DirecTV returns as a pure-play video distribution business

As part of AT&T, DirecTV got somewhat lost in quarterly updates on premium video subscribers. But now the company is on its own again.

DirecTV, which was founded in 1994, is now the name given to the DirecTV, U-verse and AT&T TV products successfully spun off from AT&T earlier this month. The new DirecTV will focus solely on delivering linear TV through its traditional satellite service and DirecTV Stream, the new single brand encompassing AT&T TV and AT&T TV Now (formerly DirecTV Now), which was absorbed into AT&T TV earlier this year.

Starting today, DirecTV is sending notices to AT&T TV subscribers to let them know about the transition to DirecTV Stream.

“Soon, the TV you know and love is getting a new name, sleek look and fresh attitude,” the email reads. “Best of all, you don’t have to do a thing…Great things are coming. We’re glad you’ll be with us when they do.”

GW Shaw, vice president of product management and development at DirecTV, has been with AT&T and now DirecTV for more than 22 years and has worked on DirecTV, U-verse, IPTV and AT&T TV. He’s excited to be completely focused on video again.

“We have a singular focus on the video product and how we can make it easy for customers,” he said. Under one brand, he said it will be easier to clearly articulate to customers that they have options.

The “beam it or stream it” mantra paints a fairly clear picture. DirecTV customers can opt for traditional satellite service or they can choose to stream a similar experience over the internet. Shaw said product pushes will depend on customers’ internet connectivity. However, with broadband speeds and fiber deployments becoming more prevalent, DirecTV Stream could end up with a stronger growth trajectory than DirecTV satellite, which has steadily lost subscribers in droves over the past few years.

DirecTV Stream will still offer a plug-and-play Android TV device like AT&T TV and it will also run on any third-party device including streaming boxes/sticks, smart TV, smartphones and tablets where the AT&T TV app was previously available.

The new DirecTV will for now be focused on introducing new features and functions for its video service and less about providing updates on subscriber numbers and operational costs. Shaw said marketing and messaging for the brand will ramp up in the coming weeks.

As DirecTV goes out on its own once again, it will be interesting to watch how a pure-play video distribution company operates in a pay TV industry in secular decline. Competitors and peers including Comcast, Charter and Dish Network have placed a lot of their attention on broadband and mobile as their video subscriber numbers keep falling.

DirecTV—which ended the second quarter with 15.4 million subscribers—is putting all its eggs in one basket, so it will need to build the best pay TV experience possible if it wants to retain or grow its customer base.