Dishing the latest from the satellite TV world.

AT&T-DirecTV Unlimited DataThe first real cross-promotional offer since AT&T’s acquisition of DIRECTV, AT&T recently announced that any wireless subscriber with either a DIRECTV or AT&T U-verse plan, now qualifies for unlimited data usage. Coined the “AT&T Unlimited Plan“, it’s a nice little bonus for current or prospective customers (AT&Ts main goal here is to introduce folks to to their newly-formed phone and TV ecosystem). A few years back, AT&T actually pulled back on the data allotments – they throttled traditional unlimited plans, with periodically-imposed monthly caps and speed limits. Fast forward a few years and, thanks to improved technology/coverage and the breadth of competition, their new data plans are much more attractive and capable of delivering very high resolution video. And with this newest AT&T Unlimited Plan offer, you’ll never have to worry about hitting a cap (keep in mind you aren’t allowed to share your phone’s internet with other devices). Read on for all the details…

Recap of AT&T’s Data Plans

First off, let’s quickly go over AT&T’s more popular data plans. There are essentially three main categories: Mobile Share (where you split the data amongst family members), Individual (just you) and Unlimited. Here’s the cost structure for each:

Mobile Share

300 MB: $20/month
1 GB: $45
2 GB: $55
4 GB: $70
10 GB: $100
20 GB: $150
50 GB: $375

Individual

2 GB: $70
5 GB: $90
10 GB: $140

Unlimited Plans

AT&T Wireless with no DIRECTV or Uverse service: $35/month (bumps up $5 in Feb. 2016)
AT&T Wireless with DIRECTV or Uverse service: free with promo

(all prices above do not include phone and/or internet access fees)

A Closer Look at Unlimited Plans

As noted above, the non-promo Unlimited data plan had been $30/month for a few years; in Feb 2016, AT&T marginally increased that to $35. As the non-bundled Unlimited plan isn’t being offered to new customers, only folks grandfathered in from the early 2010s still qualify for Unlimited at a monthly charge (count me in that group). By the way, even with the bump in price, it’s still the most cost-effective option out there for me (I tend to exclusively use WiFi at home so, ballpark, probably use about 2 GB a month of LTE data).

The only real drawbacks to the Unlimited Plan are the lack of hotspot availability (trying to jailbreak your phone and doing so WILL likely result in a call from AT&T ;)) and lack of rollover minutes. With the Mobile Share and individual plans, leftover minutes do get carried over and if you’re usage is erratic month-to-month, you’re likely to save 10-20% just due to the rollover option.

Finally, remember AT&T charges a connection fee as part of your data plan. That fee depends on the type of device and its connection potential to the internet. As of publication, here’s a quick rundown of the associated costs:

  • Unlimited talk/text
  • No hotspot function
  • Smartphones:
    • First phone: $100/month
    • Next 2 phones: $40/month
    • 4th phone is free
  • Tablet fee: $40/month
  • Watch (eg, iWatch) fee: $10/month
  • Non-smartphone fee: $25/month

Conclusion

If you have an AT&T phone or DIRECTV account… and were on the fence on getting the other, this promo might the perfect reason to give it a shot. Though it doesn’t have a public expiration date, chances are the deal won’t be around for more than a few months.

As far as the balance of the year goes, expect AT&T to continue to evolve its TV and wireless options. They’re actively adding new streamable and traditional TV content, so the crossover synergies with DIRECTV should continue to unlock a ton of entertainment value.

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dish-new-adsLet’s face it, no one really likes commercials, but it’s a necessary part of the TV broadcast biz (to offset production costs, etc). Luckily, commercial-skipping technology like DISH’s Autohop (which only works with NBC, ABC, CBS and FOX) and DIRECTV’s 30-sec skip helps avoid ’em if you’re so inclined. The market implication of that kind of technology is lower ad revenue — advertisers usually want engaged folks with at least a partial interest in their product. Enter DISH’s new ad strategy: a bidding system based on customer interest and demographics (all anonymous). Basically, it’s what Google does with their Adwords product, but now for the first time, live on your TV or via DVR. So, is that any better for the average subscriber?

Here’s the way I look at it: I use Google for just about all my searches. I’m well aware most of the search results include a few paid ads at the top of the page. I have a general distaste for all kinds of ads, but Google probably has the most advanced type of ad-to-consumer ecosystem on the internet. Any mom ‘n pop can spend as little as $10 to find the EXACT type of person they cater to; eg, Dee’s cookies in Dallas advertises to folks JUST in the Dallas area searching for any combination of “cookie”-related terms. David does just that on his smartphone, discovers Dee’s cookies and 10 min later, is chompin’ on a pound of peanut brittle. A win-win for both.

Back to DISH, they’re looking to launch something similar, albeit a bit less targeted. Their advertising partner is Hadoop, a highly-advanced ad platform that helps match consumers with the most relevant ad available. With Google, folks type a search term (that’s the KEY target item), so how will it work with live TV? My guess is Hadoop will use your basic demographic information for targeting: age, gender, city, state, etc. (your name will almost definitely be anonymous). With that set of info, an Atlanta, GA car dealer could target 30-40 year-old men in their city. Now, they really won’t know if he’s looking to buy a car (eg, there was never a search for “buy a honda” as with Google), but that’s a heckuva lot better than zero targeting, which is the current situation. If another dealership in the area jumps into the system that’ll likely raise the bid on the ad until competition wins out.

Bottom line, subscribers watching TV will get more meaningful ads and advertisers might be willing to support DISH more than they have in the past. Will it be enough to avoid the forward or commercial skip? Probably not for most, but when we you DO catch ’em, you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised at how potentially relevant and/or useful they’ve become.

So, when can you expect to see these new ads? They’re still in testing phase but my guess is by the first half of 2016. If a trial run proves successful, they’ll probably roll it out nationwide. Just as with all new ad platforms that involve customer data, I hope DISH is up-front and fully transparent with its customers before they go live and give them an option to opt-out of sharing certain personal information if they so desire. When customers feel informed and also see a potential benefit, both sides are more likely to find a permanent match…vis-a-vis smart ads or business in general.

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DIRECTV’s Audience Network to be added to U-verse Lineup

October 4, 2015

Another nice benefit of AT&T’s recent acquisition of DIRECTV, it was just announced that the popular Audience Network will be added to U-verse’s channel lineup. Slotted for U-verse channel #1114, it’ll give folks access to plenty of new, original content. The Audience Network, previously exclusive to DIRECTV and first launched in 2011, features both original […]

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Could an AT&T Deal with DIRECTV Finally Deliver the Pac-12 Network?

April 2, 2015

Is an agreement amongst all three coming soon?[/caption]Ever since the Pac-12 Network officially launched in 2012, DIRECTV subscribers and college fans (especially those on the west coast) have been left out in the cold. The root of the problem stems from the per-subscriber fees. License disagreements are all-to-common these days, and, for the most post, […]

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NBC Universo Launches in HD on Superbowl Sunday

February 4, 2015

Formerly known as mun2 (Telemundo’s 2nd channel), NBC Universo officially launched its new channel and programming lineup on Superbowl Sunday. All part of a brand revamp, it targeted Feb. 1st as it had exclusive rights to broadcast the game in Spanish (not surprisingly, as NBC, their parent company, carried the game). While the all Spanish-language […]

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DISH Subscribers Could Lose CBS Starting Tomorrow

December 3, 2014

In the latest of the recent programming squabbles, DISH could end up losing CBS tomorrow, 12/4/14, at 7 PM EST. There have been numerous phases throughout the 6-month negotiation, including a Thanksgiving extension to allow folks to catch their NFL action, but this appears to be the tipping point. CBS just publicly stated there will […]

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DIRECTV to launch Ya Veo, a Netflix-like OTT Service

September 13, 2014

The latest buzz out of El Segundo, CA (DIRECTV’s HQ) is they’re ready to launch a new, Netflix-like service by year’s end. Coined “Ya Veo” (I can see), it’s an over-the-top (OTT) service primarily targeted towards the Latino demographic. OTT refers to the cord-cutting trend (Hulu, Netflix, etc) that streams specialized AND inexpensive programming over […]

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Sportsnet LA on Time Warner still only available to 30% of Dodger fans

April 6, 2014

When a new ownership team with incredibly deep pockets takes over your team (and breaks the bank with a ton of free agent acquisitions), you gotta be thinking things are headed in the right direction. Well, back in 2012, that’s exactly what Dodger fans were enthused about. Gone was the stingy McCourt regime; the new […]

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DIRECTV invests in LiveClips, expect customizable clips on NFL Sunday Ticket soon

December 7, 2013

In another move to further establish itself as the TV sports provider, DIRECTV has recently purchased an equity stake in LiveClips.com. Live Clips is a service that lets rights owners and licensees quickly and easily create video clips of live games. More importantly, it categorizes and tags each highlight by player, type of clip (run, […]

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Could DISH Network be Dropping ESPN (the ABC Network)?

September 16, 2013

Don’t look now, but we may be headed towards another programming squabble. This time, it’s between DISH and Walt Disney’s ABC/ESPN. Their current contract is up on September 30th and rumors have it that they’re nowhere close on a broadcasting fee agreement. Not surprisingly, the 800 pound gorilla is ESPN. Per channel, it’s the single […]

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