AT&T is delivering on ambitions for a low-cost TV channel bundle with AT&T Watch TV, thanks to the carrier’s acquisition of Time Warner. With a couple of new AT&T wireless plans, the service, which debuted this week, provides access to over 30 live TV channels for free. The service is $15 a month for everyone else.
Leaving aside the long-term consequences of a big wireless provider owning a key source of TV content, AT&T Watch isn’t a horrible bargain. However, you should be aware of several limitations and pitfalls before plunging in. All of the specifics are as follows:
AT&T Watch TV Channels
|Animal Planet||FYI||Lifetime Movies||Viceland|
|BBC World News||Hallmark Movies & Mysteries||Sundance TV||BET (soon)|
|BBC America||HGTV||TBS||Comedy Central (soon)|
|Boomerang||History||TCM||MTV 2 (soon)|
|Cartoon Network||HLN||TLC||Nick Toons (soon)|
|CNN||IFC||TNT||Teen Nick (soon)|
There are no sports-specific channels, such as ESPN or Fox Sports, in the same way, that there are none on Philo.
All of the major broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox), as well as the cable channels they own, are also excluded.
A number of Viacom’s most popular networks are strangely absent. MTV2 and Nicktoons are included in the service; however, traditional MTV, Nickelodeon, and Nick Jr. are not. It’s uncommon for television networks to segment their programming in this manner.
The Turner networks, which are owned by Time Warner (uh, WarnerMedia), dominate the lineup, as one would anticipate.
Of course, other streaming TV providers, such as Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, and AT&T’s DirecTV Now, offer these channels in some form or another. This new service comes in a considerably smaller package, and as a result, it’s a lot less expensive.
What is included, and what is excluded
AT&T Watch TV will offer on-demand video from a number of channels, in addition, to live channel feeds, and these videos will be ad-supported. (You’ll only get live feeds from Animal Planet, HLN, Nicktoons, and Velocity, assuming the on-demand services are equivalent to DirecTV Now.)
You can’t pay extra to avoid the commercials, and AT&T won’t say whether DVR service will be available in the future.
Unlike DirecTV Now, which allows you to watch two streams at once, AT&T Watch TV will only allow you to watch one stream at a time. This means you won’t be able to share your password.
Support for AT&T Watch TV
Roku, Apple TV (fourth generation and later), Google Chromecast, Android, iOS, and the web will all be supported when WatchTV launches (with Chrome or Safari browsers). The UI on those devices will be comparable to DirecTV Now’s, so expect a channel guide and several methods to filter through the on-demand library.
AT&T claims that more devices will be supported in the future. As a workaround, I’m still waiting to hear from Watch TV about whether they’ll support TV Everywhere logins.
Deals and stipulations for wireless services
This is where things start to get exciting: Watch TV is available for free if you sign up for one of AT&T’s new “Unlimited &More” wireless plans. Here’s how it works with those strategies:
For one line, Unlimited &More costs $70 a month, or $160 for four lines. While there are no strict data caps or overage fees, your speeds will slow down when the network is crowded, you can only watch the standard-definition video over the cellular network, and you won’t be able to use your phone as a mobile hotspot for other devices.
Unlimited &More Premium costs $80 a month for one line, and for four lines, it costs $190. There are no hard data limitations or overage fines, but your speeds will slow down after you’ve used 22GB if the network is busy.
The plan offers 15GB of mobile hotspot use and cellular video up to 1080p. At no additional expense, you can add one “premium” service (HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, Starz, VRV, Amazon Music Unlimited, or Pandora Premium).
These new plans are comparable to AT&T’s previous Unlimited Choice Enhanced and Unlimited Plus Enhanced plans, however, the basic “&More” plan is $10 more expensive for a single line than the Choice plan it replaces. (The price is the same for all four lines.)
Also, with that basic package, AT&T no longer includes free HBO. The advantages of selecting the higher tier are now quite considerable.
Nonetheless, both new plans provide a $15 monthly discount on DirecTV Now, which has significantly more channels (including sports) than AT&T Watch TV.