Report: AT&T could offload DirecTV by next year

(Image: AT&T/Handout, Graphic: The Desk)

AT&T is in the final stages of an auction for its DirecTV satellite service and could offload the subsidiary company by early next year, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.

For months, AT&T has courted several suitors who have expressed an interest DirecTV, which the phone company acquired in 2015 for $66 billion, including $17 billion in debt.

On Wednesday, the Journal said bids for DirecTV put its valuation above $15 billion, a fraction of what AT&T paid for it five years ago.

Among the bidders are Churchill Capital Corporation IV, a blank-check firm, and Apollo Global Management, which was seen as a front-runner to acquire some or all of the satellite service.

Once seen as a prized gem in the pay TV space, AT&T acquired DirecTV at a time when customers were starting to ditch traditional cable and satellite offerings for cheaper, online-based streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Sling TV.

For five years, AT&T has been unable to turn things around, with DirecTV shedding customers as its pay TV packages became more expensive. The Journal said AT&T had lost 7 million customers across DirecTV and its other pay TV services in just the last two years.

Earlier this year, AT&T stopped marketing DirecTV in urban and suburban communities, pushing customers who live in those areas toward its online-based AT&T TV service instead.

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