Video services

A Look Back at U-verse

7:00 AM -- In June 2006, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) began rolling out its IPTV networks, powered by Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)’s Mediaroom platform, across the US, starting in its headquarter city of San Antonio. Since then, the service has been rolled out to more than 60 cities. (See U-verse Hits Gulf Coast, AT&T Bundles U-Verse, Wireless , U-verse Launched in Memphis, and U-verse Goes Greenville.)

AT&T began moving from infrastructure to features in November 2006, unveiling its high-definition lineup, Web remote access to its DVR app, and the ability to record four programs at once on DVR. Mobile remote access to DVR came in April 2007.

Throughout 2007, AT&T, as well as most IPTV providers, struggled with issues of technical integration, criticism over its fiber-to-the-node strategy, and challenges inking content deals. AT&T individually signed 150 contracts in its first year and a half. (See TelcoTV: IPTV No Longer Risky for Telcos.)

It wasn't until September 2007 that AT&T began experimenting with widgets, introducing AT&T U-bar, its customizable app interface; Yellowpages.com on the TV; and a Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq: YHOO) games app for its U-verse homes.

The feature parade continued throughout 2008, with software updates to enable Flickr picture sharing, Yahoo sports fantasy football on the TV, and an interactive NBC Olympics app.

AT&T introduced total-home DVR in September 2008 and completed its rollout just two months later in November. (See AT&T Completes Total Home Rollout.)

In December, it cracked the 1 million U-verse TV customer milestone and topped JD Power's survey on customer satisfaction. (See AT&T Wireline: Shifting the Mix, AT&T Posts Q4, and U-verse, FiOS Top JD Power Survey.)

In January 2009, AT&T tempered expectations, given the harsh economy. It said it would focus on selling services to its user base of 17 million living units rather than target new regions. It also delayed its deadline of passing 30 million units to 2011, instead of 2010 as initially planned. (See Video Battle Lines Are Being Drawn.)

AT&T has stuck to this features strategy for the past two years. The service provider introduced college basketball and Masters golf apps, an on-demand top picks app, and mosaic view and media sharing widgets. On-demand video and caller ID on the TV came in December 2009. (See U-verse Adds Mosaics, Media Sharing, AT&T Adds More U-Verse Perks, AT&T Outlines U-verse Upgrades, and AT&T Intros iPhone Apps for Remote U-Verse & Navigator .)

AT&T was also able to decrease its installation time in May 2009, down from its average of 5.8 hours to only 5.2. (See AT&T Speeds Up U-verse Visits and The U-verse Experiment.)

By December 2009, AT&T had reached another milestone -- 2 million customers served by U-verse. On its latest earnings report last month, the carrier reported 2.3 million U-verse subs, up 231,000 from the previous quarter. AT&T also said that more than 75 percent of these customers are subscribing to a triple-play or quadruple-play bundle. (See AT&T Stays Mum on Tiered Mobile Data Pricing and AT&T Posts Q1.)

Earlier this month, AT&T rebranded its online portal U-verse Online and let users synch it with their TV service, manage their DVR, and receive programming information. (See AT&T Launches U-verse Online .)

Over the weekend, AT&T announced plans for enhancements to its DVR service and Yellow Pages interactive TV app. The updates let U-verse customers place calls directly from the YP.com local search app, and tell the DVR how many of a TV series to keep and prioritize between TV series being recorded. (See AT&T Upgrades U-Verse DVR.)

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 4:35:05 PM
re: A Look Back at U-verse

Great recap, Sarah.

Indeed, compared to FiOS, AT&T have been doing more with less in terms of bandwidth to the home. 

But the pressure is clearly on to keep satellite and cable providers at bay and to keep customers from moving to OTT services that are more interactive and have more to offer via mobile devices.

Today I'm heading over to AT&T's Atlanta offices for a press gathering where they're going to talk about what's next for U-verse.

According to the invite, those things include "groundbreaking apps that may soon be delivered via U-verse, including interactive, 3D interfaces, and innovative apps that move television past the traditional pick-and-watch experience."

I'll report back later this afternoon/evening with the details.


shygye75 12/5/2012 | 4:35:04 PM
re: A Look Back at U-verse

Hi, Sarah -- Is AT&T crediting the app strategy for its market-share gain? Here in FiOS land, the main bait for new subscribers continues to be low-ball introductory pricing.

paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:35:01 PM
re: A Look Back at U-verse


I think we won't know the relative merits for some time.  You, I and the lamp post all have views but the numbers will tell the tale.  In the end the question will be, did Verizon's investment yield customer uptake that covered their longer term investment model?  I suspect that this will only become apparent with the next generation of services, but this is a faith based thought not a fact based one.  Our experience is that bandwidth utilization grows to fill the pipes we lay down.  Will this continue?  Only time will tell.




sarahthomas1011 12/5/2012 | 4:35:01 PM
re: A Look Back at U-verse

That was AT&T's strategy last year when the economy was at its worst. It is picking back up on the expansion this year, although I haven't heard of too many  new launches lately.

AT&T encountered a lot of challenges and criticism in installing the new infrastructure for U-Verse. I remember when it came to Chicago, there was a big to-do in the suburbs. It faced integration problems with the technology, regulatory battles at the state level and general customer annoyance at the amount of Microsoft servers it required.

'd be interested to hear how these issues are now.

sarahthomas1011 12/5/2012 | 4:35:01 PM
re: A Look Back at U-verse

I wouldn't think the app strategy accounts for its market-share gain. I think that's a great way to retain customers, but I imagine it's still aggerssive pricing that helps it sign up customers. Also, the bundle has paid off well for AT&T. More than 75 percent do a triple or quadruple-play bundle, so that's probably a good incentive.

opticalwatcher 12/5/2012 | 4:35:01 PM
re: A Look Back at U-verse

Interesting. It sounds like because of the economy they are going the low cost approach (add features through software for customer retention) rather than the expensive approach (continued buildout to win new customers), similar to Verizon's slowed buildout.

I would think that this would give cable a window of opportunity to go after those customers not being covered by Uverse and Fios.


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