AT&T's efforts to dominate the online streaming (and advertising segment) has had a bit of a rocky start. After spending more than $150 billion to acquire both DirecTV and Time Warner in recent years, AT&T's been losing subscribers hand over fist anyway. Part of the problem is that the company acquired so much debt in the course of the deal (AT&T is among the most indebted companies in the world), AT&T's been forced to raise rates on subscribers. Given the rise in streaming competitors, those users are wisely just heading for the exits.
But AT&T's been making some notable missteps on the branding front as well. The company keeps launching, scrapping, and then re-launching so many different TV options it's confusing the hell out of customers. As the company stumbles its way into building one cohesive brand, it has gotten kind of, well, silly:
For those keeping score, AT&T will be offering TV shows through:
- HBO Go
- HBO Max
- HBO Now
- AT&T Now
- AT&T TV
- AT&T WatchTV
- AT&T U-verse
- DirecTV https://t.co/Je7FNPRNVV
— Drew FitzGerald (@DrewFitzGerald) July 30, 2019
Apparently AT&T's new TV branding isn't just confusing consumers. It's also confusing AT&T. The company's marketing and support departments appear to have been bungling the names of several new AT&T TV products in marketing and support materials, only compounding consumer confusion. AT&T recently eliminated its DirecTV Now streaming TV brand, and renamed it (quite creatively) "AT&T TV Now." The company also rolled out another completely new service and called it "AT&T TV." The former service is just another streaming app, while the latter service requires a new AT&T set top box and is currently in a glorified beta.
This being the telecom sector, customer support is already kind of an afterthought. But AT&T's confusing branding has taken things to an entirely new level, leaving many AT&T customers in a bizarre, customer service purgatory:
"To make matters even worse, most tech support for AT&T TV Now is labeled AT&T TV on AT&T's website. When you try to contact AT&T TV Now you need to use the contact information for AT&T TV. This has resulted in many of our readers confused about how they contact... AT&T TV Now to ask a question.
AT&T's website does not help. AT&T TV Now is only found if you click on streaming. For a while after the name change, clicking on DirecTV Now in some menus on AT&T's website brought you to AT&T TV [instead of] AT&T TV Now.
Even just this week when AT&T announced a deal with Starz they didn't list AT&T TV Now but listed AT&T TV. When asked about this AT&T said AT&T TV Now was lumped together with AT&T TV.
As we've long noted, telecom companies aren't particularly innovative because they've spent the last few generations as government-protected and pampered monopolies. Fused to the nation's intelligence and law enforcement community, they're the personification of "too big to fail." Their deep lobbying tendrils also mean they enjoy regulatory capture on the state and federal level, making any real accountability for bad behavior a rarity, at best.
Given real competition is alien to them, Verizon and AT&T keep doing face plants as they attempt to erode Google and Facebook online video ad revenues. That's why instead of directly competing or innovating, the telecom sector's first inclination is usually to try and tilt the regulatory playing field or cheat in some fashion. And while these kind of shenanigans have caused plenty of problems in the broader internet and streaming TV ecosystem, those problems would likely be immeasurably worse were the telecom sector actually competent outside of its core competencies (building networks, lobbying to erode competition).
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