AT&T CEO: U-verse TV Churn ‘Will Improve’

Drops Hints About Sponsored-Data Plan
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Gains at DirecTV weren’t enough to overcome losses at U-verse TV in Q4 2015, but AT&T’s top executive doesn’t expect that trend to continue as the company shores up its newly combined sales channels.  

“The sales channel is just really starting to get their legs underneath them on how to attach satellite and mobility together,” AT&T chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson said Tuesday during AT&T’s earnings call, noting that the company has been focusing its marketing efforts on driving satellite net adds, causing U-verse churn to rise.  “Also keep in mind that we don't even have the installation workforce up to speed on provisioning this, so we're just getting the installation and workforce up.”

Churn for U-verse TV “will improve,” he predicted. “We think the subscription numbers get better as we go through the course of the year.”

One way AT&T hopes to improve is via a new unlimited wireless data plan for new and existing TV subscribers, whether they’re on DirecTV or U-verse TV. AT&T introduced that promotion las month and said about 500,000 wireless customers have already signed up for it.

Earlier in the call, Stephenson said the DirecTV acquisition “is really accelerating our introduction of next-generation TV,” and the company looks to offer a range of video packages via traditional means or by streaming it to mobile devices.

The unlimited mobile data offering is “only our first move,” he said. “Today we think we're a company with no obvious peer.”

Stephenson was asked about AT&T’s interest in sponsored data services and how it might relate to the company’s Otter Media joint venture with The Chernin Group. Last week, AT&T rival Verizon launched a sponsored data service, called FreeBee Data, that exempts some content from usage-based data caps.

“If you think about the most premium set of content, whether it would be sports programming, whether it would be binged-type programming that has stacking rights…I think one would just have to assume that sponsored data would be a critical element on how the customer would take advantage of this,” he said.

AT&T, Stephenson noted, hasn’t announced a sponsored data product, but “I think it would be reasonable to assume sponsored data would be a part of how our customers would take advantage of this kind of content library.”