AT&T just announced an agreement with private equity firm TPG that will turn DirecTV into a standalone company, albeit one that's still majority owned by the telecom giant.
Specifically, AT&T says it will own 70% of the new company, while TPG owns 30%. This transaction values DirecTV at $16.25 billion — a dramatic decline from the $48.5 billion that AT&T paid to acquire the pay TV provider in 2015, part of a wave of telecom-media acquisitions. (Verizon owns TechCrunch thanks to its acquisition of AOL.)
Even with new offerings like AT&T TV (which will be part of the standalone company, along with the DirecTV and U-Verse services), pay TV subscriptions have been declining, with AT&T reporting a net loss of 617,000 premium video subscribers in its most recent quarter. AT&T is trying to point out the positive trends in the numbers by noting that "it hit its peak level of subscriber losses in 2019" and that "premium video net losses had improved sequentially for five straight quarters."
"As the pay-TV industry continues to evolve, forming a new entity with TPG to operate the U.S. video business separately provides the flexibility and dedicated management focus needed to continue meeting the needs of a high-quality customer base and managing the business for profitability," said AT&T CEO John Stankey in a statement. "TPG is the right partner for this transaction and creating a new entity is the right way to structure and manage the video business for optimum value creation.”
The company said the transaction should close in the second half of 2021. The combined entity is expected to pay AT&T $7.8 billion, which the telecom company will use to reduce debt. AT&T also said that when the transaction closes, DirecTV's CEO will be Bill Morrow, currently CEO of AT&T’s U.S. video unit.
The Wall Street Journal reported last year that AT&T was exploring a deal for DirecTV.