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TelcoTV: IPTV No Longer Risky for Telcos

ORLANDO, Fla. -- TelcoTV 2009 -- It’s no longer risky for telecom service providers to offer IPTV services, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)’s Jeff Weber told TelcoTV attendees today. Weber, the vice president of U-verse and video products, said AT&T’s ability to deliver a better TV service than its cable competitors and to continually add applications and features is proof positive of IPTV’s viability. The next step, Weber added, is making video services easier to control and view on multiple platforms.

At earlier TelcoTV events, AT&T faced questions about the viability of doing IPTV over copper, then concerns about offering high-definition TV over copper, then doubts about the potential delivery of two simultaneous HDTV channels.

"We are way past that now," Weber said. "The ecosystem has developed that enables us to offer a better TV product. The risk in terms of getting into TV just isn’t there."

Weber, who was filling in for AT&T CTO John Donovan, stressed the importance of developing a core TV product that is better than anything the cable and satellite competitors can offer. He then spelled out the ways in which AT&T is enhancing U-verse to further differentiate its service.

"IP enables so much more. The upside is almost beyond our ability to understand it –- we need to make sure we are being true to what our customers expect, and not getting overwhelmed by all the different choices," Weber said. "It’s the customers’ world, and we are living in it."

Customer expectations are on the rise, and subscribers are becoming more sophisticated, Weber noted, but, he asserted, that trend plays to the strengths of service providers with all-IP infrastructures and platforms that enable new applications to be easily added.

Whole-home DVR services, which AT&T launched in 2008, is a major advantage, but AT&T is also easily able to add applications like customized multi-view applications that enable users to see either one program, with three others in a picture-in-picture stripe, or one angle of a sports event, with the picture-in-picture stripe featuring other coverage angles, or other content such as player stats or golf course layout. (See AT&T Launches Whole-Home DVR)

AT&T is working with the NBA's Dallas Mavericks (Weber’s favorite team) to show multiple angles of a broadcast game and enabling viewers at home to choose their angle of viewing. There are also multiview packages aimed at kids, news show junkies, and subscribers to packages like ESPN GamePlan.

"Multiview is very important to us and we have six to seven out there now. It’s not production, just an application. It’s very simple for us to do that and give customers a differentiated experience. It’s not about the software, and it’s not about the technology, this is about the content -- that's what the customers care about. We are giving you a content experience that is unmatched in the marketplace."

The next big push for AT&T is to create U-verse Everywhere, Weber said. That will enable customers to consume and control their content from multiple devices. AT&T will capitalize on its ability to deliver to mobile devices -- something satellite and cable can’t do -- but, Weber cautioned, there are content rights issues to address.

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

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