SBC: 'Let Us Entertain You!'
The joint venture is called SBC Media Solutions LLC, and its new CEO will be Ed Cholerton, the VP of DSL for SBC. Brian Hinman, 2Wire's president and CEO, will assume the role of president of the new venture, which exists to develop and market the MediaPortal set-top box.
The new SBC Home Entertainment Service (HES), expected to be rolled out in SBC’s territories by mid-year, will integrate satellite TV programming, video on demand (VOD), music on demand, digital video recording (DVR), caller ID, and digital photo sharing through 2Wire’s MediaPortal set-top box. The MediaPortal box is a satellite and digital TV receiver, a digital video recorder, and a PC-type device that allows Web surfing, emailing, and CD/DVD burning.
A future enhancement to the MediaPortal box will include remote access through Cingular Wireless phones. That feature allows a consumer to listen to music and view photos stored on his MediaPortal devices (or his home network) from a cell phone (or any Web-connected device).
SBC, which already offers satellite TV service through a partnership with EchoStar Communications Corp., sees the new service and joint venture as a way to improve the customer experience by tying together the TV and the PC through the DSL connection. “We’re always looking at ways to make our service even better,” says SBC spokesman Michael Coe.
Coe says that a content partner for the VOD service has not been announced yet.
"For this type of integrated [entertainment] service, there’s lots of moving parts and everything needs to work together -- Echostar, Yahoo, DSL -- and that’s not our core competency, and we wanted to make sure the end user experience is good,” Coe says. The new home entertainment service is the first step in SBC’s plans to offer users access to IPTV services over an advanced fiber network (see SBC Sheds Light on 'Lightspeed').
The ultimate goal for SBC -- and its cable competitors -- is to get as much of each customer's entertainment and communications budget that it can. That's what's causing the carrier to partner with consumer electronics vendors, online content providers, and other companies that push it further out of the world of being just a phone company. It also has led them to tease future features such as SBC Unified Communications, a service that combines all of a customer's wireline and wireless voice mail, email, and faxes into one mailbox.
Coe says pricing for the complete entertainment package, including SBC Yahoo DSL, SBC|DISH satellite TV service, SBC phone service and the 2Wire set-top with DVR has not been determined, but “just like all our services, the more you buy, the more you save.”
— Chris Somerville, Senior Editor, Next-Generation Services