For much of 2020, various reports have stated that AT&T is looking to offload DirecTV, the satellite TV service for which it paid $67.1 billion in 2016. The company is now under different management and its focus has shifted, especially around its new streaming service HBO Max, along with its core telecom business.
Now, there are indications that an actual sale is getting closer.
The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that AT&T has received bids from the auction it’s held for DirecTV, and that such bids have valued the unit at around $15 billion, which is much less than what AT&T paid just four years ago.
According to the report, both Apollo Global Management and the “blank check company” Churchill Capital Corp. IV submitted bids, with Churchill’s bid above $15 billion but Apollo offering less than that figure.
The sale “could be completed by early next year,” according to the Journal.
A report in November, by Bloomberg News, had said that AT&T might not sell off DirecTV completely, and is considering retaining some of the unit’s infrastructure.
It does not appear, however, the rival satellite company Dish Network is in any way in the mix to acquire DirecTV, even though the companies have nearly merged on a couple of occasions, and Dish Network’s CEO has said repeatedly that he considers a merger of the companies to be “inevitable.” However, indications earlier this year were that such a merger would face significant regulatory scrutiny.
AT&T is eager to get DirecTV off of its balance sheet and use the leftover cash to bid on spectrum in the current FCC auction.
In the meantime, DirecTV is currently in the midst of a standoff with TV station owner Tegna, which has left DirecTV customers around the country without more than sixty channels in over fifty markets.
“We can assure you we have every intention of getting TEGNA’s stations back as soon as possible, but the law grants TEGNA exclusive control over which homes can have their channels,”AT&T’s Twitter account said after the channels were removed. “We share your frustration and appreciate your patience.
AT&T, of course, is in the news this week because of its decision to place Warner Brothers’ entire 2021 movie release slate on the streaming service HBO Max, in addition to in theaters. The move has enraged a wide cross section of people in the movie business, including the studio’s production partners, movie theater owners, agents, and director Christopher Nolan, who fought the same company to gain a mid-pandemic theatrical release for his movie “Tenet,” which arrived in theaters over Labor Day weekend.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.