AT&T's Goncalves: DirecTV Now is 'first live TV experience at scale'

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Technical glitches shouldn't be shocking when services as ambitious as DirecTV Now are rolled out.

BARCELONA, Spain—AT&T is marrying the targeting capabilities of digital advertising in an unprecedented way, a top executive said this week. And it's moving quickly to iron out the wrinkles in the DirecTV Now service it launched late last year.

The nation’s second-largest carrier closed on its $48.5 billion acquisition of DirecTV in 2015, and it is moving quickly to leverage its new asset. In addition to launching DirecTV Now, it is cross-promoting its wireless and video services, and it is integrating its advertising efforts.

“I think the most interesting piece, the foundational piece that isn't covered is that we have taken premium TV and made that addressable,” said Tony Goncalves, senior vice president of strategy and business development for AT&T’s Entertainment Group. “The next step is making that addressable not only to devices, but to individual devices.”

It’s no secret that AT&T is moving aggressively into media as growth in the U.S. wireless market has all but stalled. In addition to the DirecTV pickup, it hopes to pocket Time Warner in a blockbuster $85.4 billion deal that still must be approved by federal regulators.

But Goncalves continually emphasized that rather than viewing each of its businesses as disparate components, the carrier takes a more holistic view. “We shall should be in a position, unlike others, to deliver across the value chain,” delivering content across devices and networks and fully monetizing inventory on its own property and others’ through its advertising relationships, he explained.

The troubled launch of DirecTV Now underscores what could be a major challenge for AT&T, however: The colliding worlds of media and wireless will present significant technical hurdles that must be overcome by carriers, and the recent surge of unlimited data plans will surely result in more traffic on mobile networks.

But technical glitches shouldn't be shocking when services as ambitious as DirecTV Now are rolled out, Goncalves implied, and the carrier is making rapid progress in addressing those problems.

"We saw more activity in one day than most (cross-platform streaming video services) see in a year,” Goncalves said. “This is the first live TV experience at scale."