The iTV Doctor Is In!: AT&T U-verse TV's Interactive TV Apps Strategy

Dear Readers:

The iTV Doctor is pleased to announce that TAG Networks is our new sponsor in the Games category. With TAG Networks' support, we will be able to continue and expand our (hopefully) thought-provoking discussions about interactive television and the people who make it happen.

Today, we have a very interesting column about AT&T U-verse.


Dear iTV Doctor:

Interactive TV applications were another hot topic at CES this year, and while they seem like a relatively new area, it looks like AT&T has been active in launching interactive apps for their U-verse TV service. How have U-verse TV apps evolved? Are there any "lessons learned" from the apps that are available today? What should we be considering as this area grows?

Looking to Learn

Dear Looking:

You, like many others (including The iTV Doctor) are very curious about AT&T's plans for interactive television at U-verse. And to answer your questions, I went straight to the source: GW Shaw, executive director of AT&T U-verse marketing. Here's what GW has to say:

Apps are definitely a growing and popular area for our industry. The boom that started with wireless apps is rapidly expanding to other devices, including TV. Consumer demand for apps is also growing as we all become more accustomed to using them.

At AT&T, we started offering apps on U-verse TV in 2006, and have had more than 20 different apps available to our U-verse TV customers at no extra charge. Offering apps to our customers was one of the key advantages of our all-IP strategy. IP enables more two-way interactivity and more integration, which are both central to a simplified and useful apps experience.

The apps experience is evolving right along with our U-verse TV service, and with our customers. For example, the first app offered on U-verse was Web Remote Access to the DVR, which lets customers
schedule and manage DVR recordings on any Web-connected PC. In 2007, we expanded this capability to wireless phones, and in 2009, we launched a free iPhone app that gives customers even more mobile control over their recordings.

That's just one example. Apps are getting more and more advanced to take advantage of all that IP technology offers. And over the past few years, we've learned a lot about what customers want from their TV apps experience:

  • The app has to be easy to use. TV is still a lean-back experience for viewers. So we make integration hassle-free with no special set-up required. You can set up personalized information on your PC, and those preferences automatically flow to your TV screen for apps like the AT&T U-bar and for customized sports brackets with fantasy football. The user interface and navigation are critical. We build apps for the TV and don't try to recreate the Web on your TV screen.
  • Apps should be built around content. The TV experience still comes first, and apps should enhance the viewing experience, not detract from it. Customers love apps that are centered around the content they care about--like our Multiview , College Basketball, and Masters apps. Content is still the killer app.
  • It's not about quantity. It's about quality. We've heard from our customers that they want apps that make sense for the TV and complement their viewing experience, rather than an enormous number that don't. We're focused on rolling out apps in a deliberate and thoughtful way. Apps should add value and have a distinct purpose. View your Call History on your U-verse TV screen.... Search local business information from your TV with YELLOWPAGES.COM TV.... The experience should be simple and seamless.
  • Customers are interested and excited about apps. This isn't just something the industry is excited about. We're seeing a high usage level across all of our apps. Our Santa Tracker app was a hit over the holidays and we've heard it provided hours of entertainment for U-verse TV families. Apps are a chance to get the customer even more engaged with U-verse TV.
  • Apps are a differentiator in the marketplace. Consumers select TV providers not only based on quality and price--but also on what they can do with those services, and what the services do for them. Apps also help with customer retention and satisfaction. We've found that customers who use applications are more likely to stay with AT&T.

You can expect to see much more in this area, from AT&T and across the industry. Apps trends continue to evolve, and we've just begun to tap the potential. It should be exciting to watch.



The iTV Doctor is *Rick Howe*, who provides interactive television consulting services to programmers and advertisers. He is the recipient of a CTAM Tami Award for retention marketing and this year was nominated to Cable Pioneers. He is also the co-author of a patent for the use of multiscreen mosaics in EPG's. Endorsed by top cable and satellite distributors, "Dr" Howe still makes house calls, and the first visit is always free. His services include product development, distribution strategy and the development of low-cost interactive applications for rapid deployment across all platforms. Have a question for the iTV Doctor? Email him at

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