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Digitimes Resaerch: AT&T launches inexpensive virtual pay-TV service DirectTV Now
Tom Lo, DIGITIMES Research, Taipei

AT&T has launched DirectTV Now, the third virtual pay-TV platform in the US market, at a minimum monthly charge rate of US$35, lower than competitors', for more than 100 live channels.

AT&T in 2015 acquired satellite live TV DirectTV and then launched DirectTV services, and DirectTV Now is an OTT (over the top) edition of DirectTV.

In addition to relatively low charge rates, AT&T offers zero-rating for DirectTV Now subscribers, that is, no charge for Internet traffic of streaming video. While AT&T is expected to be unable to profit or even bear operating losses from operating DirectTV Now, AT&T can attract additional mobile Internet-access subscribers from operation of the virtual pay-TV, Digitimes Research believes. However, US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in November 2016 was concerned about that zero-rating results in unfair competition against other OTT and mobile Internet services providers. In mid-December, AT&T disagreed with FCC's opinion.

Sling TV, a virtual pay-TV platform operated by Dish Network's subsidiary, has been in competition with DiretTV Now through launching App at Comcast X1, a set-top box (STB) for Comcast Xfinity TV, to enable Comcast Xfinity TV subscribers to subscribe for Sling TV 425 channels in 21 non-English languages. In addition, Sling TV has offered AirTV, a hybrid STB for watching Sling TV channels as well as ABC and NBC terrestrial TV channels and local terrestrial TV channels.

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