Is Your Comcast X1 Still Worth It?
On Wednesday, AT&T officially launched DirecTV Now, its highly anticipated internet streaming service that will give customers access to more than 100 channels for just $35. No wonky cable box or satellite dish needed, just internet access coupled with your smartphone, tablet, or PC.
This seems like Comcast’s biggest nightmare — the cable giant’s X1 set-top box is essentially the hallmark of cable TV, and now AT&T, which is progressively moving into Comcast territory, may get customers to ditch those pricey cable packages stocked with channels they never watch for cheaper bundles better tailored to their interests.
But not so fast. Within just one day of being out on the market, the service has already been picked apart by consumers (read: the media). AT&T’s product comes with a number of drawbacks that might not kill off cable just yet. For one, DirecTV Now has four price tiers, from $35 to $70 a month, with a range of 60 to 120 channels. And after an undisclosed period of time, the promotional bundle that AT&T is currently advertising as $35 a month will increase to $60 for new customers.
Another issue lies with content. Most of the major channels are on DirecTV, but there are some major exceptions: The top-rated CBS, Showtime, and NFL Network are all unavailable. That means users won’t have access to programs like NCIS, The Big Bang Theory, Homeland, NFL Sunday Ticket, or Red Zone. And local broadcast stations like ABC and NBC, which still make up a good deal of video consumption, can be only be streamed live in markets where the networks own the local stations, the WSJ reports. (Customers in Philadelphia won’t have to worry about this.)
There is currently no DVR function, which means customers won’t be able to rewind live TV or record their preferred on-demand content. And while you’ll be able to stream DirecTV Now on many platforms, you can’t do it on your Roku box.
These limitations may make you want to hug your set-top box. How could you possibly say goodbye to X1’s voice controls, its all-in-one remote control, DVR, or the XFINITY TV app, among other things?
Even if customers choose to stick with the cable bill for now, AT&T’s latest endeavor, along with similar services like Dish’s Sling TV and Sony’s PlayStation Vue, shouldn’t be ignored; they represent the continued effort to crack cable’s hold and give consumers more and more options. In addition to the many television and online programs we get to choose from, we’re continuing to diversify how that viewing is done. And if you’re not a fan of poor customer service, you get to skip the installation process and perhaps never have to dial a 1-800 customer support number again.
With the service, AT&T says it’ll also gain an edge with targeted advertising and zero rating, the controversial practice that will allow AT&T phone customers to stream DirecTV Now over mobile data for free.
None of this is to say that Comcast isn’t remaining competitive. The cable giant recently made Netflix available to X1 users and also announced that Dish Network’s Sling TV internet-delivered services will be available on the X1 platform, too, giving Comcast customers access to a whole slate of international and multicultural programming. The company also made major recent investments in BuzzFeed and Vox media to have a hand in shaping digital news delivery.
Streaming services might not steal Comcast customers just yet, but they may be more successful at rallying the 20 million Americans who don’t subscribe to cable or satellite TV. And right now, between DirecTV and U-Verse, AT&T still has the largest pay-TV subscriber base in the U.S., about 25 million, with Comcast following closely behind with roughly 22.4 million subscribers.
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