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AT&T Sees 2Q Drop in Premium Video Customers, But Analysts Say Loss is ‘Not So Bad’

Jeff Kotuby

AT&T is reporting losses again, but there’s a little bit of optimism from the telecom titan.

AT&T pre-announced that it lost 473,000 premium video subscribers during the second quarter, ahead of their July 22nd 2021Q2 Earnings Release. While it’s still a loss, Wall Street analysts are quick to point out that the numbers aren’t as bad as their previous figures. Wells Fargo analyst Steve Cahall, called the figures “not so bad,” noting that the FactSet consensus called for a loss of 508,000 customers. “This marks the best quarterly loss for AT&T since the fourth quarter of 2018 and compares to (a loss of) 887,000 in the second quarter of 2020 and 620,000 in the first quarter of 2021. In the prior trailing four quarters, AT&T video sub loss averaged 679,000.”

In Q1 of this year, DirecTV, AT&T TV, and AT&T U-Verse lost 620K subscribers, which makes the total losses over 1 million in 2021 alone. Granted, AT&T’s combined premium video subscribers still total 15.4 million, so it’s not like we’re reaching the end of AT&T here. These numbers likely do not include AT&T TV NOW subscribers, as the service has been discontinued for new customers. As of Q4 2020, the defunct service had 656,000 subscribers.

AT&T TV

AT&T TV is a live TV streaming service, which is essentially the streaming version of the DIRECTV service. The service recently replaced AT&T TV NOW with the addition of new no contract and no fee plans. AT&T has rebranded the Live TV Streaming Service to DirecTV Stream.

All plans include local channels and at least 34 of the Top 35 Cable Channels from AMC, A+E, Discovery (Food Network, HGTV, TLC, Discovery, etc.), Disney (ESPN, Disney Channel, etc), NBCU (Bravo, MSNBC, NBCSN, etc.), WarnerMedia (TNT, TBS, CNN, etc.), ViacomCBS (MTV, Comedy Central, etc.), and Hallmark.

They recently introduced new no-contract plans starting at $69.99 a month for their Entertainment Plan. You can upgrade to their Choice Plan, which begins at $84.99, that includes your local RSN and HBO Max for one-year. They also have have an Ultimate ($94.99 for 130 channels) and Premier ($139.99 for 140 channels). With the no contract option, you won’t pay RSN Fee.

With the two-year contract option, you will save ~$10-15 a month for the first year and get some additional benefits like an AT&T TV streaming box and 500 Hour DVR. However, after the first year you will see a ~$35 a month price hike and will have to pay a Regional Sports Fee of up to $8.49 a month.

AT&T is optimistic about the future, though, especially when it comes to DirecTV. The platform’s “churn,” which is calculated by dividing the aggregate number of subscribers who disconnected service during a month by the average number of subscribers in that month, showed strong momentum in the second quarter of 2021,” AT&T noted in its debt filing. “The DirecTV churn for the second quarter of 2021 was 1.87 percent, an improvement of 22 percent. This is up from the 2.42 percent for Q2 2020.

Regardless, AT&T likely won’t want to see much more in the way of losses, especially as it’s spinning off WarnerMedia to form WarnerBros. Discovery, a joint venture with Discovery, inc.

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