AT&T's Telco TV Available At Giant Retailers

Fios AT&T has reached deals with two prominent retailers where consumers buying new TV sets for the holidays could immediately sign up for its fledgling telco TV service. Shoppers at some 600 Circuit City and Wal-Mart stores will now be within arm's length of activating U-verse service.

In addition to the much-hyped TV offering--in some 550,000 homes as of July 1--U-verse includes a high-speed Internet offering. The store locations with the U-verse sign-up option will be in 13 states where the service is offered, stretching from California to Connecticut. U-verse kiosks will be set up; additional locations will be added in the future.

The two telco TV services--U-verse, and Verizon's FiOS--want to peel away customers from cable competitors. Cable industry executives acknowledge FiOS' success, but while they don't dismiss U-verse, they seem to be having a more difficult time getting a handle on its progress.



It will be intriguing to see how successful FiOS will prove to be in Manhattan, where it's starting a challenge to Time Warner Cable. Like U-verse, it is turning to retail to help. But it has opened its own FiOS store, as it has elsewhere in the country. Verizon is also investing heavily in marketing in New York; it's now the sponsor of the sports report on the local NBC station. Time Warner has been fighting back with direct mail and other tactics.

Pali Research analyst Rich Greenfield recently adjusted downward his forecast for Time Warner Cable, partly due to higher marketing costs to fend off FiOS in New York.

AT&T has said it expects to have 1 million U-verse customers by Jan. 1.

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