AT&T Inc. will offer internet protocol television (IPTV) in 20 more markets by the end of the year, a company executive told TechWeb at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show in Las Vegas.
Today, AT&T offers limited service in San Antonio, Texas, with about 200 channels, picture-in-picture browse, digital video recording (DVR) and video on demand (VOD).
"We'll increase subscribers in the San Antonio area though the summer before we expand into new markets," said Jeff Weber, AT&T's vice president of product and strategy.
AT&T also plans to offer high definition (HD) and digital video recorder (DVR) features later this year with the addition of new set-top boxes and software upgrades. The "Whole Home" DVR feature will allow subscribers to record a movie in the living room and watch it in the bedroom, for example.
IPTV subscribers will reach 36.8 million worldwide in 2009, up from 2.3 million in 2005, estimates research firm eMarketer Inc.
U-verse, the package of services AT&T"s Lightspeed infrastructure will deliver, includes everything from TV and broadband to voice over internet protocol (VoIP) and integrated services, such as access to photos on the Web. AT&T will allow subscribers to access through the IPTV channels guide a photo network where subscribers can store photos on Yahoo! Inc.
To prepare each market, Weber said, AT&T must first build the network's infrastructure and update systems. "We'll bring fiber closer to customers' homes and build what we call a video hub office to stream in local channels," he said.
Weber declined to name the cities next on line to get IPTV, but the Arkansas News Bureau reports Maumelle, Ark., could become the first city outside of San Antonio to ink a franchise agreement with AT&T for its IPTV service. The city council approved the initial steps that would allow AT&T to build an infrastructure for its IPTV service, but don't expect the deal to close before mid-May. AT&T still has work to do.
AT&T brings content from ESPN, HBO, and other broadcast networks into its national center to encode in MPG4. The content then runs across AT&T's IP backbone into the San Antonio video hub office, where it's combined with channels running across the local network and out to a fiber node that sits about 3,000 feet from the home. It is then delivered over very high-speed digital subscriber line VDSL on a AT&T set-top box.
The service also will offer interactive games and features, such as voting on reality shows, such as American Idol, as well as a feature that offers alternative content suggestions based on historic program viewing options.
Many believe the payoff for AT&T and others will come from ad revenue. Interactive features promise the ability to target consumers with advertising based on viewing habits and track the effectiveness of specific advertising dollars.