The accelerating implosion of subscription pay TV offerings will hasten AT&T’s exit from the residential wireline market segment and could also result in the telco’s withdrawal of its planned acquisition of satellite provider DirecTV announced in 2014.
AT&T offers video packages with its U-Verse-branded triple play Internet-video-voice product. With the DirecTV deal pending regulatory approval, AT&T hopes to expand its audience of potential viewers and consequently, boost its purchasing power with TV programming providers as negotiations with the programming providers have hardened in recent years.
Viewers have historically regarded the TV programming packages as a poor value for the money since they typically watch only a handful of a few hundred channels. Now they can stream only the video programming they desire via their Internet connections, disrupting the triple play revenue model.
In addition, AT&T’s U-Verse product is delivered to residences over its aging legacy last mile copper cable plant that offers far less bandwidth headroom -- much of it consumed by video -- than hybrid fiber-coax (HFC) cable plants. To keep technologically abreast of cable, AT&T would have to replace its copper plant with fiber. But it is unable to easily do so, constrained by shareholder expectations for earnings and high dividends that militate against substantial capital expenditures.
That leaves AT&T with only one viable option – to continue to sell off chucks of its residential market as it did in December 2014, spinning off its Connecticut residential landline unit, including Internet and TV services to Frontier Communications for $2 billion.