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YouTube TV Announces 30% Rate Hike: Now $64.99/mo for Streaming TV Package

Phillip Dampier June 30, 2020 Competition, Consumer News, Online Video, YouTube TV No Comments

YouTube TV has announced the addition of eight new Viacom-owned networks to their lineup, but has also passed along word the price is going up 30%, from $49.99 to $64.99/mo effective from Tuesday for new customers, Aug. 1 for existing customers.

Google last raised the price of the service in April 2019 when a YouTube TV subscription increased by 25% to $49.99.

Today we are also adding more of ViacomCBS’s family of channels to YouTube TV, which includes 8 of your favorites: BET, CMT, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Network, TV Land, and VH1.

To continue delivering the best content and service possible, we’re also updating our price for new and existing members to $64.99/month. Existing members will see these changes reflected in their subsequent billing cycle after July 30, 2020.

YouTube TV was widely perceived to be the best value streaming service combined with the best interface and feature set, including unlimited DVR service and the ability to share the service with up to six family members (up to three watching concurrently). The service has benefited from unfettered price hikes by its streaming competitors, notably AT&T TV Now (formerly DirecTV Now). But social media channels show customers are not thrilled about a $15 rate increase, even with the addition of eight channels to the lineup:

AT&T Exempts Its Own HBO Max Service from AT&T Wireless Caps

AT&T mobile customers can watch AT&T-owned HBO Max without fearing any impact on their data allowances, despite the fact competing services like Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Hulu, and Netflix will not be given similar treatment.

The Verge confirmed with AT&T that customers with AT&T mobile service can watch an unlimited amount of HBO Max and not exceed data allowances or the soft cap of 22-50 GB a month that unlimited use plan customers have.

The practice of exempting some content from data caps is known as “zero rating” and critics of the practice contend it is an “end run” around net neutrality. AT&T defends itself claiming HBO Max is paying AT&T to sponsor customer usage.

“According to an AT&T executive familiar with the matter, HBO Max is using AT&T’s ‘sponsored data’ system, which technically allows any company to pay to excuse its services from data caps,” according to the story in The Verge. “But since AT&T owns HBO Max, it’s just paying itself: the data fee shows up on the HBO Max books as an expense and on the AT&T Mobility books as revenue. For AT&T as a whole, it zeroes out. Compare that to a competitor like Netflix, which could theoretically pay AT&T for sponsored data, but it would be a pure cost.”

In short, AT&T is moving money from one of its pockets to the other, which may tangentially benefit AT&T mobile customers, but will also leave competing streaming services at a disadvantage, allowing AT&T to give preferential treatment to its own streaming service, which may discourage subscriptions to other services.

Ars Technica confirmed AT&T is not extending the data cap exemption to customers with AT&T DSL or Fiber service.

CBS All Access Getting a New Name, A Bigger Library and a Relaunch This Summer

With the merger of CBS and Viacom now complete, the combined company is preparing to overhaul its subscription streaming service CBS All Access with a rebranding and a relaunch this summer.

“We believe audiences want their entertainment on demand and their news, sports and events live, and our expanded offering will be the service that gives them what they want, how they want it all in one place and then a great value,” ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish told investors during a quarterly results conference call on Thursday.

The relaunched service will be dramatically larger than the current CBS All Access, adding content from Smithsonian TV and Viacom’s various cable networks including BET, Comedy Central, Logo, MTV, Nickelodeon, Pop TV, and the Paramount Network. The new streaming platform will also integrate more closely with Viacom’s free-to-view, advertiser-supported Pluto TV and Showtime, CBSViacom’s premium pay movie channel.

Subscribers will not have to wait until summer to see some changes on the All Access platform. Paramount added over 100 movie titles to the service earlier this week.

Currently, CBS All Access and Showtime together boast about 10 million subscribers, with ads-included All Access priced at $6 per month and Showtime at $11. Viacom’s advertising-supported streaming service Pluto TV, which Viacom bought in January 2019 for $340 million, has attracted almost 20 million monthly users.

Bakish believes the new ViacomCBS service will be as robust as competitors like Hulu or Disney+. It will enter a marketplace already dominated by Netflix (167 million subscribers), Amazon Prime (150 million subs), Hulu (30.7 million subs), Disney+ (28.6 million subs), ESPN+ (7.6 million subs), Starz (6.3 million subs) and YouTube TV (2 million subs). It will also have to compete against newly launched Apple TV+ and the forthcoming debuts of HBO Max and Peacock.

CBS All Access currently includes live streams of local CBS affiliates, streaming news network CBSN, and a variety of live and on-demand entertainment and sports programming. Its content library currently includes CBS TV network shows and a long-standing selection of evergreen off-network shows including Perry Mason, the original Hawaii 5-0, and The Brady Bunch.

AT&T’s WarnerMedia Sets HBO Max Launch Date: May 27

Phillip Dampier April 21, 2020 AT&T, Competition, Consumer News, HBO Max, Online Video No Comments

Get ready for another huge streaming platform, America. HBO Max from AT&T’s WarnerMedia is scheduled to debut Wednesday, May 27th with over 10,000 of content encompassing the libraries of HBO, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, Crunchyroll, CNN, Looney Tunes, Rooster Teeth, TBS, TNT, truTV, and Turner Classic Movies.

HBO Max will replace HBO Now — the premium movie network’s subscription service for cord-cutters, and will remain priced at $14.99 a month. Those who currently subscribe to HBO through Charter Spectrum, AT&T TV (and TV Now), or DirecTV will get access to the HBO Max service at no additional cost.

WarnerMedia is positioning the service as a general interest streaming platform and super-sized HBO offering, sold as “Where HBO meets so much more.” It will combine legacy network TV content with original HBO movies and shows, and productions made especially for HBO Max.

“Our No. 1 goal is having extraordinary content for everyone in the family, and the HBO Max programming mix we are so excited to unveil on May 27th will bear that out,” said Bob Greenblatt, chairman of Warner Media Entertainment and Direct-To-Consumer. “Even in the midst of this unprecedented pandemic, the all-star teams behind every aspect of HBO Max will deliver a platform and a robust slate of content that is varied, of the highest quality, and second to none.”

HBO Max is likely to face challenges that its closest competitors — Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video do not. First, the service will launch with a premium price – $14.99 a month, which is more than double what Hulu charges and more than streaming leader Netflix, which suffered a growth slowdown after the last price increase brought its most popular plan to $12.99 a month. Second, the streaming market has become saturated with services that launched before HBO Max, which may potentially limit enthusiasm in these times of economic uncertainty. Disney+ launched with heavy discounting and comes free to a number of customers through cross-promotions with other companies. A subscription service asking for $15 a month at launch may prove a difficult sell, especially to those with no interest in HBO. Third, the HBO brand conveys an impression to would-be customers about the platform’s content. HBO has been criticized for its “male-centered” programming, replete with violence and sexual content. The brand itself may be a hard sell in conservative households with younger children, despite the fact it will feature a large roster of classic and new Looney Tunes cartoons, a Sesame Street original, and other family-friendly programming.

Subscribers will find content on the platform including:

Classic TV Shows: “Friends,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “South Park”

Movies: all Studio Ghibli films, films from Warner Bros., New Line and DC like “Joker,” “Suicide Squad,” “Wonder Woman,” “The Matrix,” “Casablanca” and “The Wizard of Oz.”

Originals: Comedy series “Love Life” starring Anna Kendrick, documentary “On the Record” about accusations of sexual harassment and rape against hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons; “Legendary,” an underground ballroom dance competition series; “Craftopia,” hosted by YouTube star LaurDIY; an all-new “Looney Tunes Cartoons” from Warner Bros. Animation; and Sesame Workshop’s “The Not Too Late Show with Elmo.”

Watch the trailer from HBO Max original “Love Life,” starting May 27. (1:57)

New AT&T TV Streaming Service is Loaded With Costly Tricks and Traps

Phillip Dampier March 2, 2020 AT&T, AT&T TV, Competition, Consumer News, Online Video 1 Comment

AT&T has created a streaming television bundle that cable and satellite subscribers can appreciate. Replicating the kind of promotions familiar to DirecTV subscribers, AT&T debuted its new streaming TV service nationwide this morning with three promotionally priced packages that start at a relatively low price and end with a very high one.

AT&T TV is intended to fill the gap between bare bones, slimmed-down packages offered by services like Sling TV and the bloated television packages offered by traditional cable and satellite providers. The new service is part of AT&T’s plan to gradually wind down DirecTV satellite service and U-verse TV, delivering video content over the internet instead of by cable or satellite. AT&T has already ceased marketing its U-verse TV service and intends to do the same with DirecTV, which had been heavily advertised for years. The best new customer promotions will likely be targeted towards its new streaming service as well.

AT&T TV’s set-top box and remote control.

Unlike AT&T’s cord-cutting package — AT&T TV Now, AT&T TV features hundreds of channels, a 500-hour DVR that will store recordings up to 90 days, and over 40,000 on-demand shows. AT&T TV carries just about every cable channel imaginable, along with a healthy amount of regional and national sports, most local stations, scores of international channels in several languages, and premium movie channels galore. AT&T TV does not have the bandwidth and capacity constraints U-verse and DirecTV have, so the service can offer as many channels as customers can afford.

To watch, you need an internet connection with at least 8 Mbps for “optimal viewing.” If you want to bundle AT&T’s gigabit fiber service with AT&T TV, the company offers an extra $10/mo off for the first 12 months of your 24 month contract.

One of AT&T’s biggest selling points for its new TV service is its bundled set-top box, powered by Google’s Android TV. That gives subscribers access to apps in the Google Play Store, which means integrating Netflix, Hulu, and just about any other music or video streaming app is easy. Customers also can benefit from AT&T’s voice remote, which uses Google Assistant.

A careful review of the terms and conditions quickly reveals that this new service is not intentioned for cord-cutters. For starters, AT&T TV channel lineups are larger than other cord-cutting services, and are priced accordingly. The cheapest package on offer — Entertainment (~73 channels), is priced at $93 a month after the new customer promotion expires. AT&T TV also includes a two-year term contract satellite users are well familiar with. If you cancel early, you are subject to an early cancellation penalty of $15 for each month remaining on your contract. A sports programming fee of up to $8.49/mo is charged separately for some customers. A $19.95 setup fee also applies, along with equipment fees of $10/mo for each additional set-top box (the first one is included). Customers can also buy the box outright for $120.

AT&T protects its other video services from revenue cannibalization by disallowing new customer discounts for existing DirecTV and U-verse TV customers. For everyone else, here is what you can expect to pay:

  • Entertainment: $49.99/mo for months 1-12, $93/mo for months 13-24.
  • Choice: $54.99/mo for months 1-12, $110/mo for months 13-24.
  • XTRA: $64.99/mo for months 1-12, $124/mo for months 13-24.
  • Ultimate: $69.99/mo for months 1-12, $135/mo for months 13-24.
  • Optimo Más: $54.99/mo for months 1-12, $86.99 for months 13-24.

Some other points:

  • AT&T TV allows up to three concurrent streams.
  • Regional Sports Fee of up to $8.49/mo. applies to Choice and higher packages.
  • Additional set-top boxes are $10/mo or can be purchased for $120.
  • A $50 AT&T Visa® Reward Card is available if you order AT&T TV online. Expires: 3/31/2020. For new residential customers only. Residents of select multi-dwelling units not eligible.
  • Save an additional $10/mo. for 12 months on TV when you bundle with internet or wireless.
  • $19.95 activation fee.
  • Early termination fee of $15/mo for each month remaining on agreement.
  • Equipment non-return fee may apply if you fail to return equipment when ending service.

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