Just as AT&T is trying to draw consumers closer with packages bundling its phone service and DirecTV, a rival is working to keep allegiances divided: Sprint is offering DirecTV customers one year free if they switch their phone service to the company.
The offer, which is good for up to five lines, includes unlimited text messages, voice calls and 2 gigabytes of data. The promotion starts Friday and goes through Sept. 30. After the year is up, customers will be placed on Sprint's $50 per month plan for a single line. Plans for five lines go up to $180.
"DirecTV customers love their TV service -- but they shouldn't have to settle for AT&T wireless," said Sprint CMO Kevin Crull in a statement. "Why not build the perfect bundle by combining with Sprint wireless?"
AT&T recently began a campaign designed to convince consumers that its acquisition of DirecTV would help them stay connected to their favorite entertainment. But the deal was motivated partly by a desire to bind consumers more tightly in the AT&T orbit.
Sprint was recently supplanted by T-Mobile as the nation's third largest carrier, behind AT&T and Verizon.
Its new offer for DirecTV subscribers isn't totally free. Customers are required to buy or lease a new phone; they can't use one they already have. Existing Sprint customers are also eligible, but they must add a new line. Customers also have to pay a one-time $36 activation fee, plus monthly taxes and other surcharges.
Sprint also said that it will pay off new customers' old phone contracts via American Express Reward Card and buy back current working smartphones for up to $300 per line. In all, the promotion will cost Sprint about $600 per line for a year.
The move is the latest aggressive promotion by phone carriers this summer. Verizon recently announced that it was cutting its two-year contracts and phone subsidies. And T-Mobile announced that customers can use their smartphones in Mexico and Canada without incurring roaming charges.