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DirecTV Now Up to 155 Local Channels; Showtime Available for $8/mo

Phillip Dampier September 20, 2017 AT&T, Competition, Consumer News, DirecTV, Online Video No Comments

AT&T’s DirecTV Now is aggressively pursuing agreements to include local network stations in its online streaming platform.

This week, the company announced it added CBS and CW stations in more than 75 markets reaching over 70% of U.S. households, and now carries 155 local stations on its lineup. As part of that agreement, DirecTV Now also now offers customers the option of adding Showtime at what AT&T calls the cheapest price available from any streaming service — $8 a month. Access to the Showtime Anytime app isn’t ready yet, but will be “in the coming weeks,” claims AT&T.

Subscribers to the “Go Big” package will soon find CBS Sports Network added to their lineup. Those with at least the “Just Right” package will see Pop added as well. On Demand programming from CBS and The CW will begin in October.

Here’s the current lineup of TV markets and stations available on DirecTV Now as of late September:

Say Hello to Sports-Free Philo TV for Less Than $20/Month

Phillip Dampier September 13, 2017 Competition, Consumer News, Online Video, Philo TV 1 Comment

A group of cable networks are teaming up to offer the first over-the-top online streaming cable TV package for sports haters.

Philo TV, expected to soft launch within a few weeks, is a sports-free television package of popular cable networks expected to sell for under $20/month.

Instead of ESPN and Fox Sports, Philo TV will concentrate on dramas, documentaries, kids shows, reality television, and original productions aired on cable networks owned by the venture’s partners — Discovery Communications, Viacom, AMC Networks, A+E Networks and Scripps Networks Interactive.

That guarantees networks like Food TV, HGTV, Discovery, AMC, Comedy Central, A&E, Nickelodeon, and other popular general interest cable networks will be on the lineup.

The partners elected to work with Philo TV, an existing venture supplying skinny bundles of cable programming on college campuses around the country. Based on Philo’s college TV lineups, it is not a stretch to assume the new streaming service will also include networks like The Weather Channel, CNN, FOX News, tru-TV, Animal Planet, National Geographic, MSNBC, History Channel, BBC America, Game Show Network, Hallmark, Spike TV, USA, Cartoon Network, Lifetime, Syfy, and perhaps even the Disney Channel.

The service is not expected to include over-the-air stations, but the exclusion of sports means plenty of savings for sports-loathing viewers. Sports programming fees are by far the highest of any network costs for cable and satellite providers. Eliminating costly networks like ESPN saves the average cable company at least $6 a month for that network alone.

The “Philo” venture is named after Philo Farnsworth, the American inventor of an all-electronic television system still partly in use today, which quickly dispensed with the earlier electro-mechanical television systems that preceded it.

Philo isn’t necessarily going to be limited to online streaming. The company is exploring cutting deals with existing phone and cable companies to distribute the package as a competing alternative to today’s bloated cable television packages.

Those interested in being notified about the venture’s imminent launch can register their email address or mobile number on Philo’s website.

T-Mobile Giving Away Free Netflix to its ONE Family Plan Customers

John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile USA

T-Mobile ONE family plans now come with a free subscription to Netflix, the wireless carrier announced today.

“Now, the Un-carrier is going ALL IN on unlimited by adding Netflix — the world’s leading entertainment service — to T-Mobile ONE family plans,” T-Mobile said in a press release. “Which means anyone with two or more qualifying T-Mobile ONE lines can get Netflix On Us. And T-Mobile ONE with unlimited everything — and now with Netflix included — is still just $40 per line for a family of four. As always, monthly taxes and fees are included.”

“The future of mobile entertainment is not about bolting a satellite dish to the side of your house or resuscitating faded 90’s dotcoms. The future is mobile, over-the-top and unlimited,” said John Legere, president and CEO of T-Mobile. “While the carriers spend billions on their franken-strategies to cobble together carrier–cable–content mashups, the Un-carrier just leapfrogged them all by partnering with the best and giving it to customers at no extra charge. Because that’s what we always do. Give more to you without asking more from you.”

T-Mobile claimed the move to incorporate Netflix into its included services is part of a new campaign to further irritate AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Both of the larger carriers have been making acquisitions of content companies with the hope you will boost your mobile bill by bundling services like Go90 and DirecTV Now into your package. By giving away Netflix free to qualified customers, T-Mobile can argue its package remains a much better value and its network can handle the added streaming video load.

“Carrier bundles are almost always a combination of something you want and something you don’t … all in an effort to jack up your monthly bill even more,” T-Mobile argued. “Worse, carrier bundles are usually designed to explode after the “introductory promo” runs out, and customers are stuck paying hundreds more each year. T-Mobile’s strategy couldn’t be any more different. The Un-carrier sees an opportunity to do mobile entertainment right for today’s families … to give you something you want together with something else you want – but at no extra cost.”

The details:

Starting Tuesday, September 12th, qualifying T-Mobile ONE customers can activate their Netflix subscription online, in-store or by calling T-Mobile’s customer care. If you already have a Netflix subscription, T-Mobile will cover the cost of a standard subscription for you — meaning you’ll save nearly $120 every year. To qualify, all you need are two or more paid voice lines on T-Mobile ONE. Customers with free lines from T-Mobile’s “line-on-us” deals also qualify. Customers on Unlimited 55+ or 2 lines for $100 can get Netflix On Us by switching to the latest T-Mobile ONE plan. T-Mobile ONE families who get Netflix On Us will also get T-Mobile’s Family Allowances at no extra charge. Family Allowances allow parents to manage their kids’ phone usage — like setting guidelines for talk time, text messages, download times and which numbers their kids can contact.

John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile USA, introduces Netflix on Us and roasts his competitors AT&T and Verizon Wireless. (6:10)

DirecTV Now Adds 25 More Local Stations in Various Cities

Phillip Dampier August 30, 2017 AT&T, Competition, Consumer News, DirecTV, Online Video No Comments

DirecTV Now is continuing to boost the number of live, local stations included in its streaming service with the addition of more than 25 local ABC, NBC and Fox affiliates, most in smaller cities.

The additions bring the station total to nearly 130 stations in 70 cities.

“We’re giving DirecTV Now customers more live local channels to stay connected, with more channels coming,” said Daniel York, senior executive vice president and chief content officer of the AT&T Entertainment Group.

The new stations:

Albany-Schenectady-Troy, N.Y. NBC
Albuquerque-Santa Fe, N.M. ABC, NBC
Bend, Ore. Fox
Buffalo, N.Y. ABC
Butte-Bozeman, Mont. Fox
Columbia-Jefferson City, Mo. Fox
Evansville, Ind. Fox
Grand Rapids-Kalamazoo, Mich. ABC
Great Falls, Mont. Fox
Greensboro-Winston-Salem, N.C. ABC
Joplin-Pittsburg, Kan. Fox
Lafayette, La. Fox
Lima, Ohio Fox
Little Rock-Pine Bluff, Ark. ABC
Louisville Fox
Missoula, Mont. Fox
Myrtle Beach-Florence, S.C. Fox
Norfolk-Newport News, Va. ABC
Oklahoma City ABC
Palm Springs, Calif. Fox
Santa Barbara-San Luis Obispo, Calif. Fox
St. Joseph, Mo. Fox
Tulsa, Okla. ABC, NBC
Yuma, AZ-El Centro, Calif. Fox

Verizon Wireless Brings Big Changes to “Unlimited” Data Plans; Throttled Video for All

All Verizon Wireless customers, regardless of their data plan, will begin seeing throttled video on their phones, tablets, and tethered devices starting today, Aug. 23.

The change coincides with the introduction of two new “unlimited” data plans that come with an unprecedented number of tricks and traps in the fine print.

Existing customers can keep their current plan, but will still experience throttled online video speeds to at or below 10Mbps that will make it impossible to view 4K streamed video. On smartphones, the top permitted video resolution will be substantially lower than that.

Verizon claims the new throttled video plans will deliver better service for all of their wireless customers.

“We’re doing this to ensure all customers have a great experience on our network since there is no visible difference in quality on a smartphone or tablet when video is shown at higher resolutions,” a Verizon spokesperson claimed. That refers to video resolution above 720p for phones and 1080p on tablets and laptops.

More likely, Verizon engineers observed video traffic spiking as a result of its unlimited data plan reintroduced in February. Independent speed measurement services detected significant speed and performance hits on Verizon’s wireless network as customers got the most they could out of an unlimited plan that started at $80 a line. Even with Verizon’s soft cap of 22GB before customers were subject to throttled performance was not enough to manage traffic loads, so Verizon has decided to specifically target online video.

Verizon’s “Cadillac” network is straining to keep up.

Although many streaming services offer customers an option to reduce video resolution to cut back on data usage, customers often ignore the option, particularly if enrolled in “unlimited” data plans. Starting today, Verizon’s network management speed throttle tells streaming services a customer’s connection is limited and cannot sustain the speeds needed for the highest resolution video. The video player reduces video playback resolution on its own as a result. In turn, this can dramatically lighten the traffic load on Verizon’s network.

Verizon’s new plans seem designed for the “light touch” era the current administration’s FCC advocates for telecom regulation, and the carrier’s new plans will give blatant priority for some customers over others, relegating lower paying users into the slow lane while premium plan customers can race on by.

Verizon’s new unlimited data plans for the Net Neutrality-free future are here, scoff critics.

“‘Unlimited’ = ‘Limited’ and ‘Beyond Unlimited’ = ‘Slightly less limited’,” wrote one customer on Verizon’s customer forum.

Verizon put its best face on its new unlimited plans.

“These plans give you the best unlimited choices, but you also get what only Verizon can give you: the best network, the best rewards program, the best way to manage your plan with the My Verizon app and the best selection of phones and devices,” the company said in a press release.

“If this isn’t a sign that Verizon’s network is crumbling from offering unlimited, I don’t know what is!” countered John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile USA.

Here are the new unlimited plans from Verizon Wireless, effective immediately:

Go Unlimited – $75 (1 line), $65 per line (2 lines), $50 per line (3 lines), $40 per line (4+ lines) – Paperless billing and autopay required (or add $5 per month)

Verizon’s new base unlimited plan automatically throttles your speed when a cell site reports as congested. This plan puts your data usage at a lower priority over other customers and you can experience throttled speeds at any time, regardless of usage. Video streaming is limited to 480p on smartphones and 720p on all other devices. You also get unlimited mobile hotspot, but speeds are permanently locked at a maximum of 600kbps. Unlimited talk and text with no restrictions is included

Beyond Unlimited – $85 (1 line), $80 per line (2 lines), $60 per line (3 lines), $50 per line (4+ lines) – Paperless billing and autopay required (or add $5 per month)

This plan more closely resembles the current unlimited data plan, but costs considerably more. You get unlimited 4G LTE data, but are subject to a speed throttle in congested service areas once exceeding 22GB of usage per month. Video streaming is limited to 720p on smartphones and 1080p on all other devices. No 4K video on any device is allowed. Unlimited mobile hotspot data really means up to 15GB of usage at LTE speed before you are throttled. Unlimited talk/texting included in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

Customers on 2017 Unlimited and Legacy Unlimited Data Plans:

You will be able to keep your current unlimited plans. For those who enrolled in Verizon’s 2017 unlimited plan starting in February, video speed throttles now apply: 720p on smartphones, 1080p on all other devices. You will get a free upgrade to 15GB of mobile hotspot usage, up from 10GB.

For customers on Verizon’s original unlimited plan discontinued several years ago, nothing changes except the introduction of video speed throttles: 720p on smartphones, 1080p on all other devices.

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