AT&T Looking to Introduce an Android TV STB

By Alan Spencer
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According to a report in Variety, AT&T is to introduce a new Android TV-based STB that could be used as a replacement for DirecTV’s satellite platform. The new STB, referred to as the C71KW-400, was seen on AT&T’s FCC filing.

The STB is described in the filing documents as an “AT&T/DirecTV wireless 4K OTT client” and has a voice-enabled remote and HDMI and USB ports, but is without any antenna connectivity. Screenshots show images of Google’s YouTube and Google Play Movies services running on the device.

The Variety report says the new box is branded as a DirecTV device rather than a DirecTV Now receiver, suggesting that AT&T plans to use it as a replacement or extra box for the satellite offering rather than for its OTT TV service.

AT&T has recently posted losses for DirecTV and its AT&T U-Verse TV services for the third quarter. DirecTV lost 241,000 satellite customers in the quarter, and 156,000 in the previous quarter taking its total to 20.6 million. U-Verse lost 134,000 IPTV customers in the quarter, taking the total for that service to 3.7 million.

The losses were partially compensated, by gains for low-cost OTT service DirecTV Now, which added 296,000 subscribers, resulting in a net video loss of 89,000 customers. The second quarter losses were 199,000 when DirecTV Now’s 152,000 additions failed to compensate for satellite and IPTV losses.

According to Randall Stephenson, AT&T’s chairman and CEO, the telco is looking forward to closing the acquisition of Time Warner and bringing together premium content with world-class distribution and more effective targeted advertising. He also said that the company is on track to have one of the largest high-speed Internet networks in the US, reaching more than 50 million customer locations with competitive high speeds.

Analyst Comment

I was slightly confused by this report – how do you replace a satellite box with an OTT box? One way is to adopt the SAT>IP approach and put the tuner in the LNB so that the box itself is just receiving packets. The writer for Variety doesn’t seem to be aware of this kind of technology. Equally, the box could be used as an addition to a regular satellite receiver, but Variety reports that the box won’t work with the existing DirecTV Genie boxes, so we can rule that out, I think. Or is the use of the DirecTV logo just for marketing for an IPTV box? There are still some mysteries to be clarified! (BR)