Scrambling to play catchup with the other skinny bundle OTT services in the US, DirecTV Now is reportedly planning to introduce a cloud DVR service that would let subscribers record a market-leading 100 hours of programming.
The move, as reported by TechCrunchand other websites, would enable the AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) service to leapfrog the competition. It would also eliminate one of DirecTV Now's key disadvantages in the increasingly congested virtual multichannel video programming distributor (vMVPD) space. Unlike some of its vMVPD rivals, DirecTV Now launched last fall without a cloud DVR component.
AT&T officials declined comment on the latest reports, reiterating that they're conducing beta testing for the next-generation video platform they are developing for DirecTV Now. But a spokesperson said the company will "have more to discuss soon." In July, the company announced that the new platform would enable it to deliver cloud DVR service to multiple devices, "a broad selection" of live TV channels and up to 30,000 video titles on-demand. (See AT&T Unveils Next-Gen Video Platform .)
According to the reports, the new DirecTV Now cloud DVR will allow subscribers to view and manage their recordings through a new “My Library” feature. In addition, subs will be able to add new recordings with the tap of a button.
It's not yet known how AT&T will price the DVR service and how much it will allow ad-skipping. Such competitive skinny bundle services as Sling TV, Sony Play-Station Vue, Hulu Live TV and YouTube TV are all over the board on both fronts, with some charging extra fees for cloud DVR service and some disabling the ad-skipping feature.
What is known is that DirecTV Now could use a boost. Although it got off to a strong start by signing up more than 200,000 customers in its first month last December, the service has floundered in the market since then, beset by technical glitches. Now, after fixing those problems and scaling the 500,000-sub level, AT&T is ramping up marketing of the service. It also announced earlier this week that it has signed up 25 more broadcast network affiliates for the virtual pay-TV platform. (See FCC Faces Daunting Video Competition Review.)
Meanwhile, cable operators continue to dip further into the OTT space after years of avoiding it. In the latest development, Comcast has quietly begun to test a YouTube app on its X1 set-tops, according to a report today in Multichannel News. In markets like Denver, YouTube is appearing in the app section of the X1 guide for some customers. In February, Comcast announced plans to integrate YouTube into its more than 10 million X1 set-tops, about half a year after it began integrating a Netflix app into the X1 platform. (See Comcast Brings YouTube to the Living Room.)
Finally, YouTube TV has confirmed reports that it's launching service in another 12 markets throughout the US, continuing the nationwide rollout that started in April.
— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, >Light Reading