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.
- AT&T sheds 627K pay-TV subs as HBO Max activations double in Q3
- AT&T halts sale of U-verse TV
- Fiber fuels AT&T's broadband growth in Q3
- AT&T sizes up its pay-TV legacy
- AT&T stops DSL sales
— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading