AT&T has at last received FCC and DOJ approval for its $48.5 billion dollar acquisition of satellite TV giant DirecTV, announcing yesterday that the deal had closed after over a year of government scrutiny and negotiations.
AT&T's wired U-Verse TV and DirecTV satellite subscribers add up to 26 million customers - making the newly combined company the largest pay TV provider in the world, jumping ahead of Comcast.
AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson had this to say:
"Combining DirecTV with AT&T is all about giving customers more choices for great video entertainment integrated with mobile and high-speed Internet service. We'll now be able to meet consumers' future entertainment preferences, whether they want traditional TV service with premier programming, their favorite content on a mobile device, or video streamed over the Internet to any screen."
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Impact On RVers?
The primary short-term impact will be on those who can take advantage of bundled service discounts.
AT&T has said that discounts on AT&T Internet and wireless services will be announced for DirecTV customers in the coming weeks, but there are no specifics to share yet.
It is very likely that the more AT&T services you sign up for, the bigger your overall discount will be.
A lot of RVers with satellite TV may be able to save money by switching to AT&T cellular in the near future.
For fully mobile users and full time RVers who have cut the cord and who no longer have home internet service or satellite TV subscriptions, the immediate impact will likely be a lot less significant.
AT&T will however be looking to eventually offer TV streaming service over its mobile network though, saying in the FAQ on the deal:
Will DIRECTV customers get access to special TV content on AT&T wireless phones now?
We look forward to delivering more video content options over multiple screens, including wireless devices, tablets, laptops and computers.
Unlimited TV Over Cellular?!?
Don't get too excited hoping for unlimited TV over cellular, and don't throw away your DirecTV dish yet.
The FCC will be keeping a watchful eye to make sure that AT&T does not abuse network neutrality rules to unfairly favor its own subsidiary.
From the FCC ruling approving the acquisition:
"Non-Discriminatory Usage-Based Practices. Recognizing that AT&T is the only major ISP that applies “data caps” across the board to all of its fixed broadband customers and that this merger increases the incentive of AT&T-DIRECTV to use strategies that limit consumers’ access to online video distribution services in order to favor its own video services, the Commission requires AT&T-DIRECTV, as a condition of this merger, to refrain from imposing discriminatory usage-based allowances or other discriminatory retail terms and conditions on its broadband Internet service."
The explicit agreement applies only to AT&T's wired broadband service, but AT&T will likely be cautious about offering TV over cellular subscriptions that bypasses data caps in ways that competitive services like Netflix can not.
Data caps will need to impact all streaming services equally.
What About The Other Carriers?
Verizon is also working on launching its own cellular mobile TV service later in 2015, and rumors have been swirling about a potential merger between T-Mobile and Dish Network (the latest rumors say the deal is stalled) that would combine cellular and TV offerings as well.
It seems like every cellular company is looking to get into the pay TV business.
But without creative ways to get around limited data caps - TV over cellular is going to be best for short video clips, and not HD movie watching or extended series binging.
It will be very interesting to see how the carriers rise to the challenge of providing enhanced video offerings with the realities of data caps and increasingly congested networks.