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The U.S. is currently going through unprecedented shifts in behavior as the spread of COVID-19 has rendered the majority of citizens homebound for the foreseeable future. To prevent bouts of cabin fever, certain service providers have been going the extra mile to provide entertainment options to those in need, often at little to no cost. One company definitely upped the quality ante, announcing this week that it would be giving customers free access to HBO, Starz and other premium cable networks. Pretty, pretty, pretty good idea.
Everybody who currently has a contract with an AT&T service will qualify for this pretty sweet offer, which admittedly has some time-window stipulations attached. Starting today, March 26, AT&T's freebie plan will kick off for customers subscribing to DirecTV, U-Verse, AT&T TV and AT&T TV Now, unless otherwise noted. Just in time to get your binge on with HBO's Westworld Season 3 and the recently concluded Curb Your Enthusiasm, as well as Starz's Outlander and Epix's upcoming original series Belgravia.
Here's how the rollout will go down, per Deadline:
Starz – March 26 - April 4 (DirecTV and U-verse only)
Epix – April 4 - April 16
HBO / Cinemax – April 17 - April 20
HBO has been having quite a bit of success during the coronavirus pandemic, with customers binging shows in droves during the self-quarantine stages. So I suppose it makes sense that it and Cinemax will be available for the shortest period of any, but that likely just means people will be going that much harder on watching those channels' shows during that point. (Cinemax's Jett, with Carla Gugino, is definitely worth adding to that mix.)
Do note that this deal is only for people who aren't already subscribing to the channels mentioned. So just in case any ongoing HBO subscribers are thinking their next bill will contain a discount or two, that will not be the case.
To be sure, while giving customers access to free channels is certainly a step in the benevolent direction for a monolith corporation like AT&T, the move isn't exactly selfless. As many people are well aware, the company's all-encompassing WarnerMedia will be unleashing its highly anticipated streaming service HBO Max in May, so there's no doubt the powers that be are hoping that customers who spend a little time with all the free channels will take the plunge with an HBO Max subscription when that releases. Especially after recent comments played down the importance of DirecTV in the years moving forward.
Some people will probably sign up to HBO Max just for the Friends reunion special alone, even though filming for it is currently still delayed. How weird would it be if that special had to film during the self-quarantine period, with all six actors having to talk to each other through video chats the way talk shows like Jimmy Fallon's Tonight Show have been handling things? Maybe that's what a Friends reboot would be like in the modern era.
AT&T definitely isn't the only company giving stuck-at-home TV-lovers the goods. For instance, Amazon has made a ton of its kids programming free, Comcast has opened up some streaming channels for everyone to access for free, and CBS All Access is offering Star Trek: Picard and more for free.