CenturyLink exploring possible role as DirecTV Now reseller

AT&T's John Stankey speaks at the launch announcement of DirecTV Now on Nov. 28, 2016. Image: AT&T / YouTube

Eager to deliver their customers over-the-top video, CenturyLink is looking at becoming a reseller of DirecTV Now, the virtual MVPD service launched last week by telco rival AT&T.

Speaking to investors Monday at an annual event conducted by UBS, CenturyLink CFO Stewart Ewing noted that CenturyLink is in the trial phase for an OTT service that it developed internally. “We didn’t know AT&T was trialing one too, otherwise we would have talked with them about potentially reselling their [DirecTV Now], and we may very well do that,” Ewing said.

Asked in a subsequent UBS discussion if his company might also consider acting as a DirecTV Now reseller, Frontier executive VP and CFO Perley McBride responded, “We would look at all options.”

AT&T has not responded to these comments. 

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Earlier this year, CenturyLink began a trial of an OTT service outside of its Prism footprint in four markets. The telco said it plans to officially roll out the OTT option to various markets early next year.

“We expect to make some margin on this and get much wider distribution,” Ewing said. “It’s more of what people are going to be looking for.”

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CenturyLink could use the OTT video product in other areas where it offers IPTV service today. Specifically, CenturyLink wants to attract users who can only get, or only want, 10 Mbps broadband service. Today, customers have to order a 25 Mbps minimum connection speed to get the Prism service.

“We’ll have a huge footprint where we can provide this product,” Ewing said. “It’s over the top with a Roku device and we’ll have local channels so we think for at least some time that will be a differentiator of our product.”

As for DirecTV Now, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson used his UBS presentation to note that subscriber uptake for DirecTV Now exceeded AT&T’s expectation—within just a few days of the platform’s Nov. 30 launch—for the entire month of December.