December 6, 2016 / 2:48 PM / in 8 months

DirecTV Now streaming television exceeding expectations: AT&T CEO

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson in Laguna Beach, California, U.S., October 25, 2016.Mike Blake

NEW YORK (Reuters) - AT&T Inc's new streaming television service, DirectTV Now, has so far exceeded expectations, AT&T's CEO Randall Stephenson told investors on Tuesday.

Stephenson, speaking at the UBS global, media and communications conference, said the service achieved its subscriber forecast for December on launch day, Nov. 30 and is "doing very, very well."

He did not provide subscriber numbers.

DirecTV Now, which streams live television content to internet-connected devices, was launched to help drive sales in a saturated cell phone market.

AT&T acquired DirecTV for $48.5 billion last year, making it the largest U.S. pay-TV operator with 25.3 million video subscribers, in a push to diversify into the media and entertainment business.

AT&T also plans to buy Time Warner Inc (TWX.N) for $85.4 billion to gain control of premium content from networks such as HBO. The wireless company is working on gaining regulatory approval for its Time Warner deal.

AT&T expects the regulatory review process to be "fairly straightforward," Stephenson said.

"This is a classic vertical merger and the day after we close this deal there will be no fewer competitors in any market in the United States than there are today in distribution or media and entertainment," Stephenson said. "This is a pretty clean deal."

Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes, who spoke at a separate session of the UBS conference on Tuesday, said the AT&T-Time Warner deal should close by the end of 2017, if not sooner.

Before winning the U.S. presidential election, Donald Trump had said on the campaign trail that the acquisition of Time Warner by AT&T would put too much power in the hands of one company.

"I don't know what part of it he was referring to," Stephenson said while speaking at the Business Insider IGNITION conference.

He said he had heard a "rumor" that Trump's comments were perhaps connected to the president-elect's criticism of Time Warner's CNN channel.

From the perspective of the telecom industry, the shift to a Trump administration is a positive development, as the president-elect's policies seem to promote corporate investment and capital allocation, he said.

Reporting by Malathi Nayak and Tim BaySinger in New York; Writing by Anna Driver; Editing by W Simon and Bill Trott

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