AT&T Ditches $15 TV Service It Used As Regulator Bait To Seal Time Warner Merger

from the history repeats itself dept

You may be shocked to learn this, but nearly all of the promises AT&T made in the lead up to its $86 billion merger with Time Warner wound up not being true.

The company’s promise that the deal wouldn’t result in price hikes for consumers? False. The company’s promise the deal wouldn’t result in higher prices for competitors needing access to essential AT&T content like HBO? False. AT&T’s promise they wouldn’t hide Time Warner content behind exclusivity paywalls? False. The idea that the merger would somehow create more jobs at the company? False.

Last week, yet another AT&T promise disappeared without much fanfare or notice. Ahead of the Time Warner merger, AT&T promised regulators the deal would directly culminate in the release of a cheaper, $15 per month TV service dubbed AT&T Watch. This $15 service was highly promoted not only in AT&T filings, but during its court defense of the merger by the CEO himself:

“Watch” will be different because it will not include any sports channels. This will enable AT&T to sell it for $15 a month, compared to $35 a month for DirecTV Now. Stephenson brought it up on the stand in the context of AT&T’s streaming businesses. He testified that AT&T does not want to stop innovation in streaming services and brought up the new skinny bundle.

But with the deal approved, it didn’t take long for AT&T’s discount offering to disappear. By last fall, AT&T had begun backpedaling on the offer, and last week announced it would be discontinuing the offer entirely. Only a handful of reporters in the space (like Jared Newman) correctly called the promotion out as bullshit from the start:

“The whole thing was an obvious PR ploy from the start, and now with the acquisition fading into the rear view, there’s little reason to keep the service going any longer. The company never got around to adding Roku support for Watch TV, and it stopped giving the service away with unlimited data plans last October. Those who want to get a streaming TV service from AT&T can turn to one of its broader and more expensive packages instead—with prices starting at $55 per month.

Irony being that due to incompetence, AT&T’s grand merger ambitions (or its lobbying assault on net neutrality) didn’t even actually help it dominate the TV space, at least not yet. The mergers saddled AT&T with so much debt, the company immediately turned around and imposed rate hikes. Those hikes, in turn, drove TV customers to the exits by the millions, since the whole point of “cutting the cord” is to get away from ridiculously bloated cable TV bills. It’s part of the reason that AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson is now an ex-CEO, somewhere napping on a giant pile of money.

In short, much like the $42 billion tax cut AT&T nabbed from the Trump administration (that resulted in 41,000 layoffs), AT&T made a long list of promises that wound up being completely hollow. This was all laid out to US District Judge Richard Leon during the merger trial, yet Leon still ignored all of the warnings and rubber stamped the deal without a single condition. At absolutely no point did Leon in his absurd ruling recognize the threat of AT&T owning both a monopoly over broadband and a massive media empire in charge of content needed by competitors (who also were quickly subjected to price hikes).

All of this was obvious to anybody that has paid attention to the fact that AT&T has a thirty year history of making all manner of promises in exchange for deregulation, tax cuts, regulatory favors, and merger approvals that almost universally wind up being complete bullshit. But like the last dozen or so times we’ve been through this, absolutely nobody on any level of government will try to hold AT&T accountable, lest they put campaign contributions in jeopardy.

Filed Under: , , , ,
Companies: at&t, time warner

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “AT&T Ditches $15 TV Service It Used As Regulator Bait To Seal Time Warner Merger”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment

unofficial State Actor benefits

Since our government has deals with large ISPs like At&t to provide immunity from legal action in return for access to their backbones, At&t only has to pretend to meet their obligations. We are their slaves as far as they care. We are just a harvestable commodity and we have no say in any punishment or penalties for not meeting their obligations. They can flout their breaking of merger obligations over and over and if we complain, we get in trouble, not them.


Re: Re: Promises Unkept

Yeah, you know, AT&T is kind of interesting, but there is a lot of other news.

On Friday evening, hundreds of Black Lives Matter activists and Antifa insurgents gathered in Lincoln Park in Washington DC to attempt to topple the 144-year-old statue, which was fully funded by former slaves and black Union Army veterans to commemorate President Lincoln?s abolition of slavery.

Also present at the demonstration were several counter-protestors, including an elderly black man who appeared to be a historical tour guide for Capital Buddy Tours, who beseeched the mob not to tear down the historical monument. The man was physically accosted several times by an Antifa member who attempted to prevent him from speaking.

He was repeatedly shouted over by Antifa members, who yelled empty slogans like ?No Justice, No Peace? without any care or understanding about the monument they planned to destroy. One female insurgent stated that the man was ?not ready for the change? and that he was standing on the wrong side of history by preventing the monument?s destruction.

I mean, don’t you think those AntiFa guys pose more of a threat to every day Joey BagaDonuts of kind people than AT&T? Who really cares about small potatoes cable bills, when the country is being destroyed by Terrorists who don’t have any care or understanding?


Re: Re: Re: Promises Unkept

I think I’d agree with that.

The United States of America is starting to resemble a Target in Minneapolis, overrun by lawless mobs and left for dead by the very leaders charged with upholding the rule of law.

Today, we are witnessing the wealthiest, freest, and greatest country in the history of the world, which took more than 240 years to build, being burned to the ground at the hands of radical leftists motivated primarily by anarchy and a Marxist agenda, not racial justice. Compared to previous generations and their peers who sign up to defend America, these folks have contributed precious little to society. Yet, somehow, they have found a way to bend America to their will. How? Because most of our nation?s political class won?t stand up and lead.

Let’s hear it for every Proud American who is ready to Stand Up And Lead!


Re: Re: Re: Re: Promises Unkept

Man oh Man I am an American, but I wonder what’s happened to America. Has it gone insane? Those protesters in Seattle, for example, they’re all shooting each other, and police don’t even come to look! Is that crazy or what? One man has died and another remains hospitalized in critical condition Monday following the latest shooting near Seattle’s Capitol Hill Organized Protest, or CHOP.

Two males suffering gunshot wounds arrived at Harborview Medical Center?s Emergency Department. The shooting victim who arrived at the hospital at 3:30 a.m. from the CHOP area on Capitol Hill in Seattle has unfortunately died, Susan Gregg, a hospital spokeswoman, told Fox News. He was transported to the hospital via Seattle Fire Department medics.

The other male arrived at about 3:15 a.m. by private vehicle. He remains in critical condition in the intensive care unit.

The world has gone crazy, it seems like. I mean, I don’t like cable bills either, but everything is falling apart!


Re: Re: Re: Promises Unkept

No… Antifa (if it even exists, and isn’t just projection by the right wing nut job’s like you) can only impact limited individuals.

How many individuals can one Antifa member at a protest interact with 10? 100? 1000 (not likely)?

How many individuals does AT&T interact with… Hundreds of Millions across all their services… they are by far the biggest threat to our privacy and liberty. 1000x more than any group of ‘fake right wing nut job antifa’ could ever impact.

So who would you rather hear about (besides your girlfriends mama’s rumors)?


6 month into having cancelled my cable TV service and I still don’t miss it one bit. That’s around $1000 saved (really it would be more but I increased my download speed to gigabit). Funny how when companies have to compete for viewers and all the artificial sticking points that prevent people from signing up and cancelling services is removed causes things to be a lot cheaper.

That Anonymous Cowardsays:

Re: Free Market FTW

They talk about it being a free market, but only for a handful of megacorps who often get to write the laws to make sure no one can challenge them.

But then they got a Judge to rule that 1 provider was competition, so the entire system is quite insane.

One of these times before they let Lucy hold the ball for us, we need to make them sign a contract with actual penalties if they yank the ball away at the last second.


A consequence of the Senate rubberstamping partisan judges

But like the last dozen or so times we’ve been through this, absolutely nobody on any level of government will try to hold AT&T accountable, lest they put campaign contributions in jeopardy.

Mitch McConnell has reduced the Senate work to rubberstamping the nomination of partisan judges. Democrats will not do much differently here once they are at bat again.

The problem is that a competent and non-corrupt judge has no leeway to be partisan. Their work is cut out by the law.

So the resulting deluge of incompetent and corrupt judges of whatever partisanship is paradise for the lobbying departments of corrupt large corporations.

As long as the Americans do not get their political system under control, the price they pay for their broadband will be a multiple of the price other civilized countries pay, just like their Covid-19 death toll is a multiple of the price other civilized countries pay.

Competence is not allowed where it would make a difference.


At this point the system is so corrupt that it wouldn’t be surprising if political assasinations make an ugly comeback in the US. The filthy rich are so shamelessly running the score at this point while buying protectionism from our corrupt government officials that probably nothing else will have a measurable impact. Something is going to give and homelessness drives people to the extremes. Things are not looking good.


At this point the system is so corrupt that it wouldn’t be surprising if political assasinations make an ugly comeback in the US. The filthy rich are so shamelessly running the score at this point while buying protectionism from our corrupt government officials that probably nothing else will have a measurable impact. Something is going to give and hopelessness drives people to the extremes. Things are not looking good.

AT&T also deceptively offered a cheap $15 cell phone plan

AT&T also deceptively promoted a $15/mo prepaid cell phone plan "to help ease financial stress during these difficult times."

Changing cell phone carriers is of course often frustrating and time consuming.

Yet, on June 1st, only 2 weeks after the sign-up period for this promo ended on May 13th, AT&T sent out a text saying their $15/mo plan was doubling to $30/mo!

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Older Stuff
13:40 It's Great That Winnie The Pooh Is In The Public Domain; But He Should Have Been Free In 1982 (Or Earlier) (35)
12:06 Norton 360 Now Comes With Crypto Mining Capabilities And Sketchy Removal Process (28)
10:45 Chinese Government Dragnet Now Folding In American Social Media Platforms To Silence Dissent (14)
10:40 Daily Deal: The 2022 Ultimate Cybersecurity Analyst Preparation Bundle (0)
09:29 A Fight Between Facebook And The British Medical Journal Highlights The Difficulty Of Moderating 'Medical Misinformation' (9)
06:29 Court Ruling Paves The Way For Better, More Reliable Wi-Fi (4)
20:12 Eighth Circuit (Again) Says There's Nothing Wrong With Detaining Innocent Minors At Gunpoint (15)
15:48 China's Regulatory War On Its Gaming Industry Racks Up 14k Casualties (10)
13:31 Chinese Government Fines Local Car Dealerships For Surveilling While Not Being The Government (5)
12:08 Eric Clapton Pretends To Regret The Decision To Sue Random German Woman Who Listed A Bootleg Of One Of His CDs On Ebay (29)
10:44 ICE Is So Toxic That The DHS's Investigative Wing Is Asking To Be Completely Separated From It (29)
10:39 Daily Deal: The 2022 Complete Raspberry Pi And Arduino Developer Bundle (0)
09:31 Google Blocked An Article About Police From The Intercept... Because The Title Included A Phrase That Was Also A Movie Title (24)
06:22 Wireless Carriers Balk At FAA Demand For 5G Deployment Delays Amid Shaky Safety Concerns (16)
19:53 Tenth Circuit Denies Qualified Immunity To Social Worker Who Fabricated A Mother's Confession Of Child Abuse (35)
15:39 Sci-Hub's Creator Thinks Academic Publishers, Not Her Site, Are The Real Threat To Science, And Says: 'Any Law Against Knowledge Is Fundamentally Unjust' (34)
13:32 Federal Court Tells Proud Boys Defendants That Raiding The Capitol Building Isn't Covered By The First Amendment (25)
12:14 US Courts Realizing They Have A Judge Alan Albright Sized Problem In Waco (17)
10:44 Boston Police Department Used Forfeiture Funds To Hide Purchase Of Surveillance Tech From City Reps (16)
10:39 Daily Deal: The Ultimate Microsoft Excel Training Bundle (0)
09:20 NY Senator Proposes Ridiculously Unconstitutional Social Media Law That Is The Mirror Opposite Of Equally Unconstitutional Laws In Florida & Texas (25)
06:12 Telecom Monopolies Are Exploiting Crappy U.S. Broadband Maps To Block Community Broadband Grant Requests (7)
12:00 Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of 2021 At Techdirt (17)
10:00 Gaming Like It's 1926: Join The Fourth Annual Public Domain Game Jam (6)
09:00 New Year's Message: The Arc Of The Moral Universe Is A Twisty Path (33)
19:39 DHS, ICE Begin Body Camera Pilot Program With Surprisingly Good Policies In Place (7)
15:29 Remembering Techdirt Contributors Sherwin And Elliot (1)
13:32 DC Metro PD's Powerful Review Panel Keeps Giving Bad Cops Their Jobs Back (6)
12:11 Missouri Governor Still Expects Journalists To Be Prosecuted For Showing How His Admin Leaked Teacher Social Security Numbers (39)
10:48 Oversight Board Overturning Instagram Takedown Of Ayahuasca Post Demonstrates The Impossibility Of Content Moderation (10)
More arrow
This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it