CBS Won’t Be in DirecTV Now at Launch, But Talks With AT&T Continue

Todd Spangler
Variety

AT&T’s aggressively priced DirecTV Now internet-television package is set to debut Nov. 28, but out of the gate CBS — consistently among the most-watched TV networks in the U.S. — will not be included, sources confirmed.

The telco has been furiously working to seal programming deals ahead of the launch of DirecTV Now, which AT&T says will start at $35 per month for a lineup of 100-plus channels. Bloomberg reported earlier that CBS will not be in DirecTV Now initially. Reps for AT&T and CBS declined to comment.

CBS and AT&T are continuing to negotiate on a deal to carry the Eye’s programming as part of DirecTV Now at some later date, according to sources. CBS last month inked a deal with Google for a “skinny bundle” of TV networks to be called YouTube Unplugged, expected to launch early next year.

CBS also offers its own OTT package, CBS All Access, which costs $6 per month with ads and $10 per month with limited promo and ads in live TV programming. CBS does have a deal with Sony’s PlayStation Vue for certain markets, but is not part of Dish Network’s Sling TV bundle and has not reached a deal yet with Hulu, which is assembling a live broadband-delivered TV service slated to debut in early 2017.

AT&T on Monday officially announced an expanded carriage agreement with Fox Networks Group, under which the telco picked up streaming rights for DirecTV Now to Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, FX, FXX, and other networks, as well as a “framework” for Fox Broadcasting programming to be delivered to DirecTV Now customers nationwide. AT&T previously announced deals for DirecTV Now with Disney/ESPN, NBCUniversal, HBO, Turner, AMC Networks, Viacom, Scripps, Starz, A+E Networks and Univision Communications.

The specific packages that will be available with DirecTV Now have yet to be announced, but with a $35 price point for at least 100 channels, AT&T will be offering the service at a negative margin, according to analysts.

DirecTV Now will provide streaming access to live TV and VOD across an array of mobile and connected-TV devices, and AT&T is expected to offer sign-up incentives to customers including a free Apple TV device for those who pay for three months of service. DirecTV Now will be limited to a single stream per account, which means it won’t be a suitable replacement for traditional cable or satellite pay-TV for households with multiple TV sets.

Separately, AT&T on Monday officially responded to an FCC inquiry about the telco’s sponsored-data wireless program and its “Data Free TV” program that exempts DirecTV’s video apps from counting toward AT&T wireless usage limits. The head of the agency’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau had expressed “serious concerns” that the practices would put content providers unaffiliated with AT&T at a disadvantage. In response, Robert Quinn, AT&T’s senior VP ‎of external and legislative affairs, argued that the telco’s sponsored-data program offers consumer benefits and claimed the company offers the same terms and conditions to third parties that it does for DirecTV.

Related stories

Molly Shannon to Guest Star on CBS Comedy 'Life In Pieces' (EXCLUSIVE)

James Corden to Host Grammy Awards (EXCLUSIVE)

'Pure Genius' Episode Order Not Being Extended by CBS

Get more from Variety and Variety411: Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Newsletter