AT&T to revamp DirecTV Now with new plans bundling in HBO, price hikes

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said in December the company would soon adjust the content mix on its DirecTV Now streaming service and raise the monthly subscription to around the “$50 to $60” point — meaning, at least $10 per month more than it is today. This week, AT&T is preparing to follow through on those plans by increasing the prices for its existing tiers by $10 per month. It’s also launching two new packages to replace its existing multi-tiered lineup, both of which bundle HBO into their channel lineups.

This is not the first time AT&T has leveraged HBO to entice streaming subscribers — it has also tried bundling free HBO in its wireless plans, and is preparing to launch its own WarnerMedia streaming service, which will include HBO along with movies and other original content. 

The news of the DirecTV Now plan changes was first reported by Cord Cutter News. We’ve since independently confirmed the report’s accuracy.

Currently, DirecTV Now offers a variety of price points for its streaming TV service, starting at $40 per month for the Live a Little plan with more than 65 channels. Its three tiers above that — Just Right, Go Big and Gotta Have It — increase the lineup to 85, 105 and 125 channels, respectively, for $55, $65 or $75 per month. The service also offers a Spanish language-focused plan, Todo Y Mas, for $45 per month.

All of these packages are now being “grandfathered in” with the changes to DirecTV Now’s service and will no longer be offered to new subscribers. And all will see their prices increase by $10 per month.

The Brazilian International package, DirecTV Now Espanol and other premium channels will also see price increases, but not for customers who subscribed before March 12, 2019.

Existing DirecTV Now customers will be notified of these price changes in emails being sent out starting tomorrow, March 12. The increase will go into effect within 25 days of that notification.

In place of DirecTV Now’s currently multi-tiered service are two new plans: Plus and Max.

Plus will offer more than 40 channels for $50 per month, including local stations, sports and news along with ESPN, CNN, Fox News, Disney Jr., TNT, Hallmark Channel and Bravo, and premium networks HBO, HBO Family and HBO Latino!

Meanwhile, DirecTV Now Max will offer more than 50 channels for $70 per month. This includes everything already in Plus, along with more national sports channels like CBS Sports Network, ESPNews, ESPNU, Fox Sports 2, Golf Channel, Olympic Channel and Regional Sports Networks. On the premium front, Max will also include Cinemax.

In addition to the new plans, AT&T will launch streaming versions of its DirecTV packages: Entertainment, Choice, Xtra, Ultimate and Optimo Mas. These are online-only versions of the plans, and may include fewer channels than offered to satellite TV customers.

Entertainment includes more than 65 channels for $93 per month; Choice is $110 per month for more than 85 channels; Xtra is $124 per month for more than 105 channels; Ultimate is $135 per month for more than 125 channels; and Optimo Mas is $86 per month for more than 90 channels.

These pricing and plan changes should not be a surprise to those following AT&T’s news.

CEO Randall Stephenson told investors the company was planning to thin out the content available on DirecTV Now in order to keep only those channels that are “really relevant to customers.”

The pricing adjustments come at a time when AT&T’s streaming subscriber base is in decline. In its Q4 earnings, the company lost 267,000 DirecTV Now subscribers, ending the year with fewer customers (1.6 million) than it had in Q2 (1.8 million). With DirecTV Now’s promotional offers ending, some customers may have fled to rival services like Hulu with Live TV and YouTube TV, which now have a combined 3 million subscribers, according to Bloomberg.

AT&T declined to comment on the changes.

Update: Tues. March 12, 2019: The news is now official. AT&T confirmed Plus includes 46 channels and Max will have 59, including HBO, as was in line with our reporting.