All-In-One: AT&T: Users Can Program DVR From Cell Phone

AT&T, whose telco TV service had a slower-than-promised rollout, is launching a service allowing customers to program DVRs from their cell phones. It gets to the heart of AT&T's goals for the U-verse service, as consumers will have to use an AT&T mobile device for the remote activity. However, the company says it will open it up to other wireless providers in the future.

AT&T is looking to outfox cable operators, which have thrived with so-called triple-play TV-phone-Internet packages, by offering the same bundle -- plus its wireless services -- a fourth option MSOs are deciding how to compete against.

The DVR programming via cell phones allows U-verse TV and Internet customers to schedule shows to be recorded, as well as delete programs. The new service augments an existing option to program U-verse DVRs remotely via computers.

"Any television viewer can relate to the frustration of forgetting to program his or her DVR," says Rick Welday, chief marketing officer-AT&T Consumer. "Now, whether they're at the airport or stuck in traffic, AT&T U-verse customers can rest assured they won't miss their favorite shows."



Cable operators have dismissed any imminent threat of telco TV competition from AT&T and Verizon, though the two are slowly ramping up. U-verse now has 18,000 customers -- less than 1% of each of the top-six MSOs. It plans to launch in the Los Angeles market soon, and this year has moved into Kansas City, Dallas and Milwaukee. (Verizon's FiOS service has considerably higher distribution.)

AT&T says that on average, it's rolling U-verse out to 2,000 new homes a week.

Separately, as AT&T enters the TV distribution business, it's taking steps to reap ad dollars. The company has a deal with Chase credit cards to link with content related to an event fronted by country star Tim McGraw that's available on wireless, TV and computers. The initiative is part of a fledgling three-screen advertising option offered via the AT&T Entertainment Services unit. Chase is the first sponsor.

Content from the McGraw-related event will be available for nearly three months; AT&T wireless customers can download ring tones, U-Verse TV customers will have access to some of the performance and behind-the-scenes coverage. Broadband customers will have access to Web videos.

AT&T says it has a "vision to be a premier communications and entertainment provider." That sentiment is echoed by MSOs, which are trying to make further strides into the content/ad business to sync with their core service business.

AT&T U-verse also offers OnTheGo, which allows customers to watch live TV on a computer anywhere there's a broadband link.

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