AT&T Mobility CEO Lurie defends carrier’s DirecTV zero rating: ‘no regulatory concerns’

LAS VEGAS – AT&T’s Glenn Lurie said he doesn’t expect regulatory backlash from the operator’s offer to zero-rate the data of AT&T wireless customers who access the company’s new DirecTV video app.

“We have no regulatory concerns about it. We feel very good about it from that aspect. We’re not prioritizing [data], we’re treating it all the same,” Lurie told FierceWireless here on the sidelines of the CTIA Super Mobility trade show. Lurie is president and CEO of AT&T’s mobility and consumer operations. “So we’re not worried about that.”

Lurie added that the new service – which essentially exempts the cost of any data generated by video from AT&T’s new DirecTV app for AT&T customers who stream it over the operator’s wireless network – is geared toward attracting and retaining high-value customers.

“Without question, this was about our customers. It was about our best customers,” Lurie said. “When you think about the folks that are going to be utilizing this, you’re talking about someone who is a current [AT&T] Mobility customer and a current linear TV customer in their home. So they are paying us hundreds of dollars a month. They are arguably some of our most valuable customers, and this is what they deserve. And we believe this is a fantastic offer and shows what AT&T can bring to the table.”

“We’re very excited about it,” Lurie added. “Nobody can do it the way we’re doing it.”

AT&T this week announced its newly updated DirecTV app. The new app offers a range of features, including the ability to stream live TV channels, recorded programs and view recorded programs offline. “Even better, you can stream video via your DirecTV or U-verse App without using your mobile data when you’re on the go with Data Free TV on the AT&T mobile wireless network,” the company said in a release. “It’s easy and automatic after registering and it doesn’t count against your AT&T mobile data allotment.”

To be clear, AT&T isn’t the only company to move into the zero-rating sector. T-Mobile US was perhaps the first to widely embrace the practice with its Binge On program, which made video from participating video providers exempt from its mobile data caps. Verizon subsequently enacted a similar program specifically for its Go90 mobile video service.

Such practices have raised the ire of some public interest groups, including The Center for Media Justice, Fight for the Future and Free Press, that argue toll-free, zero-rated data offerings run afoul of the FCC’s net neutrality principles.

Lurie added that AT&T continues to offer a “sponsored data” program that allows content providers to cover the cost of users’ mobile data access to their services.

Moreover, this isn’t the first time AT&T has paired its DirecTV service with its wireless offerings. Shortly after the carrier closed its blockbuster $49 billion acquisition of DirecTV last year, it began offering unlimited data services only to customers who also subscribed to its DirecTV or its U-verse service. AT&T now counts more than 5 million wireless customers who have opted for that bundle.

AT&T has said it plans to launch an overhauled DirecTV service in the fourth quarter of this year that will provide a range of video services, ranging from free OTT offerings to more expensive TV services for users’ homes. That launch may well introduce additional zero-rated options.

Related articles:
AT&T begins zero rating program for DirecTV multiscreen apps
T-Mobile adds FOX Now, Dish Anywhere to Binge On zero-rated mobile data service
Verizon starts zero rating Go90 this week, sees stronger take rate for Custom TV
Net neutrality advocates target zero-rated offerings from Verizon, T-Mobile, others