Silicon Beach to pajama pants. His work has been featured on…
Tons of T-Mobile subscribers just got a free year of Apple TV+
Jason Sudeikis as the title character in Ted Lasso on Apple TV+.

If you're a T-Mobile subscriber on one of the company's Magenta or Magenta Max unlimited data plans, you're going to be getting access to Apple TV+ for free, for a whole year, starting August 25. Unlike some other bonus offers, this one isn't just being used as a way to lure new subscribers to T-Mobile (though clearly, it could do that as well).

T-Mobile customers on the company's Magenta 55+, Magenta Military, Magenta First Responders, Sprint Unlimited Plus, Sprint Premium, and T-Mobile for Small Business Customers plans all get in on the free Apple TV+ action. Better yet, it doesn't matter if you're currently on a free trial for Apple TV+ or if you're already paying for the streaming video service. Those in the midst of a free trial will see their trial period extended by 12 months, while paid plans will be put on a payment holiday for the duration of the free year.

Read more
AT&T is renaming its streaming video service yet again
AT&T TV rebrands as DirecTV Stream

AT&T is going to rename its streaming video services, which include AT&T TV, AT&T TV Now, and AT&T Watch TV, to "DirecTV Stream" on August 26, according to The Verge. Why the name change? It appears to be part of an effort to establish a new brand for the company's video properties, which were formally spun off into a new company earlier in August.

And while that might be a perfectly legitimate reason to change the service's name, it's enough to make our heads spin. Since 2019, AT&T has engaged in a confusing set of product launches and rebranding efforts that have used both AT&T and DirecTV names. The company's original effort at a cable TV alternative streaming service was called DirecTV Now. You could use it with your existing broadband internet connection and it didn't require a set-top box. This service was rebranded as AT&T TV Now, but ended up eventually being absorbed by AT&T TV, a service that still delivered live TV content over the internet, but required a dedicated Android TV set-top box, making it the logical successor to AT&T's U-verse TV service. All the while, the company kept alive its AT&T Watch TV service, which is a very lightweight package of more than 35 live TV channels.

Read more
Sling TV hikes prices for its existing subscribers
Sling TV DVR

Given that Sling TV decided to raise the prices of its live TV streaming subscriptions for new customers at the beginning of 2021, it should probably be no surprise that the company has now informed its existing customers that the same price hike is coming for them in August.

According to an email sent to subscribers earlier this week, the cost of a Sling Orange or Sling Blue plan will be going up by $5 per month, bringing the price to $35 -- the same price that new customers have been paying since January. The combo Sling Orange + Blue package is also going up by $5 to $50 per month. Digital Trends has reached out to Sling TV to confirm these details.

Read more