AT&T is making big changes to DirecTV dealer contracts, and there are signs that its satellite business is on the way out

AT&T has made a number of changes to DirecTV dealer contracts in recent months that indicate its satellite business could be becoming less of a priority, and recent comments by the company suggest the same.

DirecTV, a satellite company with about 20 million subscribers, notified “thousands” of dealers that their contracts will end December 1, 2018, according to dealers who spoke with Business Insider. The group who will retain their contracts have been given a recent mandate to push more aggressively to sell non-satellite products.

DirecTV dealers are part of a fleet of third-party laborers who sell DirecTV products and services including satellite, broadband, and phone services.

Full-service dealers, those who manage technical installation and sales, are now expected to sell a minimum of four cell phones a week, where no previous directive on mobility sales existed, according to dealers who spoke with Business Insider. To encourage potential customers to bundle phone packages with other DirecTV services, AT&T allows them to offer a $250 Visa gift cards per phone line, according to a dealer who trains and hires teams of dealers around the US, though the card may be part of a temporary promotion and not a long-term strategy for acquiring new mobile customers.

A spokesperson for AT&T claimed “the information you’ve received is not accurate,” but declined to elaborate on the record despite multiple opportunities.

The directives have been taken seriously by dealers who say they understand they need to meet the new targets or face AT&T ending their contracts.

“I don’t really want to be a mobility company but we must to retain our dealer contract,” a full-service dealer who provides sales, installation, and service for DirecTV, told Business Insider. “Dealers who do not sell mobility will soon be history.”

In the past month, AT&T has also loosened requirements around the creditworthiness of applicants to allow a broader pool of potential customers the ability to sign up for services with DirecTV, the dealer who trains and hires teams of employees told Business Insider.

“We regularly assess and make changes to our dealer relationships based on their performance and other factors,” a spokesperson for AT&T told Business Insider.

Recent comments from AT&T CFO John Stephens suggested DirecTV’s satellite television service will eventually come to an end. Speaking at a conference in Europe, Stephens spoke about a DirecTV streaming service that will roll out in 2019, Fierce Wireless reported.

“It’s a device that allows us to, instead of rolling a truck to the home, we roll a UPS or FedEx truck to the home and deliver a self-install box,” he said. “This allows the customer to use their own broadband. We certainly hope it’s our own fiber but it could be on anybody’s broadband. And they get the full-service premium package that we would normally deliver off satellite or over our IP-based U-verse service.”

The service would enable AT&T to cut installation costs and require fewer dealers to install satellite services.

For its part, AT&T says it has no plans to discontinue satellite service.

“Our video strategy involves offering our customers choices in how they want to receive their video service, including via satellite, our wireline service, or streaming over home broadband, regardless of their provider,” a spokesperson for AT&T told Business Insider.

The comments from Stephens come a few weeks after AT&T lost 346,000 traditional video subscribers in the third quarter of 2018, faring worse than Wall Street analysts had projected.

If you have any thoughts or information on DirecTV, AT&T, or the future of cable and satellite TV, contact ajackson@businessinsider.com.

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