Netflix has been a dream for many consumers and an absolute nightmare for cable companies. Since the arrival of Netflix’s streaming service, cable companies have found their subscribers declining, their business model threatened, and the rising tide of cord-cutters forcing the cost of bundles down. It’s why Comcast is getting into selling you mobile plans, and why DirecTV is about to roll out DirecTV Now, their would-be Netflix killer.
DirecTV Now is fairly similar to other services that stream cable over the internet, like Sling or PlayStation Vue. The main lure for many people will be the set of channels, with over 100 promised, and the “aggressive price points” being offered. Since DirecTV is owned by AT&T, there will also be an aggressive push for AT&T customers to tag DirecTV Now onto their various service plans, especially as streaming TV from it won’t ding any AT&T data plan. After all, AT&T’s unlimited data plan requires a subscription to DirecTV in the first place.
The main question is whether this will appeal to cord-cutters. While Sling and PlayStation Vue have undeniably had splashy debuts, they haven’t caught on as some had hoped. Sling, for example, reportedly has a limit of two million subscribers from its corporate parent Dish, and while it’s growing, its current 600,000 subscribers are utterly dwarfed by Netflix’s 47 million American subscribers. Netflix is growing faster than Sling as well.
Part of this is cost, as Sling is $20 a month, almost twice what Netflix charges for a premium plan, and AT&T is hinting they might get the cost down to Netflix prices. But another factor is likely convenience. One of the downsides of live TV, increasingly, is that viewers seem to prefer watching TV at their convenience, and not being able to stream what shows they want when they want is a major downside these services are struggling to overcome. Unless AT&T can offer some robust video-on-demand offerings, DirecTV Now might not be able to even get Netflix’s attention, let alone compete.