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DirecTV Now breaks 200,000 subscribers in problematic first month of service

AT&T's DirecTV has successfully managed to acquire more than 200,000 paying subscribers within one month of its launch on November 30, but despite the growth, customers of the Internet TV provider are continuing to endure issues with the service.

A Securities and Exchange Commission filing from AT&T for the quarter ending December 31 last year advises it has "more than 200,000 video net adds, entirely driven by DirectTV Now." The filing notes this figure is only for paying customers within the first month, not including any on free trials, and doesn't take into account changes in its customer numbers for the start of 2017.

AT&T offered its larger $60 plan for $35 per month for the launch, the same cost as the basic package, but that deal lasted until January 9. A second offer tempted customers with a free 32GB fourth-generation Apple TV, but only if they prepaid for three months of service in advance.

At launch, the service suffered from a number of performance issues, with users complaining about being locked out of streaming content. Error 60 messages, meant to advise users they were using too many streams on their account simultaneously, appeared for some subscribers even if they were only using a single stream, while other stream interruptions kept reoccurring during peak viewing times, indicating issues with capacity.

AppleInsider's experience with the service mirrors that of many of the complaints, with the experience worse on streaming devices like the Apple TV versus that on the iPhone or iPad.

Even after the teething issues at launch, reports have surfaced over the last month indicating DirecTV Now still has problems providing its service, with customers continuing to complain.

The AT&T support forums are littered with posts from disgruntled customers irritated by new and old issues, including continued mishandled Error 60 warnings, buffering issues, and live stream freezes. Other complaints include being signed out of apps at random, the unavailability of some content for on-demand viewing, and problems with regional lockouts for local sporting events.

AT&T has also been accused of failing to provide afflicted subscribers with refunds, with representatives telling some users there wasn't a policy in place to provide compensation. Free trial customers were also affected, with TechCrunch noting some customers who tried to cancel within seven days were refused refunds for unexpected charges.

The continued issues and the difficulty in getting a refund has led to customers complaining to the FCC, with some frustrated forum posters urging other affected subscribers to do the same.

"With any new technology there are going to be fixes that need to be made," starts a statement from AT&T. "While we understand we still have work to do, overall feedback on DirecTV Now has been very positive. We're continuously updating the app to provide a better experience for customers. We encourage customers to keep the app updated."

On the subject of refunds, AT&T advises it does not provide partial compensation due to DirecTV Now being a prepaid monthly service, and that customers would be able to "enjoy the service through the end of the current billing cycle."

For free trial cancellations, AT&T notes some customers would have joined up with a special code that would have boosted the seven-day trial to 30, and if they had entered the code wrong, they may have unknowingly stayed on the seven-day trial. In a softening of stance on refunds, AT&T does "encourage" those who signed up with a code but were charged anyway to contact support for a "resolution."