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DirecTV wants to be the next online substitute for cable

AT&T on Monday formally unveiled DirecTV Now, a live online video service for consumers, especially mobile-phone owners, who don’t want conventional pay-TV. In this file photo, traders gather at the post that handles AT&T on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
AT&T on Monday formally unveiled DirecTV Now, a live online video service for consumers, especially mobile-phone owners, who don’t want conventional pay-TV. In this file photo, traders gather at the post that handles AT&T on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. AP

AT&T Inc. formally unveiled DirecTV Now, a live online video service for consumers, especially mobile-phone owners, who don’t want conventional pay-TV.

Starting Nov. 30, phone and tablet customers, along with owners of web-enabled TV sets, can get 60-plus channels for $35 a month, AT&T’s DirecTV division said Monday in a statement. Additional options include up to 120-plus channels for $70 a month.

Already the largest pay-TV provider in the U.S., Dallas-based AT&T is using the new service to target more than 20 million consumers, especially the young, who don’t subscribe to satellite or cable TV. The phone giant, the owner of DirecTV, is also trying to transform itself into a media powerhouse, with its agreement to buy Time Warner Inc. for $85.4 billion.

DirecTV Now will be accessible though an app and available nationally. Subscribers can get the service on mobile devices and also will be able to watch shows on web-enabled TVs or through media players from Apple Inc., Google and others. To sweeten the deal for its wireless customers, DirecTV Now streaming won’t count against their data plans.

Consumers who want more than the basic package can separately sign up for premium services including HBO and Cinemax for $5 a month.

There are already a few online services that aim to replace cable, but they haven’t attracted many users yet. AT&T’s DirecTV hopes to change that.

While just about any person you meet on the street will tell you cable costs too much, the vast majority of Americans don’t think it’s bad enough to cancel. Cheaper online live-TV services, like Dish Network’s Sling TV and Sony’s PlayStation Vue, remain relatively unknown compared with Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. And while they’re easy to order and cancel online and fairly simple to use, they still have drawbacks.

“No one has really delivered the right combination of content, price and ease that will get people to make that call to their current provider and say sayonara,” said Forrester analyst Jim Nail.

It’s unclear if AT&T’s new service, dubbed DirecTV Now, will break out with consumers. But it has the size to get better deals from entertainment companies, who have slowly come around to the idea of streaming.

Americans are increasingly dissatisfied with how much they pay for what’s on TV. The number of customers paying cable and satellite operators for TV has dropped nearly 3 million, to roughly 97 million, in the past two years, according to industry experts MoffettNathanson Research.

The Associated Press contributed

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