AT&T is having a hard time trying to find a buyer to take DirecTV off its hands. Ars Technica (via the New York Post) reports the telecom is not happy with the $15 billion offers it has received since opening up auctions in October, and may “cancel the auction altogether if it doesn’t get better offers.” As of now, the final deadline for bidding has been supposedly pushed back to January 2021. The telecom originally purchased DirecTV for $49 billion in 2015, so the current offers would have AT&T taking a huge loss—not ideal.
According to the Post, AT&T has invited private equity giant TPG Capital—whose portfolio includes companies like Airbnb, J. Crew, and several pharmaceutical corporations—into the auction with the hope that it could drive up the bidding price. Previous reports indicated that AT&T has discussed retaining a minority stake in DirecTV or maintaining majority ownership while selling off its pay-TV distribution operations.
But if AT&T doesn’t sell DirectTV, what then? As Ars points out, the telecom has been bleeding customers since early 2017—nearly 8 million—from its premium TV services, which includes DirecTV satellite. Much of that is due to AT&T repeatedly raising prices on its DirecTV and U-verse TV subscriptions and cutting promotional deals—and yet the telecom is raising prices again starting Jan. 17, 2021.
AT&T is also passing off more regulatory fee expenses that it pays to the FCC onto customers. Customers will see a $0.19 fee every month on their bill, beginning Jan. 17.
Customers who change their TV package may not be eligible for certain discounts anymore. For instance, AT&T will no longer offer Premium and Sports Pack programming bundle discounts. However, AT&T is lowering the a la carte cost of some of its DirecTV premium channels, like Showtime, and customers will still be able to get Sports Pack included with some other DirecTV premium bundles at a price decrease.
Other properties AT&T is reportedly trying to sell include Crunchyroll, the anime streaming property, according to a recent report from the Information. In June, CNBC reported that AT&T was thinking about selling its Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment gaming division for around $4 million.
The telecom still remains in substantial debt from its purchase of DirecTV and Time Warner—which its HBO Max streaming service has done little to help alleviate. Perhaps HBO Max finally making its way to Roku, one of the largest smart TV platforms, and releasing all Warner Bros 2021 movies on the streaming service will help win back some of the customers AT&T has lost over the last few years. That announcement in particular upset AMC, one of the largest movie theater chains in the U.S., which been struggling to stay afloat due to the covid-19 pandemic—but AT&T has bills to pay.