AT&T, DirecTV and the Future of Internet-Powered Glass

Get ready for AT&T&T: American Telephone, and Tablet, and Television
More
AT&T, a cellular broadband giant, and DirecTV, a satellite TV provider, are vastly different companies. What are they doing getting hitched? (Reuters)

AT&T technically stands for American Telephone and Telegraph, but now that the latter technology is obsolete and the former is becoming more anachronistic by the day, one can imagine a future where the company's mission is more fully spelled out as AT&T&T: American Telephone, and Tablet, and Television. Our phones are hardly phones, anymore. They are, like everything else we spend our days paying attention to, just glass with an Internet connection, as Zach Seward would put it. And AT&T would like to dominate the digital infrastructure behind all of it. 

In this light, the company's plan to acquire DirecTV—the national (albeit somewhat stagnant) satellite TV provider—might be a little less mysterious than some people are making it. This isn't akin to Comcast and Time Warner Cable, two cable providers that sell TV and Internet merging to become one giant cable provider that sells TV and Internet. AT&T, a cellular broadband company with a tiny pay-TV footprint, doesn't expand its core business with this purchase. But that's okay. This isn't about adding spectrum. It's about adding glass, as I said today on NPR's Here & Now.  

 

DirecTV—and, in particular, its prized NFL Sunday Ticket—immediately makes AT&T an attractive bundle to millions of sports-loving households who currently use a variety of companies to power their glass. I, for one, spent the last two years paying Verizon for my phone, Time Warner Cable for my apartment WiFi, and DirecTV for my TV. In some markets, AT&T could soon bundle all three into one. How convenient for me? Quite. How valuable for the company selling it to tens of millions of households? 'Tis the season for telco mergers. We're about to find out.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Social Security: The Greatest Government Policy of All Time?

It's the most effective anti-poverty program in U.S. history. So why do some people hate it?


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Business

Just In