AT&T, Verizon Tout Telco TV Growth

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AT&T has said it expects availability of its telco TV offering to reach 30 million homes over the next several years. On Thursday, CEO Randall Stephenson suggested growth won't stop there.

Expansion of the U-verse footprint should follow the trajectory experienced by AT&T's broadband offering, the top executive said. In 1998, the company said the aim was to make the service available in 45% of its turf. Then, costs decreased and the technology improved, which has propelled broadband's current availability to 90% of the customer base.

"There is no reason why it should be different on the video side," Stephenson said at an investor event.

Providing U-verse service to customers continues to allow AT&T to sell more bundled packages -- something cable competitors have been successful with -- and is driving average revenue per unit (ARPU) increases. Among customers buying U-verse, Stephenson said, 75% subscribe to either a TV-broadband-phone trio or a so-called "quad-play"-- with wireless service included on a single bill.



AT&T did not release the size of U-verse's current footprint in July, or specifics on customer uptake, saying only that where available, a double-digit percentage of customers are signing up.

At the end of the April-June period this year, AT&T had 1.6 million U-verse customers. Growth rate in the quarter -- 248,000 new customers -- was slower than the prior quarter.

Also at the event, Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg spoke about the company's own telco-TV offering, FiOS. He said an increasing hunger among consumers for interactive TV should be a growth driver.

In July, FiOS began to offer a Widget Bazaar platform that allows people to use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, as well as receive news and scores on the screen. More applications are coming as FiOS is looking for developers to write programs specifically for the service, Seidenberg said, likening them to iPhone apps.

Turning TV into an interactive buffet is "a huge opportunity," he noted. Speaking to the audience, he quipped: "If you don't live where you can get FiOS, you should move."

As of June 30, there were 2.5 million FiOS customers.

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