TelcoTV: Creating more AT&Ts

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The first keynote speech Wednesday morning at TelcoTV 2009 showed off many of the advanced TV capabilities of the largest IPTV service provider in U.S., and the second provided motivation and reassurances for the core TelcoTV 2009 audience--independent U.S. telcos--that they can do the same.

Jeff Weber, vice president of U-verse video products at AT&T, opened the show by talking about AT&T U-verse offerings that are probably already well-known among an industry audience. He reiterated that AT&T now has 1.8 million U-verse TV customers and is up to 20 percent penetration in markets where the offering has been promoted for 2 years or more.

Of the company's success in the TV service provider market, he joked, "From my perspective, we're a TV company with a little wireless on the side. It's possible that the rest of the company views it the other way around."

Among other service capabilities, he spent a good chunk of the speech talking about DVR services, calling them "one of the cores of how we differentiate." He touted the telco's Total Home DVR product as market-leading, including functions such as ability to record four TV shows at the same time. "You can set, manage and delete shows from any receiver in the home," he said, adding that U-Verse DVRs can be scheduled remotely from many mobile phones, not just the iPhone. "Almost all of our customers use DVR, we include it in most of our packages, and we don't charge extra for it," Weber said.

DVR capabilities are just one ingredient in a blueprint for success for IPTV providers and cable MSOs laid out by Ramu Potarazu, CEO of infrastructure and wholesale programming vendor Avail-TVN. In a speech with an absence of product pitches and heavy on motivation, Potarazu  told the audience their companies can provide many of the same services as AT&T, and that they have inherent advantages that should convince them that getting involved in the TV market is a good idea.

He said at one point, "Why will you win [in the TV business]? Because you have the customers, and the access and the credibility; you have the network and you can create your own built-in content delivery network capability to deliver content to your customers; and you are part of that community your serve, not a faceless national company."

But, along with those advantages, telcos need a blueprint for success, Potarazu said, that includes aspects such as multi-platform delivery; "start-over" TV; advertising opportunities; deep libraries of content; network DVR capabilities and IP applications. "Many people are waiting to invest in TV because you want to see what will happen with OTT video, but the elements of that blueprint already exist today," he said.

There are competitive threats, which in some cases are at more advanced stages in offering TV services, but Potarazu reminded telcos that they had already dispatched similar threats in other sectors. "Remember that the ISPs were yesterday's threat. You defeated them."

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