Over the last few years, AT&T (NYSE:T) has rapidly expanded the number of subscription video products in its lineup. The acquisition of DIRECTV in 2015 set in motion a series of new products that AT&T has rolled out in short succession. The addition of WarnerMedia last year gave AT&T additional options to offer subscription video products to consumers, and it plans to launch a Warner-branded product later this year.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson explained, "For my standpoint, I better have a product that fits your needs, that I want you to buy a product that fits your needs because you're going stay with us longer, you're going to spend more money with us," at a recent Recode conference. So ultimately, the number of customer accounts in AT&T's portfolio is how investors should measure the success of AT&T's strategy.

Check out the latest AT&T earnings call transcript.

A silhouette standing in front of dozens of screens.

Image source: Getty Images.

A look at all of AT&T's video services

Here's a quick overview of all the video services in AT&T's portfolio (present and future) and their approximate monthly price:




$84 to $154 per month


$81 to $189 per month

DIRECTV thin-client streaming service (launching H1 2019)

$50 to $60 per month


$40 to $75 per month

WarnerMedia streaming service (launching Q4 2019)

Over $15 per month*


$0 to $15 per month


$15 per month

Data source: AT&T. *Author estimate; actual pricing not announced.

Customers can get anything from a low-end skinny bundle to a complete package of every channel they could ever want and then some. AT&T has services that require various degrees of on-premise equipment and several that don't require any installation at all. Indeed, no matter what your needs are, AT&T likely has (or is developing) a product that fits those needs.

But AT&T might be creating a paradox of choice for its customers. There's a value to a simple product portfolio that makes deciding which product to buy an easy choice. The more options there are for a consumer, the more likely they are to choose none of them.

While AT&T might have a product for everyone, customers may have to spend time talking to a sales representative to figure out which product that is exactly. That can be a big barrier for some potential customers, producing a bottleneck for sales.

How's the strategy working out?

As mentioned above, Stephenson wants to provide customers with the right product for their needs. So the strategy of offering various products at different price levels should result in long-term customer growth.

Here's what customer additions look like for AT&T's three main video products in 2018:


Net Additions

DIRECTV Satellite








Data source: AT&T.

Overall, AT&T's main video products are losing subscribers. Even adding the 500,000 WatchTV subscribers (most of whom receive the service for free), AT&T is losing customers.

That may be offset by subscriber growth at HBO Now, but AT&T hasn't released any details on HBO subscribers aside from "HBO digital subscriber growth continued" in its quarterly investor briefing. HBO Now had about 5 million subscribers this time last year, growing by 3 million subscribers from the year before.

Importantly, AT&T is losing customers from its high-end video products, where it makes the most money. Not only do DIRECTV satellite and U-Verse charge higher prices, they're more profitable for AT&T. Meanwhile, the growth of WatchTV is mostly from its use as a loss leader to attract and retain phone subscribers (although AT&T accounts for it in a way that makes the service EBITDA-positive). That's something Stephenson and AT&T's investors can't ignore.

The belief that more products equals more subscribers doesn't exactly ring true. But in a market with increasing competition in video, AT&T needs to throw everything at the wall and see what sticks.