AT&T announced Thursday that it would be offering a package of TV channels to be viewed by its U-verse subscribers on a PC. It said the service would be the first-of-its-kind by a television provider.
On a PC with a broadband connection, U-verse subscribers will be able to view as many as 30 channels, including news, entertainment, sports, and weather. Eventually, the company said, the service will be available for AT&T wireless devices as well.
The price will be an additional $10 per month for U-verse subscribers, excluding the cost of broadband. U-verse fiber optic service, in its basic form with a high-speed Internet connection, starts at $59 per month.
Channels will include A&E Broadband, The History Channel Broadband, Fox News, The Weather Channel, Bloomberg TV, and others. U-verse OnTheGo is being delivered through an existing agreement that AT&T has with MobiTV, a global provider of mobile broadband TV and music. Additional channels and content are anticipated, the company said, including on-demand movie trailers.
Despite AT&T's positioning, Bruce McGregor, an analyst with industry research firm Current Analysis, called the announcement a "baby step."
"As best as I can tell," he said, "they're already offering this through their DSL service. And, at $10/month extra, it's weak, especially when there are other compelling entertainment and news packages on the Net, such as NetFlix, Amazon's 'Unboxed' service, Movielink, news sites, plus lots of free services."
'A Commodity Market'
At this point in the evolution of TV, cable, and phone, he said, it's rapidly becoming a commodity market. "You have the dynamic of cable getting into voice, and telcos getting into video. We now have a kind of parity. Customers are asking, simply, 'What is the price and what is the bundle? Is there voice? What's the speed of the Net connection? Number and kind of channels? How much is HD?' and so on."
AT&T has said that U-verse OnTheGo is part of its "three-screen integration strategy," providing services and programming for TV, PC, and cell phones. But it would be a more "compelling" offering, McGregor said, if it were actually a service that provided programming for all three, or if there were more than 30 channels offered on the PC, or if it actually did push content to the cell phone.
Presently, AT&T's video strategy is two-pronged, he said. There is AT&T HomeZone, for DSL customers, and there is AT&T U-Verse, an IP-enabled fiber optic service to the home that he said currently has only about 7,000 customers.
AT&T's U-verse service, launched in 2006, is presently available in 15 U.S. markets. Bundled packages include a high-speed Internet connection, a digital video recorder (DVR) that can record up to four channels, remote DVR management through the Web, and more. The company is actively building a fiber-optic network through its local telephone region, which includes 13 states.