Video services

AT&T Jabs at Cable With More Perks

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is tweaking cable's nose again this week by introducing a range of video and high-speed Internet upgrades for its IP-fueled U-verse platform. (See AT&T Outlines U-verse Upgrades.)

On the video side, the most significant addition is the telco's Total Home DVR, allowing customers to set or delete recordings from any TV on the home network, and not just the set that's connected to the main box with the on-board DVR. (See AT&T Completes Total Home Rollout.)

What those boxes still can't do, however, are the trick-mode functions (fast-forward, pause, rewind, etc.). Only the central box can do that, at least until a future upgrade.

AT&T is also deploying a new application that posts the top 10 video-on-demand (VoD) titles customers are renting, along with an engine that makes VoD recommendations based on the customer's past video rental history. Those applications will be offered to all markets next year but are getting early launches during the coming weeks in Los Angeles; Cleveland; Hartford, Conn.; St. Louis; Atlanta; Sacramento, Calif.; San Antonio; and Austin, Texas.

AT&T, in tandem with Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq: YHOO), is also introducing a new interface for its PC-based remote DVR-setting application, including the ability for subscribers to sort programs by genre, favorites, or the telco's high-definition lineup.

On the Internet side of the house, AT&T is boosting the downstream bandwidth of its "Max" DSL tier from 10 Mbit/s to 12 Mbit/s. The tier's upstream will remain at 1.5 Mbit/s. AT&T's Max18 tier is still the telco's fastest, offering 18 Mbit/s downstream and 1.5 Mbit/s up.

AT&T will be using the upgrades to retain its U-verse base as well as attract new customers.

AT&T ended the first quarter with 1.3 million U-verse TV subscribers after adding a record 284,000 in the period. One Touch Intelligence estimates that AT&T was marketing U-verse to about 13 million homes at the end of the first quarter, while passing the service to a total of 18 million homes. Despite an analyst report suggesting that AT&T is slowing down its U-verse rollout, a company spokeswoman said the telco still expects to pass 30 million "living units" with U-verse by the end of 2011.

Cable's response
So, what's cable doing to combat this? The major operators are fairly set on the high-speed Internet front with Docsis 3.0 (at least for those that are rolling it out with any haste), but they are still left wanting when it comes to the whole-home DVR. (See Cablevision Debuts 101-Mbit/s Wideband Service and Comcast Sets Wideband Goal .)

Among major MSOs, Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) and Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) have the most competitive exposure to U-verse. Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC)'s key competitor in its New York region is Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), but the MSO does lock horns with U-verse in some of its Connecticut properties.

Although cable's been late to the whole-home DVR party and has allowed AT&T and Verizon to go first, several MSOs, namely TWC and Cox Communications Inc. , have at least threatened to deploy whole-home DVR services of their own using IP-based Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) to shuttle shows around the home. Cablevision is going in a different direction, holding that its forthcoming Remote-Storage DVR (RS-DVR) is akin to a multi-room offering. (See Cox, Entropic MoCA Deal Not Exclusive , TWC, Moto Team on Muli-Room DVR , and Summer Debut for Cablevision Network DVR.)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

Interested in learning more on this topic? Then come to Cable Next-Gen Video Strategies: Competing in the Three-Screen World, a one-day conference that will take a comprehensive look at the cable industry's attempts to generate revenues and fend off its rivals by deploying next-generation video technologies. To be staged in Atlanta, June 25, admission is free for attendees meeting our prequalification criteria. For more information, or to register, click here.

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