Hollywood Reporter: AT&T's Streaming Headache: Why Is DirecTV Now Losing Subscribers?

Discussion in 'DIRECTV General Discussion' started by bobcnn, Feb 6, 2019.

  1. 242424

    242424 AllStar

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    We seem to run out of movies to watch and I'm cheap :D
     
  2. CTJon

    CTJon Godfather

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    I've had both Netflix and Amazon. While they are OK and have a lot of good stuff I find it difficult to find stuff. On Amazon Prime they also show you stuff that you either need to buy(or rent) or need to get a subscription to through them. I know they have a ton of stuff so a directory isn't easy but we just found it difficult to find stuff
     
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  3. NashGuy

    NashGuy Active Member

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    I've dropped Netflix a few times but always with the intention of picking it back up a couple months down the road. Now and then I find that I've watched all the available seasons of the shows I care about and I don't see all that much in the way of new stuff that I feel the urge to begin watching right away and think, "Well, I could drop it for awhile and direct about that same amount of money to, say, HBO Now, giving me a fresh set of stuff to watch for 2-3 months, and then return to Netflix. Whatever new stuff that I miss while I'm gone will still be there when I come back."

    But there's always so much new stuff coming out on Netflix that it's hard to imagine dropping it forever, or even for a year. And because Netflix is the single most popular TV source in the country, its shows always have more buzz around them. If you're talking to a group of friends of about TV, Netflix is probably the one source that ALL of you have, so Netflix shows tend to come up in conversation.

    I tend to have 3, sometimes 4, OTT subscriptions at a time between Hulu (basic, ad-free), Netflix, Showtime, Prime Video and HBO. So I do a little juggling of subscriptions, but not a lot. I'm looking forward to checking out some of the new Apple original content this year too, at least if it's free for Apple TV owners as is rumored. I'll probably also at least sample whatever Warner Media comes out with at the end of the year, which sounds like it will essentially be HBO plus additional recent and classic Warner content. So that might replace HBO Now in my rotation. I have no interest in Disney+.

    I think Amazon made a dog's breakfast of the home screen UI on Fire TV. Too many different things jumbled together, with the location of sources shifting around too much, and too much emphasis on trying to get you to pay for content (rental/purchase/add-on subscriptions). I don't find it necessarily difficult but I don't care for it. (Now, my Mom did find the Fire TV UI confusing and would often end up in places she didn't mean to go. So I switched her back to Roku, which doesn't confuse her, although she must remember which app a given piece of content belongs to.)

    That said, I don't really care for the home screen UI on Netflix either. It also wants to shift stuff around. How about always keeping Continue Watching as the top row and My List as the 2nd row just below that? (Can you imagine if Apple thought it was a good idea to randomly shift app icons around on your iPhone in order to encourage users to browse through all their installed apps? That would be pretty user-hostile.) And what's with the endless rows of weird non-mutually exclusive categories that change every time you launch the app, often with the same titles popping up repeatedly on different rows as you scroll down? Honestly, Netflix, just divide everything between Movies and TV Series and then have normal genre categories within each of those (All Titles, Drama, Comedy, Action, Thriller/Mystery, Sci-Fi, Documentary/Reality, etc.). Make the entire Netflix catalog available for browsing (something they seem loathe to do, perhaps because they want folks to think it's bigger than it really is) by putting all titles into those categories, with some titles appearing in more than one genre category if appropriate (e.g. "Nurse Jackie" in both Drama and Comedy under TV Series). Have 2-3 rows of "Featured/Recommended" titles at the top of each category, with everything else displayed below either by date (newest first) or alphabetical order. This is basically how Showtime and HBO structure their apps and it's MUCH more user-friendly, IMO, than what Netflix does.

    As far as the Hulu UI goes, the part of it that I love is the UI at the individual series (or movie) level, with the various seasons/episodes and related content displayed. The layout there really works well and looks great. But in terms of the high-level menu screens where you're scrolling through titles to find something to watch, yeah, it's clear that they missed the boat. In terms of pure aesthetics, it's very pretty. But it's just not practical. Not enough content is displayed on the screen at once, so it takes too much scrolling and clicking to find stuff. And the initial "Lineup" menu on the home screen tends to be pretty useless to me. Hopefully, their upcoming UI changes will fix all that. But thankfully Hulu works with the TV app on Apple TV, so I typically use that to jump straight to a specific title inside the Hulu app. So whatever shortcomings the Hulu home screen has don't tend to bother me a lot.
     
  4. Rich

    Rich DBSTalk Club DBSTalk Club

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    Just curious, thanx. I did stop my NF DVD account a few months ago. Never stopped the streaming account, never seem to run out of stuff to watch.

    Rich
     
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  5. inkahauts

    inkahauts Well-Known Member

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    The millennials that aren’t here are the ones who will churn like crazy jumping from service to service.

    The price is great. But the big content is leaving and the majority of stuff will be in house stuff. Either that or cost for content for then will go way up even more or it will be available multiple places. Either way their costs won’t go down to keep fresh content. It will continue to increase.

    There is a massive backend structure that is easily as important and complex as any cable company and probably on par with DIRECTV. The real costs are in the backend for everyone. A 30 set top box is cheap for customers by comparison. The better working something is the more investment people are putting in on the backend constantly.

    Selling internationally isn’t a negative. It’s a big plus. But it makes people think they are growing a lot more than they are and there’s a big investment to even get into every new market.

    Netflix is a fantastic deal for people right now. But they will have to alter their ways eventually.

    DIRECTV took a decade or more to make a profit. Netflix, at some point is going to have to start heading that way as well or it’s going to have a big problem.

    By the way, probably Half their content is ok at best and is often bought from foreign markets and isn’t actually Netflix produced so to speak.

    When Netflix started it was like HBO when it first started. Then as time passed it was also showtime, STARZ, tmc, etc. it was all the premiums in one subscription. Which is fantastic. But at some point they have to chose a path. And I suspect that’s coming in about five more years. Their content is heading back down towards just an HBO. And that’s not going to work as is.
     
  6. Getteau

    Getteau Icon

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    I use the Roku platform pretty much exclusively on the streaming side (streaming sticks and the Roku interface on a Hisense TV). After the feedback in this thread I spent some more time in the Amazon app. It's changed a good bit since I used it previously and they've gotten a lot better about splitting out the free vs rental stuff. I still wish I could get rid of the rental stuff completely, but between the dedicated rows and the labeled thumbnails, it's a lot easier to stay out of rental land. I also spot-checked the catalog of stuff I tend to watch between NF and Amazon and it does look like the two services have really started diverging more on content than they used to (at least for the Sci fi / Horror stuff I tend to watch). In the past, it was probably an 80% overlap for me. The missing 20% of stuff that was available on NF was rental/purchase only on Amazon. Rarely would I find Prime stuff on Amazon that wasn't over in NF. The only one I seem to remember was one of the Hunger Games Catching Fire movies. I recall watching that on Amazon because it wasn't on NF. When I looked last night, there was very little overlap and it almost seemed like Amazon picked up some stuff I had previously watched on NF. So I guess I'll need to start browsing Amazon more.
     
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  7. Getteau

    Getteau Icon

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    That's the one thing I've noticed over the past year or so. Before, they were pretty much the only game in town and it wasn't if a new movie was coming to the streaming side, it was when will it move from DVD only and over to streaming. Lately, it feels like more big stuff is never showing up, or it shows up and leaves for Amazon or some other place. Instead, most of what I now see is all their Netflix produced stuff; most of which is bad or pretty mediocre. Sure there are some diamonds in the ruff. However, more and more often I find myself skipping their original stuff because I've been burned by too much bad stuff.
     
  8. James Long

    James Long Ready for Uplink! Staff Member Super Moderator DBSTalk Club

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    Not unless one counts storage servers, streaming servers and networking as hardware. :)

    It is easy to "yada yada yada" instead of having an honest conversation. "No infrastructure" was what was written and that is simply not accurate.

    Streaming services shift the infrastructure around. Some of that shift is to the consumer (buy your own last mile connection and compatible TV/receiver box). Some of that shift is to the content delivery network since traditional cable and satellite can transmit a signal once and serve millions with the same single feed. Home DVR? Great - use the feed everyone shares. Cloud DVR? Add more infrastructure.

    Want to kill a streaming service? Have all of their customers watch their maximum number of devices at the same time. The streaming service counts on the peak demand never exceeding their CDN infrastructure.

    They certainly are not as expensive as the haters keep claiming. But you've entered the yada zone.
     
  9. Soccernut

    Soccernut AllStar

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    Yes, Australia has good series and very good movies too.
     
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  10. mjwagner

    mjwagner Icon

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    Yes, I should have been more precise, I was talking about in home devices of course.

    As I tried to explain, those of us not so pedantic understood what was meant by “no infrastructure”.

    “...yada zone.”...now that’s funny..
     
  11. NashGuy

    NashGuy Active Member

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    AT&T's CEO Stephenson did an interview with CNBC last Fri. and was asked about the decline in DTV and DTV Now subs, which he explained they anticipated, and that they anticipate further declines. A new article over at Seeking Alpha lays out a bull case for AT&T stock based on Stephenson's remarks, etc. I found this bit interesting:

    I see the recent selloff as just another complete misunderstanding by many (it seems) of what is actually going on here. AT&T is no longer investing in DirecTV. The company is taking the free cash flow from the traditional linear deliver model and using it to invest in a new SVOD service that has not even hit the market yet.
    So basically, he claims, AT&T sees DTV products as the past, something from which they will extract as much value as possible before they go away, while using that value to build its replacement, the upcoming WarnerMedia OTT streaming service.
     
  12. James Long

    James Long Ready for Uplink! Staff Member Super Moderator DBSTalk Club

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    It seems that we got away from the headline on this thread ... worrying that DIRECTV NOW is losing subscribers. But the tangent into discussing Netflix shows that focusing solely on subscriber numbers is a mistake. Netflix is a good example of what a company looks like when they need to spend more money than they are making just to maintain their customer base.

    The good news for customers is that if the bubble pops the customers can just "reinvest" their budgeted $$ per month they were paying Netflix in another streaming vendor. Netflix has no obligation to customers beyond the end of the monthly subscription. It isn't like Amazon where one can buy digital content and hopes that the company stays in business so they can keep watching their purchases. Access expires. Content is removed regularly (and new content added). The bad news will be for anyone Netflix owes - primarily the people who they pay to supply or create their content. Also those who helped Netflix get further into debt by loaning them money.

    Perhaps it is the tail wagging the dog, but over the past couple of years traditional distributors such as DISH and DIRECTV have played down subscriber loss stating that they are focusing on making more profit off of a smaller more focused customer base. But it is much easier not to worry about losing millions of customers per year when the company has a positive cash flow and is still pulling in billions in profit.

    Despite the fourth quarter, DIRECTV NOW posted a gain in subscribers for the full year of 2018. I expected them to grow more but the market is becoming filled with various streamers. It is a tough market.
     
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  13. James Long

    James Long Ready for Uplink! Staff Member Super Moderator DBSTalk Club

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    AT&T is no longer investing in DirecTV.

    That would be a bad decision. But, it is AT&T. :)
     
  14. slice1900

    slice1900 Well-Known Member

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    What investment does AT&T need to make in Directv at this point? They have already have built their last satellite, which will launch later this year. They have all the infrastructure for uplinking to the satellites they ever need. They have the infrastructure needed for the streaming versions (Directv Now & Directv via IP) and can rely on others for additional CDN resources as dictated by subscriber numbers. The hardware design of the Genie 2 and clients are set, they may tweak it over time but there isn't anything it needs to do or can do that it can't do now. Directv is a fully mature product, what investment could they possibly make even if they wanted to which would improve it in a way that would matter in terms of subscriber numbers?

    Yeah, the customer support like CSRs suck but that's an AT&T wide problem, and is hardly limited to AT&T but is endemic to the TV and telecom markets. From the consumer side we can say "if only they invested more to have better customer support" but obviously the CEOs disagree with us, because almost every company spends the bare minimum on customer support.
     
  15. b4pjoe

    b4pjoe New Member

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    How about a Genie 3 with an amount of tuners equal to the Hopper at Dish? Or more even. I actually wish I could get rid of my existing DVR's and go with a centralized storage place like the Genie 2 but it just doesn't have enough available tuners.
     
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  16. slice1900

    slice1900 Well-Known Member

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    The Genie 2 has 16 tuners, just like the Hopper 3. Directv allocates them differently because of the way they plan to handle 4K. That doesn't matter today, but if there are a lot of 4K channels someday Directv will be able to handle them, and Dish won't.

    Putting more tuners into a single box doesn't solve the problem, it just reduces the number of people who are affected by it. The real fix is to allow more than one Genie 2 on an account, but if they ever plan to do that they sure don't seem to be any hurry. So long as they still offer HR2x/H2x they have an answer for those people, even if it isn't the answer you want to hear.
     
  17. NashGuy

    NashGuy Active Member

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    Yes, that's a fair question to ask. Perhaps the analyst didn't choose quite the right word when he said "investing". But the gist I got from watching the interview with Stephenson is that he sees DTV as a mature business in irreversible long-term decline but which continues (for now, anyway) to generate substantial free cash flow which AT&T is using to fund the creation of emerging businesses that will outlive DTV, including both fiber broadband service and the forthcoming WarnerMedia SVOD service.

    Stephenson said that the upcoming SVOD is where all their excitement is, not the linear-channel MVPD business. That, plus the fact that he hasn't said much in a couple months about the planned "DirecTV over IP" service that will use the C71 Android TV box currently in beta testing, has me wondering how it fits into their plans now...
     
  18. Getteau

    Getteau Icon

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    Exactly. If I was on the BOD for AT&T, I would be asking why they are continuing to invest in hardware; whether it be for traditional DTV or streaming DTV. It seems like all the major SVOD providers are using platform agnostic apps that run on someone else's hardware platform. Given that direction, why be in the hardware business at all (except for a modem to support their broadband service).

    If I was an employee of DTV, Stephenson's comments would scare the heck out of me. I spent a little over 10 years working for a software company that had that exact philosophy. We bought mature products, milked every last dollar out of them and then ended support when we no longer made a profit on them. The profits from those old products were re-invested into a new business that was growing. The first thing that happened to a sunsetted product was that all non-critical development stopped and the dev teams were reduced to a maintenance only staffing level. As the profits from a piece of software shrank, so did the number of people supporting it. Eventually, products that had hundreds of developers and support people in their heyday would be down to one or two people. DTV is obviously much larger in scale, but the business practice is still the same. Buy it, milk it for all it's worth and put the money somewhere that is making you more money.
     
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  19. slice1900

    slice1900 Well-Known Member

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    I don't think one can dispute that assessment too much. Directv will continue to throw off cash for years, but they aren't going to make it grow revenue, and the satellite business has an expiration date of around 2030 when the satellites begin to fail.
     
  20. b4pjoe

    b4pjoe New Member

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    Well 16 the way they are allocated doesn't really help me record on more than 7. I could go for the more than one Genie 2 on an account. And having the extra tuners for 4K makes little sense since they don't have enough 4K content for two 4K streams at the moment.
     
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