MCN Commentary & Analysis

Cord Cutter Diary: Part 3 – “They just keep moving the little sucker, don’t they?”

In the early evening of Sunday night, March 1, about 12 days after cutting the cord, there is a headline in my e-mail inbox. AT&T has yet ANOTHER offering for streaming. How many ways can one company flip-flop on their plans for The Future?

But seriously… this is becoming a real problem for AT&T, as the people who have been cord-cutting up until recently have been focused on the details of making this choice, and when you significantly change your offering four times in a year, there is a loss of trust that becomes more and more corrosive.

Still, as someone who is in the early stages of being a cord cutter, my family and I still want to have easy access to more than we could ever consume. We are greedy. And we are willing to pay a reasonable price. So digging into the “AT&T TV” offering (that’s the name, don’t get to used to it!), I went…

This is for the XTRA plan. That’s almost all the programming they have. That first three months is with free premium channels, which adds $54 in months 4-12 and then goes nuts, up to $186.49 in the second year to which this program commits you.

There is an offering for internet access at a discount from what I pay now, $40 a month for fiber optic for 12 months and then up to $60 in the second 12-month commitment window. That would save $240 in a year… except that they have a new $10-a-month fee for the modem/wifi, so that eats the entire savings. (Without getting internet in the same package, the monthly cost in the first year rises $10, but in Year 2, is exactly the same.)

The first year of this whole package is a wash, pretty much, with the set-up I already have. What is attractive about this is what seems to be a more convenient set-top box with a single remote doing all of the work, and no need to flip to HBO or Netflix on another app. But there is another catch to that. There is an equipment fee of $360 for boxes for each TV. That can be paid upfront or monthly over the course of the first year, the point being that the Year 2 cost includes that $30 a month falling off the bill. So if you stretch that cost out over two years instead of one, the monthly cost in Year 2 is a bit over $200 a month.

I am having déjà vu. BAD déjà vu.

The increased cost from where I am now would be about $850 over two years or about $35 a month for those 24 months.

Is this offering worth it?

Well… (sigh)… I’m paying $20 a month for Comedy Central and the Nickelodeon channels on Philo and that feels insane… but I want to watch those shows. (That $20 is included in my monthly calculations.) For better, both of those channels would be on the system with AT&T. HBO too. Integrated. Easier. Better remote.

Just because there is a more complex remote doesn’t mean the interface will be as good as YouTube TV or others. I did a trial of Fubo last week to watch the NFL combine (not available on AT&T TV, either), and I loved how they did forwarding (you could see the show as you moved forward in 30 second chunks… so much better than anyone else), but what will AT&T TV offer? No idea. And it is super-odd how little detailed info is readily available in this pitch. But it’s what it is.

There are other benefits for brand new AT&T subscribers in the form of up to $250 in gift cards. And other concerns, like the mention of the upcoming HBO Max as something that will make “special offers” to AT&T TV subs… but not free access… but HBO is currently priced at the same monthly prices as HBO Max and that is built in, so won’t you feel completely screwed if they want to add more to your bill for the exact cost equivalent?

You can cancel this new AT&T TV service within 14 days without a penalty. So I think I have to do that. Because the real question for my household is whether the improved remote and, one hopes, a more streamlined experience with all the channels, is worth a buck a day for the next couple years. It may be. It could just as easily not be.

But I have to say, AT&T makes it hard. It’s hard to trust them on consistency right now. It’s hard to look at the second year explosion of cost and not be angry and feel that you will be screwed.

The month commitment for two years is, simply $165.24 a month for 4fourTVs at the XTRA level. ($5 a month for every TV past the first for the equipment, so you could get it down to $150 a month for one TV.) This is just too high in 2020.

$130 a month… maybe $125 a month… and this thing becomes a real hit.

9 Responses to “Cord Cutter Diary: Part 3 – “They just keep moving the little sucker, don’t they?””

  1. Bradley Laing says:

    —–I have read some comments tonight about the covid19/ wu han coronavirus. What I would like to know is if there is any well known plan, or tradition, in the film industry about closing theaters during outbreaks. I know I’ve been told that beaches closed in August in the United States, in the 1940s, for fear of polio infections. But I have never read of theater closures because of transmittable diseases in the last 40 years. (This is a guess.) Could you give me some thoughts about all of this?

  2. Bradley Laing says:

    Clarification: those comments were on opinion websites, not movie fan, or movie industry websites. And not “Moviecitynews”!

  3. Hcat says:

    While Bradley is off target on the topic (though what a time for them to be launching streaming services, during a spring and summer when people might be weary of being around each other), the answer is there is no protocol for such a thing. Certainly not at a national level. Health issues fall to the state and local level so it would not be a matter of everyplace going dark, if there was a bloom of the virus in Seattle, theaters would likely stay open in Portland. I don’t think/hope it will come close to that, but I hope people at the local levels and the theaters are talking and planning about the possibility.

    The idea that the virus might effect daily routine in the coming year isn’t paranoia, but I wouldn’t think it is a guarantee or even a likelihood at this point.

  4. YancySkancy says:

    Apple repaired my iPhone for free last week (some kind of existing issue), and when I reactivated it, I suddenly had an offer for one free year of AppleTV+, which will go up to $4.99 per month if I don’t cancel. I was kind of excited until I saw their offerings, which seem kind of meager overall. I’m interested in Dickinson with Haley Steinfeld, and maybe Truth Be Told with Octavia Spencer. Will probably at least sample The Morning Show. But unless I’m missing something, they only have like one or two movies, a couple of docs, and a handful of original series. I guess if I love the shows, I could justify $4.99 a month down the road, but as is, I can’t see this venture being terribly popular. Is it a success? Anybody recommend any of the shows?

  5. Bradley Laing says:

    First, thank you “Hcat.”

    Second, Los Angeles California had a pneumonic plague outbreak in 1924. But I could think of no way to look up if the theater business (including live shows) was effected, and what way. Does anyone have a quick fix reference for Los Angeles in 1924?

  6. Hcat says:

    Besides basic Google. Variety didn’t move to LA until 1933 (and I doubt their or anyones files are digitized back that far).

    You are looking at a trip to a major library with microfiche.

  7. Triple Option says:

    I’m kinda confused with some of your setups, David. Do you still have YouTube TV? And Disney +? Do those need settop boxes? Could a regular, (for lack of a better word), TV that came out within the past 4-5 years or so, receive the internet? I remember you had some game devices, are those all required? Can any of the services just be picked up directly from the TV without needing an additional device?

    I get how you’d want all 4 TVs to have access to everything in case you’ve got 4 people wanting watch something at the same time. But aren’t the bulk of the shows or movies you’re describing ones you can watch at any time? Unless you’re talking live sports?? Can you get any of these programs on say a tablet or laptop and then plug those into a TV with an hdmi cord? Is there a way you can rank the TVs and maybe have better services on some but not all to cut down the expenditures for multiple device usage? Like, 4 people want to watch something at one time but would two people be able to go with their second choice at certain times if the better screens weren’t available? If you’re paying for that much programming, it seems like there’d be constantly stuff someone would want to see and you’d all still be fine. I’m thinking back years ago where my parents had the largest screen in the family room. It had vhs, dvd and cable. In another room, they had a smaller tv but there was both a cable box and dvd/vhs combo machine. In another room, there was a vhs machine and cable. And another room with just cable. Or maybe one with just vhs. But you get the picture. Maybe a couple of rooms where you couldn’t watch dvd or vhs but you could do cable or some other combination. So you may not have been able to watch HBO at that specific time but it wasn’t like you’d be shut out completely.

    I also remember years ago having cable ready TVs that we could have basic cable in bedrooms but the premium channels were out in the living room. There were a couple of times when there’d be more than one party wanting to watch something on a movie channel but not enough to where we wanted to fork out the extra dollars.

  8. Bradley Laing says:

    “The Hollywood Reporter
    2:12 AM PDT 3/9/2020 by Scott Roxborough

    The impact of restrictions aimed at stemming the spread of the coronavirus in Europe is already being felt at the box office as Italian cinemas shut down this weekend and ticket revenues plunged.”

  9. Bradley Laing says:

    “The remaining event pics that remain on the April and early May calendar are Universal/DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls World Tour (April 10) and Disney/Marvel’s Black Widow seven weeks from now on May 1. Insiders say no decision has been made yet about Black Widow. Should those films relocate, cinemas would find it hard to justify keeping their doors open in the short term, according to numerous sources who spoke with The Hollywood Reporter.”

    “2:32 PM PDT 3/12/2020 by Pamela McClintock”

MCN Commentary & Analysis See All

THB #93: The Batman (no spoilers)

David Poland | March 6, 2022

THB #76: 9 Weeks To Oscar

David Poland | January 26, 2022

THB #73: Netflix Is Chilled

David Poland | January 24, 2022

The News Curated by Ray Pride See All


May 1, 2022

The New York Times

"Netflix, the great disrupter whose algorithms and direct-to-consumer platform have forced powerful media incumbents to rethink their economic models, now seems to need a big strategy change itself. It got me thinking about the simple idea that my film and TV production company Blumhouse is built on: If you give artists a lot of creative freedom and a little money upfront but a big stake in the movie’s or TV show’s commercial success, more often than not the result will be both commercial (the filmmakers are incentivized to make films that will resonate with audiences) and artistically interesting (creative freedom!). This approach has yielded movies as varied as Get Out (made for $4.5 million, with worldwide box office receipts of more than $250 million), Whiplash (made for $3.3 million, winner of three Academy Awards), The Invisible Man (made for $7 million, earned more than $140 million) and Paranormal Activity (made for $15,000, grossed more than $190 million).From the beginning, the most important strategy I used to persuade artists to work with me was to make radically transparent deals: We usually paid the artists (“participants” in Hollywood lingo) the absolute minimum allowable by union contracts upfront, with the promise of healthy bonuses based on actual box office results—instead of the opaque 'percentage points' that artists are usually offered. Anyone can see box office results immediately, so creators don’t quarrel with the payouts. In fact, when it comes time for an artist to collect a bonus based on box office receipts, I email a video clip of myself dropping the check off at FedEx to the recipient."
Jason Blum Sees Room For "Scrappier" Netflix

The New York Times | April 30, 2022

"As a critic Gavin was entertaining, wry, questioning, sensitive, perceptive"
Critic-Filmmaker Gavin Millar Was 84; Films Include Cream In My Coffee, Dreamchild

April 29, 2022

The New York Times

Disney Executive Geoff Morrell Out After Less Than Four Months

The New York Times | April 29, 2022

The Video Section See All

Mike Mills, C’mon C’mon

David Poland | January 24, 2022

The Podcast Section See All