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MobiTV Preps for U-verse

Light Reading
News Analysis
Light Reading
2/1/2007
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MobiTV Inc. says it's working with AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) to bring the U-verse IPTV service to "the small screen," that is, to mobile phones.

Noting that AT&T executives often talk about reaching the "three screens" -- TVs, PCs, and mobile devices -- with their U-verse IPTV service, Light Reading wrote in November that Emeryville, Calif.-based MobiTV was well positioned for the job. (See MobiTV's Next Step Could be U-verse.)

MobiTV execs confirmed their company's involvement with U-verse during a Light Reading visit to the company's offices yesterday.

Paul Scanlan, a founder of MobiTV and the company's COO, says his company will contribute its own licensed video content and will eventually add in some of the video content from the U-verse package. A MobiTV spokesman says his company and AT&T have been discussing and testing the technology, with no formal contract yet signed.

AT&T isn't saying much about it. "We haven’t announced any plans, and we continue to test IP-enabled applications in our labs," an AT&T spokesman says. "We've said often that one of the benefits of IP as a platform is that you can bridge content to the three screens, and we are looking for ways to do that."

That AT&T would use MobiTV to take U-verse mobile isn't altogether surprising. MobiTV is already a partner of both AT&T and Cingular Wireless , of which AT&T took full ownership after merging with BellSouth. MobiTV video became part of Cingular's mMode mobile services 15 months ago.

More recently, AT&T announced that MobiTV would power its new broadband video service called AT&T Broadband TV. The service now features about 25 channels of news, sports, and entertainment content and is growing, MobiTV tells Light Reading. (See AT&T Offers Internet TV and Service Station: AT&T's Silly Stream.)

AT&T had announced earlier that MobiTV video is available to users of WiFi hotspots.

MobiTV licenses and aggregates video content, encodes it and "optimizes" it to display correctly on a variety of mobile devices, hosts it at headend facilities in Sacramento and Denver, and streams it over wireless broadband networks.

By providing all that, MobiTV hopes to make it easy for operators to carry the service, Scanlan says. Then MobiTV shares the revenues from subscription and advertising with the operator.

In the U.S., MobiTV has also signed customers Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) and Windstream Supply Inc. , and it's working with the joint venture of Sprint and four cable MSOs. In the U.K., MobiTV counts 3 and Salt SA as customers. (See MobiTV Joins Cable Squad and MobiTV Tops 1M Subscribers.)

MobiTV also appears to be fueling up for more growth. On Nov. 2, the firm announced that Adobe Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: ADBE) and Hearst Corp. had added $30 million to a C round of funding, bringing the round to just more than $100 million. (See MobiTV Raises $30M and MobiTV Raises $70M.) The company announced a $15 million B round in August 2004.

Scanlan says MobiTV has had profitable quarters in the past, but it remains more focused on growth than on profits for the time being.

— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading

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