CHANGING THE PHONE COMPANY

AT&T has taken another big step toward becoming an entertainment company

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In a loft-like space on the top floor of a Manhattan art gallery, AT&T executives gathered with business partners and members of the media yesterday to announce the launch of a new streaming service called DirecTV Now. Actress Reese Witherspoon, of Hello Sunshine, and YouTube stars including Brandon Rogers from Fullscreen’s “Magic Funhouse” touted their collaborations with AT&T. The company also announced a new partnership with pop star Taylor Swift, featuring exclusive music videos, concert performances, and behind-the-scenes footage.

It wasn’t a typically dull telecom event. And that’s exactly what AT&T wanted.

The Dallas, Texas-based telco has been transforming into an entertainment company, through deals like the acquisition of satellite-TV operator DirecTV and a pending agreement to buy HBO- and Warner Bros.-parent company Time Warner. Like other telcos, AT&T has sought to diversity its business as the US wireless industry reaches saturation.

The new DirecTV Now streaming service pushes AT&T further beyond the traditional TV space.

“We are an entertainment company, we are evolving,” Brad Bentley, chief marketing officer for AT&T’s entertainment group told The Hollywood Reporter. “This has been part of a transformation for the product, for the customer and the industry, but also for AT&T… Part of my job is to make consumers understand that this is not a telecom company, but a company that is bringing premium entertainment everywhere.”

AT&T is using its roots as a phone company to expand as subscribers use their mobile phones for entertainment, video in particular. “It’s really converged where connectivity meets entertainment,” said Bentley. “And entertainment is now wireless. AT&T had the foresight and bought the spectrum, bought DirecTV and is now in a position to fully bring that to life.”

The new streaming platform, which will be available Nov. 30, offers more than 100 live streaming channels on almost any device for an introductory price of $35 per month, a rate that will be grandfathered for customers, the company said. The 100+ channel lineup will normally cost $60.

DirecTV Now also has packages with 60+, 80+, and 120+ channels for $35, $50, and $70, respectively, and a $5 HBO add on. The packages include video-on-demand libraries. And are limited to two simultaneous streams. The platform does not yet offer DVR capabilities.

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