As more so-called cord-cutters turn their backs on TV services, providers like AT&T U-verse are doing everything in their power to lure them back, even bundling services like HBO Go and Amazon Prime.
Yes, for $40 per month, AT&T will give you U-verse broadband, basic cable, a year’s worth of HBO Go on-demand movies, and even a year’s worth of Amazon Prime—with all the Amazon on-demand movies, Kindle lending, and free two-day shipping that entails.
All AT&T is asking from you is to please, please, PLEASE be a customer—and to pay a little more when a year’s out. And to be locked into a year’s contract with an early termination fee of up to $180. And bunches of other little charges that AT&T hopes you won’t think about until you’re on the phone with a helpful salesperson.
Like what, you ask? For one thing, the offer isn’t available in all areas. When I checked the bundle options for my home in the San Francisco North Bay, the Amazon Prime offer never appeared, although the promotional page mentions it prominently.
As for the possible additional fees, let’s extract them from AT&T's fine print. They are, in no particular order:
- $49 service activation fee
- Up to $99 in equipment installation fees
- Broadcast surcharge of $2.99 per month
- $15 more per month for a whole-home DVR
- $10 more per month for high-definition service
- Assorted taxes and other regulatory fees
And remember, when the year is up, AT&T can go back to charging you $26 per month for HBO service and $19 per month for basic cable, plus an additional $22 per month for broadband Internet service (18 Mbits/s downstream in my area). In other words, $67 per month plus the original $40 per month fee equals $107 per month—not bad, but not the cord-cutting nirvana that you might have thought. Of course, at that point there’s nothing preventing you from walking away to another provider, signing up for some other, similar deal, or simply trying to negotiate with Comcast or with AT&T itself.
What the deal does seem to imply (as Re/Code suggests) is that AT&T hopes you'll sign up, autopay your bill, and then gently slip into a movie- and pizza-fueled coma where you won’t notice more money being siphoned from your digital wallet in a year’s time. Because by then, True Detective season 2 will be out, and seriously, why would you ever want to let that go?