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AT&T mulls selling big stake of its entire pay-TV biz – reportAT&T mulls selling big stake of its entire pay-TV biz – report

Following recent reports of low-ball bids for its satellite TV unit, AT&T is looking to sell off a sizable minority stake of its DirecTV, U-verse and streaming pay-TV operations.

Jeff Baumgartner

November 3, 2020

2 Min Read
AT&T mulls selling big stake of its entire pay-TV biz – report

Following initial attempts to unload its struggling DirecTV business, AT&T is pursuing a different avenue – the sale of a "significant minority" stake of its entire pay-TV business, including DirecTV, U-verse and at least one of its streaming options, according to CNBC.

Under this more complicated structure, AT&T would retain majority economic ownership of the pay-TV business and would hold onto the infrastructure elements (including plants and fiber) for U-verse, the report added, noting that AT&T's discussions involve private equity firms, including Apollo Management.

Any would-be buyer would reportedly control and consolidate AT&T's pay-TV distribution operations. The report mentions "AT&T Now," presumably a reference to AT&T TV Now, the OTT-delivered, no-contract pay-TV streaming service, but doesn't mention AT&T TV, a new contract-based, big-bundle OTT-TV service that relies on an operator-supplied Android TV box.

CNBC said the deal could include between 30% to 49% of the that combined pay-TV distribution business, noting that final bids are due in early December. This potential minority stake sale could value DirecTV at less than $15 billion (AT&T acquired it in 2015 for almost $50 billion), but would not include DirecTV's Latin American pay-TV business, CNBC said.

Word of AT&T's revised pay-TV sale approach comes about a month after the New York Post reported that AT&T received "low ball" bids for DirecTV, but was pushing ahead with an auction nonetheless amid pressure from investors to divest certain assets, including its satellite TV operations.

AT&T's purported decision to pursue the sale of a big piece of its overall pay-TV business also enters the picture as the company banks on HBO Max, WarnerMedia's new supersized streaming service, a broader deployment of fiber-fueled broadband services and on mobile plans centered on 5G.

In Q3, AT&T shed another 627,000 video connections, including 590,000 "premium" losses (a mix of DirecTV satellite and U-verse IPTV customers) and 37,000 OTT-TV subscribers. AT&T has not yet broken out results for AT&T TV.

Notably, AT&T has already halted the sale of U-verse TV, its legacy IPTV service, as well as DSL-based high-speed Internet services.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Jeff Baumgartner

Senior Editor, Light Reading, Light Reading

Jeff Baumgartner is a Senior Editor for Light Reading and is responsible for the day-to-day news coverage and analysis of the cable and video sectors. Follow him on X and LinkedIn.

Baumgartner also served as Site Editor for Light Reading Cable from 2007-2013. In between his two stints at Light Reading, he led tech coverage for Multichannel News and was a regular contributor to Broadcasting + Cable. Baumgartner was named to the 2018 class of the Cable TV Pioneers.

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