AT&T just announced the details of its streaming TV service, DirecTV Now, which launches this Wednesday. For a limited time you can access 100 channels for $35 a month, and for just $5, you can add HBO and Cinemax. And AT&T is extending its zero-rating policy to the new service, meaning anything you stream through DirecTV now on a mobile device won’t count against your data allowance.
This is one of the cheapest ways to access HBO we’ve seen to date, and it’s also a harbinger of what may be coming from the nation’s largest telecom. AT&T recently struck a deal to acquire Time Warner, which owns HBO, TNT, CNN, and Warner Bros. If that acquisition goes through, you can expect AT&T to make access to this portfolio very cheap and data free, a powerful inducement to subscribe to its mobile network.
It will be some time before regulators make a final decision on that deal, and as the US transitions into a new administration, critical decision makers are still being appointed. It seems likely, however, that Federal Communications Commission crafted by a Trump administration would be far less protective of net neutrality, and give a pass to the kind of zero-rating tactics AT&T and others carriers are increasingly using.