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DirecTV Now prices will rise as AT&T pushes for profit

AT&T
AT&T is burdened with about $175 billion in debt, prompting the company to turn its efforts away from price cuts to make debt reduction a priority in 2019.
(Lisa Poole / Associated Press)

AT&T Inc. is reportedly raising prices on its online-TV service, DirecTV Now, a sign that the company is putting profit ahead of subscriber growth.

Starting next month, customers will see a $10 increase, according to a report on Cord Cutters News. AT&T also will introduce two new TV packages, at $50 and $70 a month.

DirecTV Now — a bundle of TV channels delivered online — was meant to attract cord cutters who were abandoning traditional satellite and cable television packages. It has turned into a competitive business with tight margins. DirecTV Now is facing off against Sling TV, as well as Google’s YouTube TV and Hulu’s live service, which together have racked up millions of customers.

The new $50-a-month bundle, called DirecTV Now Plus, includes HBO and more than 40 channels, such as ESPN and Fox News. The $70 DirecTV Now Max has HBO, Cinemax and more than 50 channels, including several sports networks.

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Previously, AT&T offered a $40 package with 65 channels and a $55 bundle with 85 channels. Current customers can keep their existing plans, though prices will rise $10, and new subscribers will have to select one of the new packages. The move to fewer channel selections — combined with a price increase — will lower the costs for AT&T while boosting revenue from each account.

DirecTV last raised prices in July.

The question now is whether consumers will go along.

“While the new pricing will certainly help DirecTV Now move toward gross-margin profitability, it does appear to make its service far less compelling to consumers,” BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield said in a note Monday.

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Dallas-based AT&T didn’t have an immediate response.

AT&T also offers a 35-plus-channel package called AT&T Watch TV for $15 and includes the service free to its mobile subscribers with unlimited plans.

Burdened with about $175 billion in debt, AT&T has had to turn its efforts away from price cuts and service promotions to make debt reduction its priority in 2019. But even as it tries to rein in spending, AT&T is preparing to launch a costly new streaming platform this year that will compete with Netflix and Amazon.


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