AT&T to start selling you cable TV over the Internet

In the fourth quarter of this year, AT&T will start selling cable- bundles of TV to people across the country through a new app. Subscribers won’t need an AT&T wireless phone or an AT&T broadband connection at home.

The potential ramifications are wide-ranging. The new service, which will have DirecTV branding but without the need for a satellite dish, will create new competition in the television industry.

AT&T did say it will still sell satellite dish service through DirecTV and fiber-optic TV service through U-verse.

This lower-cost plan will be just for smart phones, while “DirecTV Now” will work on big-screen TVs too.

A third offering, “DirecTV Preview,” won’t require a monthly subscription at all. It will be a free app with a smaller selection of shows, perhaps intended to persuade people to pay for the bigger bundles.

Another big shift: AT&T says “these services will not require annual contracts, satellite dishes or set-top boxes.”

So even though AT&T is selling a form of cable TV, it won’t have all the baggage of cable TV, like an installation visit from a technician.

Of course, AT&T still wants people to buy a broadband subscription, which does require an installation visit. And AT&T will strongly encourage people to buy wireless, broadband and TV service together. The streaming bundles will differentiate themselves not just by price point but by having what AT&T calls “exclusive content.”

The most important content, however, will be the big cable channels that form the backbone of every bundle.

Stankey said AT&T is in talks with channel owners about securing the necessary rights for the “DirecTV Now” services also.

AT&T’s rivals are skeptical that the company will be able to pull it off, but AT&T does have a lot of muscle in the marketplace thanks to its 2015 acquisition of DirecTV.

The company did not announce any pricing plans or specific launch details on Tuesday, other than to say it’ll start in the fourth quarter.

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