AT&T absolutely bled subscribers in the first quarter of 2020, even by the standards of cord-cutting that have accelerated. According to one measure, the company lost over a million video subscribers in the quarter, with DirecTV losing nearly 900,000 and AT&T Now losing about 138,000. This makes up for around half of the 2 million subscribers lost in the first quarter by major pay-TV providers in the U.S.
This followed news last December that, per Ars Technica, the company had announced a price increase starting in January.
Now, a new report says that AT&T has announced another increase, albeit only for new customers.
According to the website TV Answer Man, AT&T on Monday "raised the first-year monthly price for new subscribers to DIRECTV and AT&T TV." The company, however, has not raised prices for AT&T TV Now, nor has it touched prices for existing customers.
The price increase was not announced, but is reflected on the company's websites, the report said.
"New subscribers to DIRECTV now must pay $59.99 a month for the first year of its Select plan (155 channels), compared to $49.99 previously; $69.99 a month for the first year of its Choice plan (185 channels), compared to $59.99 a month previously; $79.99 a month for the Xtra plan compared to $69.99 previously; and $84.99 a month for the first year of its Ultimate package (250 channels), compared to $74.99 a month previously," the report said.
This is reflected on the sites. The Select Package, per AT&T's website, is now priced at $59.99 a month. According to the Wayback Machine, that same site offered the package for $49.99 a month as of May 7. The same is the case for the Choice and Ultimate packages.
In another change, AT&T last week stopped offering AT&T Watch TV, the ultra-skinny bundle launched two years earlier for $15 a month.
"Standalone WatchTV is no longer available for new sign ups or to re-subscribe," the website said. "Existing WatchTV customers who subscribe to the app or have a qualifying AT&T Unlimited plan can continue to use the service. The site then, after a few seconds, automatically redirects to the myAT&T login page.
Fast Company described AT&T Watch TV as "an obvious PR ploy from the start," aimed at currying favor at the time that AT&T was seeking government approval for its ultimately successful acquisition of Time Warner.
Also this week, Forbes reported some details showing that AT&T employees appear to have unwittingly signed up customers for DirecTV Now subscriptions without their permission, in order to goose subscriber numbers. In 2017, after the scheme was discovered, "the company fired employees found to have engaged in unethical practices." This led to multiple shareholder lawsuits.
A CNBC report last month said AT&T was looking to dump the money-losing DirecTV, but no such deal has yet come to fruition.
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.