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The Cord Cutters Are Right

Phil Harvey
7/29/2019

In a week I'll be out from under my most recent two-year contract with DirecTV and, like a lot of other people -- a LOT of other people -- I'm going to cancel the service in favor of an OTT experience.

Here's why: There's no feature set available on DirecTV -- or any pay-TV platform in my service area -- that matches what I can get with a streaming box and a few apps. It should be noted, too, that I live outside of Comcast's reach, or I'd probably get Xfinity Flex.

I think there's an argument to be made for cord cutting just to get a better selection of content and services. And I've had a while to think about it.

I've been an AT&T pay-TV subscriber for more than a decade; I was one of the first U-verse subscribers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Back then, I really liked the idea of getting all my services via one wire (DSL); getting more flexible DVR options (when compared to my local cable provider); and having a clean, web-like interface on the pay-TV channel guide.

After years of being perfectly happy with U-verse, I got a sales call telling me I should switch from that silly old platform. It was AT&T. They wanted me to move to DirecTV.

The sales pressure was palatable. The introductory price was insanely low for the same channel selection when I switched from U-verse to DirecTV. When AT&T finished outpricing AT&T for another AT&T-owned product, then AT&T began telling me how much better the DirecTV service would be now that it was part of AT&T.

The DirecTV 1-terabyte DVR held a lot more shows. U-verse TV suddenly seemed like its technology roadmap was going to end at a cliff. It was never going to provide 4K TV and, at least during the time I was a subscriber, U-verse never made good on its promise to deliver a fully connected TV experience. I never could watch the same programming on my phone, on the road, that I could in my living room.

I switched and it was fine but I quickly realized that DirecTV also could not provide that fully connected TV experience. The apps have improved in the last year, but they've always been more clunky and awkward than Netflix, Hulu, YouTubeTV and others. My teenage son couldn't figure out how to watch The Office on DirecTV's app, but he could (and did) on Netflix.

Why cut the cord?
The OTT experience just seems better. Every company -- even traditional cable and pay TV providers like Comcast -- is bringing their "A" game to streaming. Giving up a bundle of hundreds of channels in exchange for a bundle of four apps I'll actually use makes sense.

"Bundling itself is not dead at all," said Light Reading's Cable/Video Practice Leader Alan Breznick in a conversation with me last week. "It's just that now consumers want to make their own bundles and their bundles may not necessarily be what the cable companies want."

Each OTT service or show that I subscribe to now has a fast, intuitive mobile app; high-quality streaming; cloud-based storage or a cloud DVR; and excellent search and personalization features.

Telcos and cable companies are certainly capable of matching OTT providers step for step, feature for feature. But I wonder if many of them ever will. Giving people what they want just isn't in their DNA.

And, I should add, I'd switch back to pay-TV if the feature set was right. But, in just one week of testing an OTT service, everyone in my family suddenly has their own personalized library of recorded and live TV shows, available wherever they want. So, I'm not saying it's impossible, but it will be a really tough sell.

Related posts:

Phil Harvey, US Bureau Chief, Light Reading

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Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner
7/31/2019 | 6:44:06 PM
Re: News
I looked at Hulu. The newscast they provide is a day old. 

I don't know why Hulu or anyone thinks anyone would be intersted in literally yesterday's news. 

I'd love to cut the cord and feel like we're a very short way from being able to do it. 

Hadn't even thought about the emergency services angle. We don't have tornadoes or hurricans but we do get brushfires and earthquakes. 
ajwdct
ajwdct
7/30/2019 | 8:55:15 PM
Re: Will cancel AT&T Uverse TV when my contract expires
Also please note that I've called the AT&T Customer support 800 288 2020 number a dozen times and have never been transfered to a person who could address my issues related to Uverse TV blacked out/cancelled channels or the Locast TV Interactive Uverse app not working at all (I've logged out and logged in 6 times- same negative result).

Worse than that I've emailed AT&T Office of the President employee that I've worked with for customer support since 2007 !!!! and also AT&T corporate lawyer about all this, but neither replied to my emails or several voice mails left.

Feel totally and utterly helpless!

 
ajwdct
ajwdct
7/30/2019 | 8:49:18 PM
Re: Will cancel AT&T Uverse TV when my contract expires
Phil,  When you click on tvpromise.com hot link in your comment you are directed to log in to your AT&T Uverse account.  After that you get your current billing statement page with this notice: 

"There are no additional updates for your account at this time. Please check back at tvpromise.com for further updates"

Hence, it's an endless loop of going to tvpromise.com , loggin in and then being told to go back to tvpromise.com.

Separately when I tried ZIP CODE Search for more info on where I have Uverse, there is NOTHING stated about loss of NFL Network or NFL Redzone.  Only this about CBS and Nexstar (KRON channel 4):

Results for U-verse TV in ZIP code 95050:


CBS has put our San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose customers into the middle of its negotiations by pulling KPIX-CBS and KBCW-CW from their local lineups. We were willing to continue to negotiate and also offered to pay CBS an unprecedented rate increase. That increase would present CBS the highest fee we currently pay to any major broadcast network group, despite the fact that CBS stations like KPIX-CBS and KBCW-CW are available free over the air.

Nexstar recently pulled KRON-MNT from our customers' homes after demanding the largest increase AT&T has ever seen proposed by any content provider. In addition, Nexstar wants much higher payments for stations and a low-rated cable network they don't even own, as well as carriage commitments and still more fees for channels that don't even exist.

We had hoped to avoid any unnecessary interruption to KPIX-CBS, KBCW-CW, KRON-MNT or national channels that some of our customers care about. But CBS and Nexstar each refused.

CBS and Nexstar are repeat blackout offenders, as CBS has removed its stations from DISH and Charter Spectrum customers in the past, while Nexstar has pulled signals from DISH, Charter Spectrum, Cox Cable and now us. CBS continues to demand unprecedented increases even as CBS advances content on CBS All Access instead of KPIX-CBS. CBS has said publicly that it priced All Access much higher to capitalize on customers it can capture from cable, satellite or other means of distribution. CBS is seeking to convert a free, publicly subsidized broadcast station into a high-cost channel while leaving cable and satellite customers holding the bag. Nexstar has chosen to hold our customers hostage to try increase fees for "free TV" stations that far exceed their value.

Make no mistake. We want KPIX-CBS, KBCW-CW and KRON-MNT in our lineup. Yet customers today are demanding more choice and value from their local stations. Instead, it has become clear to us that CBS is intent on blacking out any home that chooses to receive cable or satellite service, antagonizing its most loyal viewers. CBS, Nexstar and other broadcasters continue to cause blackouts at a record pace with more than 213 so far this year, tying the prior record set in 2017.

KPIX-CBS, KBCW-CW and KRON-MNT remain available to our San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose customers through the new Locast app on DIRECTV Genie and U-verse internet-connected receivers. We are also able to offer our customers an innovative product called Local Channel Connector that can put KPIX-CBS, KBCW-CW and KRON-MNT's signals into the program guides of many DIRECTV customers with Genie receivers.

Fans of KPIX-CBS, KBCW-CW and KRON-MNT can also watch over the air on channels 5, 44 and 4 and typically at the station websites, at CBS.com and cwtv.com or using the CBS and CW mobile apps. CBS Sports Network and Smithsonian Channel stream their shows via their own network websites and mobile apps.

There are ways to try to permanently eliminate these blackouts, including new legislation, and fortunately Congress has taken more interest. But the best option is to create mutually beneficial relationships with broadcasters like CBS through good faith negotiations.

Our goal is simple: to deliver the content our customers want at a value that also makes sense to them. We continue to fight for that here and appreciate our customers' patience.
Phil Harvey
Phil Harvey
7/30/2019 | 5:39:28 PM
Re: Will cancel AT&T Uverse TV when my contract expires
AT&T does offer a price adjustment for customers, but I don't know the steps involved.

Please do have a look at https://tvpromise.att.com/ and follow the prompts for U-verse subscribers. That might help.

The bigger picture is that even the NFL and other TV networks are looking to push more content toward the streaming platforms. There's a big shift happening and the traditional pay-TV platforms just need to brace for change. 

-ph 

 
ajwdct
ajwdct
7/30/2019 | 5:05:15 PM
Re: Will cancel AT&T Uverse TV when my contract expires
Thanks for your reply Phil! 

 

Perhaps I can live without NFL Network and NFL Redzone which I've watched since 2007 with Comcast and then since 2010 with AT&T Uverse.

Neither NFL Network or NFL Red Zone are available at ANY PRICE on Uverse.  When you select those channels you see a screen saying 'Channel is no longer available" and directs you to a web page saying an agreement couldn't be reached.

 

Same for KRON Ch4- very popular SF Bay Area news and local sports channel.  NOT available anymore because content agreement with owner couldn't be reached.

 

Yet with all those lost channels, AT&T not only does not provide refund/rebates or substitution channels, but DELETES ATT COMMUNITY BLOG POSTS THAT COMPLAIN ABOUT IT!
Phil Harvey
Phil Harvey
7/30/2019 | 10:56:25 AM
Re: Will cancel AT&T Uverse TV when my contract expires
@ajwdct,

It's frustrating what happened with U-verse TV -- AT&T does seem to be slowly winding it down and giving people as many reasons to leave as they can.

I think the CBS channels will be back sometimes soon -- those carriage negotiations usually don't last indefinitely.

The NFL channels won't be back -- I think they've been moved to a tier where you are charged more.

With the OTT options, my son and I decided to live without the NFL Network. Most of the games aren't exclusive to the NFLN, so that made it easy to switch.

Best of luck.

-ph
Phil Harvey
Phil Harvey
7/30/2019 | 10:44:46 AM
Re: News
@Mitch,

I think that's a fine reason to hang on to pay-TV.

We live in an area that is frequently under a tornado or severe storm watch of some kind so I made sure that our OTT options included local news/weather with all the major networks represented. 

YouTube TV (in DFW) has a very good local, live TV selection BUT I've heard the local, live pay-TV scene varies a lot by region. Go here and search for your zip code. 

 

 
ajwdct
ajwdct
7/29/2019 | 9:42:12 PM
Will cancel AT&T Uverse TV when my contract expires
I've been a pay TV subscriber for decades, but I can't stand AT&T or Comcast anymore!  Those are the only 2 pay TV choices in Santa Clara, CA and I've had both.  Uverse recently dropped the following channels WITHOUT GIVING SUBSCRIBERS ANY COMPENSATION/REFUND OR OFFERING ANY SUBSTITUTE CHANNELS:
  • NFL NETWORK
  • NFL REDZONE
  • ALL CBS LOCAL CHANNELS
  • CBS SPORTS NETWORK
  • SMITHSONIAN
  • KRON CHANNEL 4- NBC AFFILIATE

...........................................

When I complained about that on the AT&T Community website, my posts were deleted!

When I called the 800 #, keyed in my Uverse account # and told the auto attendant I was calling to complain about Uverse TV channel blackouts the attendent asked me "Are you calling about your wireless service"   DUHHHH?

ARGGHHHHHHHHHHH!!
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner
7/29/2019 | 7:26:18 PM
News
We still have cable for two reasons. One of them is habit. The other one is one I hesitate to say because it makes me sound as old as Grandpa Simpson. 

Network news. We watch it in the evening. 

However, I just checked and it seems like our favorite news program is on Hulu. So maybe it's time to perform that operation. 

 
Kelsey Ziser
Kelsey Ziser
7/29/2019 | 6:18:10 PM
Re: Not ready to cut the cord
Okay okay, you win, I'll cut the cord!
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