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The Problem with DIRECTV Now

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It is now almost four months since AT&T launched DirecTV, its latest strategy to lure the cord-cutters. The verdict on the service is – it has more bugs than the 1997 film, Starship Troopers. AT&T had presumably planned to target the disillusioned cable subscribers looking for an out. But, as it turns out, it is the cord-cutting DirecTV Now subscribers that have been disillusioned by the service. Everything up and about DirecTV Now is crashing. The app has been a nightmare for countless subscribers who were looking for TV entertainment on the internet. Making things worse, AT&T has been defiant as far as taking responsibility for their blunder. They are not even ready to refund their subscribers, who clearly did not sign up for the hell that DirecTV Now has turned out to be. So, what is really wrong with DirecTV Now? Well, where do you start

There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the DirecTV Now app is a work in progress. Instead of finishing an end product that has been tried and tested, AT&T released a half-baked product for a hungry audience. After all, they didn’t want to sit quiet and watch their competitors like DISH’s Sling TV, Sony’s PlayStation Vue, etc. take away the lion’s share of live TV streamers. Ironically, that’s exactly what is happening ever since DirecTV Now launched. Anyone who is not caught up in AT&T’s web is jumping ship. Cord-cutters who want live TV are steering as clear as possible from them. It is true that DirecTV Now does not force its subscribers to sign long term customers. But, it had launched a promotion campaign that gave the users free Apple TVs for subscribers who prepaid for 3 months of service, and free Fire TV Stick to those who prepaid 1 month of service. Those customers are definitely not getting their money back. Naturally, they have been the most vocal among the lot. “I signed up just 2 weeks ago and paid for three months straight. Now I regret it. The service does not work at all,” James, a disgruntled DirecTV Now subscriber emailed us.

The issues with DirecTV Now did not start after an update or because the loads crashed their servers. Instead, the problems existed in the app, in their systems, right from the start. Users have faced every kind of problem there is. Some have complained that the app does not acknowledge their valid subscription details. There have been reports of the app crashing in the middle of a show or a movie. In some cases, the app just logged the users out, and they had to login again to access their content, losing a precious few minutes of their interesting programs. In worse cases, the users were logged out in the middle of the show, and for days they could not access their account on the app. AT&T’s forums are replete with hundreds of discussion threads, each dedicated to a specific issue. That’s something.

Consumers tried everything that they could come up with. After having run out of ideas, when they called the customer support of DirecTV now, they were given non-specific solutions like reinstalling the app, re-logging into the app, etc. When nothing seemed to work, the consumers began venting out their frustrations on the social media. In fact, the hashtag #QP1502, a nod to the error code faced by many users, was soon trending on Twitter. Wow!

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AT&T’s social media accounts have been on an overdrive since the launch of DirecTV Now. All they have done is apologize to the subscribers profusely on a daily basis. While they continue to express how sorry they are about their pathetic service, they have made no attempts to pay reparations by refunding their subscribers. Granted, all new services come with bugs. But, DirecTV Now is a bug lair that also just happens to offer a live TV service. Forget refunds, customers are being charged even during their 7-day free trials. When those surprised subscribers tried to unsubscribe from DirecTV Now during their free trial period, they too were denied refunds, although they shouldn’t have been charged in the first place. Clearly, DirecTV Now is in a mess.

Consumers could have shown some sympathy towards the company as this is a new product. However, AT&T did not advertise their live TV service as a beta. Instead, they marketed it as a fully functional service ready to take on the competition. Then, when the service failed, instead of owning up to their mistakes they are making their subscribers pay for their mistakes. Not to be taken for a ride, one of the consumers registered a complaint with the FCC. This appeared to stir the company executives in action, and they refunded all of “$25” to the subscriber. That was for the first of the 3 months of subscription that the person had signed up for. Last time we checked, they were planning to register another complaint with the FCC for the second month as well.

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that AT&T is strong-arming its subscribers into staying with the service, even though they are frustrated with its evidently unfinished product. Sounds familiar? This is cable all over again. Cable operators forced their subscribers to stay with them using long term contracts, no matter how deplorably they treated their customers. For cord-cutters, this is déjà vu all over again. AT&T and its subsidiary DirecTV, which is a satellite TV service, have proved that no matter where they go, they will take with them all the business practices and learnings that they have amassed over the decades in the pay TV business. Bravo DirecTV. Bravo.

As a subscriber, if you think that you are ready to let AT&T keep your subscription, and make peace with it, well, the story may not end that easily. One person on AT&T’s forum wrote, “How do I cancel? Doesn’t work and I’ve been trying to get this cancelled for two days? You basically stole $130.00 from me!” So, there you go. Welcome to hell. The devil has officially entered the streaming business.

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