DirecTV Unveils Video Streaming Android Box

An industry peer passed along a fascinating invite soliciting existing DirecTV Now customers to test a new AT&T Android streaming set-top first uncovered by Variety. As to why this box needs to exist, I can’t quite say… given the great options AT&T and DirecTV already leverage, like the similarly Android-powered Amazon Fire TV. But AT&T/DirecTV suggest it’s possibly designed to improve performance (and they did cut off first gen Fire TVs for whatever reason):

We built a streaming device to give you an even better experience. And we’d like you to be a beta tester so you can help us make sure we do just that.

Another thought I had is that this box might target cord cutters with AT&T Internet that might receive some preferential network treatment from the mothership, but I haven’t yet confirmed my pal’s provider. Will update when I do. In any event, as a new AT&T wireless customer I can say I’ve been enjoying my (free) slim Watch TV. bundle… that is missing a Roku app. Perhaps this new streamer will also provide access to that service.

On the hardware front, this is our first closeup of the remote. And I wonder if the button centered below the navigational pad suggests Google Assistant voice control. The number keys are also curious – does that indicate some sort of AirTV-esque over-the-air channel integration or a DirecTV Now guide revamp?

Given what’s described as a 6-month beta test, it may be awhile before we learn more.

18 thoughts on “DirecTV Unveils Video Streaming Android Box”

  1. Is this hardware related to AT&T’s announced plans to have a full, complete mirror of the DirecTV (satellite) service? AT&T has stated it wants out of satellites, even having said, “We didn’t buy DirecTV for its satellites.” It will take some time, but AT&T wants to sheppard its satellite subscribers to VirtualMVPD–DirecTV via internet/streaming–ASAP, like yesterday. This Android TV device could also have popular apos like YouTube, et al. And OTT apps like other entertainment streaming services with the internet delivered DirecTV at the center with no need to switch to a Roku or Fire TV. Maybe that’s what this device is about.

  2. HKJ above is on the right track. I’ve been following this story since Variety broke it last year. Based on lots of comments from AT&T’s top brass since then, they’re going to take the new OTT cloud-based platform they’ve deployed for DTV Now and use that to also power a flagship-level OTT service that they will position on the same level as DTV satellite and Uverse TV, looking to transition their customer base to OTT over time. I expect those two legacy services to get very little marketing love from AT&T, with all the attention on their OTT services.

    To appeal to traditional TV subscribers, they’re going to provide the STB currently in beta testing. It will feature a customized UI centered on their TV service (Android TV Operator Tier) with a full-fledged remote with 0-9 keys. DTV service won’t be siloed away inside an app but will be the main home screen UI. It will also have Google Assistant voice search and access to Android TV apps in the Google Play store. The new service will retain channel numbers but have a UI similar to DTV Now. But I expect fuller channel packages, a no-compromise cloud DVR, Sunday Ticket, plus limited 4K HDR. Might only roll out in an area when they have all the locals there on board. Tying the new service to this specific piece of hardware should improve reliability and support while also reducing account sharing. Pricing will be more expensive than DTV Now but a little less than satellite since it will have lower customer acquisition costs (self-install with cheaper hardware).

    What’s really intriguing is the possibility that they use this box, dubbed the C71, as the next-gen Genie Mini too, for satellite customers. The current Mini is the C61. The user manual filed at this FCC for the C71 says it may be used in conjunction with the HS27, which sounds like the next-gen satellite home server. The current one, the HS17, contains satellite tuners and DVR hard drive and acts as a hub for C61s hooked up to TVs around the house. So perhaps they do the same thing with the C71 and HS27. DTV could have one model STB for all their flagship customers, whether they use a dish or a broadband connection to access service. As far as that goes, it’s possible that they may also sell or rent the C71 to DTV Now customers too, although from a marketing standpoint that might really blur the distinction between it and the forthcoming OTT service.

  3. It only makes sense if the box gets some sort of QOS fast lane on AT&T broadband. I confirmed with my buddy — he doesn’t have AT&T, so they’re obviously testing additional scenarios.

  4. Does this mean that they will not take any current stations away like they have done to ksl channel 5 in utah

  5. Hi,for me even tho the price is high,my daughter likes directv for the programming,variety movies etc. When one thing isn’t on/ok we find another channel,like when i was a kid,1960’s we had a what they call a box tv,only got 1 or 2 analog channels,it’s better now i like the high tech stuff.But for others i hear they are cord cutters,cut the cord,cuz of the price and they just get overwhelmed, so many channels etc.,like with some and this is some time ago,like year 2000,or a couple years before,people got overwhelmed with the personal computer,this one guy told me,l/he knew what to do to fix it ,it was a brand new computer,back then,he told me he was so mad at it he was go’in to throw it out the window,for real,i was ready to ask him before you do that,give it to me,so i know their is a whole lot of people,including women that are/get overwhelmed with technology, even this one lady not that old was ready to throw the tv remote,and that’s just a tv remote,cuz their was just too many buttons on the remote,then her husband said give it to me,asking what did you do to it,yes it was kinda funny,but sad,cuz they argued, and neither one knew how to get it back,with more than one pop up on the tv screen,can’t get then off or pushing more buttons and making it worse.So i don’t want to sound like,what about,or what aboutist,but their is alot of consumers,that just don’t go their the high technology way.For me tho i like the high tech stuff,even electric cars/trucks,if they were less expensive,even the motor cars/trucks come without the dasboards,etc.already in them,it’s another company that adds the gutts,sota speak, add me to the newsletter,if their is one.Royce,from Michigan.

  6. I think I understand the point about QOS fast lane, but VirtualMVPD has come a lon way since the very first day of the very first VMVPD: Sling TV and its hit and miss QOS. However, today QOS does not seem to be a problem. In fact, I’ve not heard nor seen QOS as a concern/problem from real users I know nor from posts on the internet, of course most rural areas are QOS challenged 24/7, but that is a different matter. Here are the most frequent complaints about VMVPD services that frustrate or annoy real VMVPD subscribers that I’ve seen repeatedly posted on the net:

    1. Channel packages and/ot its costs or lack of desired channels within a prce range/package or only available a la carte at a price too high for just one channel, or a channel not offered at all on the service.

    2. Local channels: Lack of big 4 locals in all DMA’s and other local OTA channels in their DMA.

    3. Restrictions on cloud DVR service (exipiration of recoded content in short periods, as one example) with wildly different restrictions at each VMVPD, varying price or a limited storage at even the highest price offered for the grestest storage that does no come close to the storage of hardware DVR’s like TiVo and Dish Hopper products.

    4. Lack of other Digital Rights (such as credentials to access on-line version of channel fot its library of content) that do not come with every channel in their package that are more often granted to cable/sat subscribers compared t VMVPD’s.

    5. Clunky skip back or skip foward and only a few minutes pause when watching live, and no Commercial Skip feature when watching recorded content like TiVo’s Commercial Skip or Dish’s Auto Hop feature.

    There are a few others I can’t recall at this moment, but the point being that QOS/PQ and buffering just are not the complaints coming from VMVPD subscribers today.

    The savings to AT&T for true, top tier DircTV service as VMVPD are tremendous. While I expect such a setvice to be initially priced below the satellite service, I also expect AT&T to eventually raise the price so that a little savings is passed on to the consumer so that most of the savings will be cream for AT&T.

  7. Just switch over to Directvnow i was forced to get rid of satellite in the rental area i live in I would appreciate if you could allow me to test the new streaming device for which you promoting this month! Thanks longtime customer Lester HARRISON

  8. I would love to test this box also. I currently have Direct TV Now, but if they can replicate what Direct TV does without a satellite sign me up. I’m not in a location where a dish will work. I’ve heard people already complaining about being locked into a box vs. their crap errr app of choice. The opportunity here is for a turnkey OTT device/service, that has an appeal for people in the real world ( not screaming on internet forums).

  9. Will the new device reduce data usage?
    The cost of my current DTVN + internet service with a 1.5 TB limit is almost the same as my previous cable + internet cost with a 1000GB limit.
    The internet usage of the cable company wasn’t part of my monthly bill but now that I have DTVN my data usage has jumped from about 350GB/month to just under 1.5TB – all due to DTVN data usage.
    If they can’t solve this problem then DTVN will not be competitive.

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