Since purchasing DirecTV for $49 billion in 2015, AT&T has continued to suffer from massive subscriber losses quarter after quarter.
The company’s most recent earnings report failed to reverse that downward trend, as AT&T shed 897,000 premium TV subscribers, mostly including its satellite TV provider DirecTV and a small number of U-Verse users.
The total number of premium TV subscribers now sits at 18.6 million. The company said the latest dismal performance was “due to competition and customers rolling off promotional discounts as well as lower gross adds from the continued focus on adding higher-value customers.”
One AT&T executive announced that the company is moving ahead with a wide-ranging cost-cutting program.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has been a boon for online streaming giants like Netflix, Disney Plus, Hulu and Apple, the same can’t be said for DirecTV and other legacy cable TV providers. AT&T said that the pandemic had a $435 million impact on EBITDA.
Amid the latest earnings report stumble, AT&T announced that CEO Randall Stephenson will retire and will be succeeded by President and COO John Stankey on July 1, a change that is moving ahead months earlier than anticipated.
Stankey will take over a company that is financially on shaky ground, as the past acquisitions of DirecTV and Time Warner have landed it into about $200 billion in debt.
AT&T had already announced several months ago that it would no longer actively market DirecTV. Instead, the company is preparing to add some muscle to its offerings for cord-cutters, as consumers are spending more time at home under shelter-in-place directives.
The company has high hopes for HBO Max, which will launch on May 27 and be free for many AT&T wireless subscribers. But this streaming service will be competing with the likes of industry behemoths Netflix and Disney Plus.
If the new survey from The Trade Desk is any indication, cord-cutting will continue for the foreseeable future, much to the dismay of DirecTV.
The survey revealed that 64 percent of all households said they have already cut the cord, are planning to or have never subscribed. Of those households that do still have cable TV subscriptions, 11 percent plan to cut the cord by the end of the year. The figure creeps even higher to 74 percent when talking about younger adults in the 18 to 34 age group.
All told, about 6 million abandoned satellite and cable in 2019, according to Wall Street analyst firm MoffettNathanson.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek and Arirang TV. He currently resides in Minneapolis.