AT&T Entertainment Boss: DirecTV Now Doesn’t Need CBS to Succeed

Todd Spangler
Variety

As expected, AT&T debuted its DirecTV Now over-the-top suite of services without an agreement in place for CBS, the biggest programmer absent from the lineup.

John Stankey, CEO of AT&T Entertainment Group, said negotiations continue with CBS to add its broadcast programming to DirecTV Now, as well as premium cable network Showtime. But he said he doesn’t see the lack of CBS as a major roadblock to the service’s uptake.

“When you look at the demographic we’re going after… there is not going to be one single network that is the reason (consumers) won’t subscribe,” he said in an interview. “Whether they can get CBS primetime shows is not going to be a determining factor.”

Whether or not that’s true, Stankey is clearly signaling a take-it-over-leave-it position to CBS, as the companies continue to work toward an agreement for DirecTV Now.

There are other gaps in DirecTV Now’s programming lineup. The telco has agreements with ABC, NBC and Fox, covering live networks for their owned-and-operated markets. In other areas, AT&T has day-after-air VOD rights to the broadcasters’ primetime shows, not live streams. Stankey said AT&T is now in discussions with station groups to add local TV in more markets.

In addition, NFL Sunday Ticket, the pro-football out-of-market package that is exclusively available through DirecTV satellite service, will not be available through DirecTV Now. Execs said talks with the NFL about extending it to the OTT service are ongoing.

Meanwhile, DirecTV Now also will not be available initially on Roku devices, with support for those along with connected TV platforms slated for 2017.

Stankey said DirecTV Now will be iterated over time, with more programming, features and devices added in the future. “Anytime you do a new product introduction, there’s always going to be a reason to delay it for another week,” he said for why AT&T set Nov. 30 as the launch date for the service.

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