AT&T to Roll Out Multiple Interactive Enhancements to its U-verse TV IPTV Service

--Enhancements Include DVR Upgrades, Navigation Improvements, New VOD App

US incumbent telco, AT&T, announced a number of enhancements, Tuesday, to its Microsoft Mediaroom-powered IPTV service, U-verse TV (which, at last count, had around 1.3 million subscribers). The enhancements, which are being rolled out today and over the coming weeks at no extra charge, include upgraded DVR capabilities and user interface/navigation enhancements for all customers, and a new video-on-demand application that will initially be available in select markets (note: in addition, customers who subscribe to the U-verse High Speed Internet Max data service will see higher download speeds, AT&T says). "Turning on the TV and seeing something new is what AT&T U-verse customers have come to expect from us," Jeff Weber, VP of video services for AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets, said in a prepared statement. "These latest upgrades are further examples of how we're using Internet Protocol technology to give you more control and more value. With AT&T U-verse, you're getting DVR capabilities you can't find from any cable providers, exciting and useful apps, and faster broadband speeds. We're giving you an advanced entertainment experience, and this is still only the beginning."

According to AT&T, it will upgrade its multi-room DVR service, U-verse Total Home DVR, market-by-market over the coming weeks, by adding the ability for customers to schedule and manage recordings from any U-verse receiver in a home rather than only from the home's DVR-equipped receiver--a feature that AT&T claims is not offered by any other multi-room DVR service. AT&T launched its Total Home DVR service last year: the service is billed as allowing customers to watch standard and high-definition recorded shows on up to eight connected TV's in a home, all from a single DVR.

AT&T is also planning to roll out a new interface for its remote DVR management service (allows customers to schedule and manage their DVR recordings from any Web-connected PC). According to the company, the new interface, which it says is powered by Yahoo!, will enable faster browsing of the program guide; sorting of the program guide by genre, favorites or HD channels; a side-panel display that will provide a list of recently recorded and upcoming scheduled shows; targeted searching by title, actor and channel; and the ability to personalize favorite channels. AT&T says that U-verse TV customers will also be able to utilize sub-accounts, in addition to their U-verse master account log-in, to access the remote DVR management application. The company, which launched online DVR control in November, 2006 and mobile DVR control in April, 2007, claims that over 100,000 U-verse TV customers use the services each month.

The U-verse TV user interface/navigation enhancements, meanwhile, are slated to roll out market-by-market along with the Total Home DVR upgrade, and are billed as providing customers with a "more simple and streamlined way" to navigate and find programming. From within the U-verse programming guide, AT&T says, customers will be able to select "Enter" to pull up a panel of options to jump to another channel, time or day to find the programming they want to watch. Customers will also be able to select "Enter" while watching live TV, in order to bring up a side panel that allows them to select from zoom and audio options, the company says.

Lastly, the new U-verse TV VOD application, dubbed On-Demand Top Picks, will allow customers to view VOD recommendations based on their past video rental history, AT&T says, and also view a list of the top-10 titles other U-verse TV customers are renting. In addition, it will give customers the ability to rate a movie that they have previously rented: their recommendation will be averaged into other U-verse TV customers ratings and displayed next to the title in the on-demand recommendations list. AT&T plans to roll out the application in Los Angeles, Cleveland, Hartford, St. Louis, Atlanta, Sacramento, San Antonio and Austin within the next few weeks, and to make it available to all U-verse TV customers next year.

In addition to upgrading U-verse TV's interactive features and increasing the speed of its U-verse High Speed Max high-speed data service (downstream speeds will increase from "up to" 10Mbps to "up to" 12Mbps, the company says), AT&T is holding a "Free Movie Month" promotion that will provide customers with unlimited access to the Starz premium programming service during July.

U-verse TV offers a range of interactive TV features in addition to the ones that are set to be upgraded, including personalized weather, sports, traffic and stock information delivered via an application called AT&T U-bar; local and national weather forecasts on-demand; and the ability for customers to view personal photos from flickr.com on their TV.

North America