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TV Connect: AT&T scales up its TV Everywhere ambitions

AT&T has taken a bold (possibly unique) approach to boosting its TV Everywhere services by releasing the application programming interfaces (APIs) for its IPTV service ‘U-verse TV’ to selected app developer partners, essentially giving them the ability to build U-verse TV into their apps.

Speaking at the TV Connect show which opened in London today (March 19th), Jeff Weber, President of Content & Advertising Sales at AT&T, was clear that he does not think core content is where a TV provider like AT&T is going to differentiate.

“Content is a commodity from a TV perspective – the Walking Dead that you watch on U-verse TV is the same that you can get on DirecTV, there are very few places where you can get exclusives, so we can’t differentiate much around content,” said Weber.

“However, apps have allowed us to differentiate slightly on our Olympics coverage, for example – around 18 months ago we started to think about how we can take that to the next level, and decided on an approach we have called ‘U-verse Enabled’, which is a set of APIs that we hand over to app developers, and allows U-verse to be used on connected devices in new ways.”

One example given was Twonky, an app which lets U-verse customers “throw” content from a tablet to the TV, and while Weber concedes it is still early days for the U-verse Enabled project, it should allow AT&T to address a much larger apps base than the 25 or so which it has pushed out into the market itself.

In turn, this will hopefully drive greater usage, more engagement, richer experiences, cut churn and increase average revenue per user (ARPU).

There are however some question marks over how to control the quality of experience that users get on third-party apps: while the telco is currently taking a hands off approach in order to attract interest, this position may change in future.

“Our inclination is more open rather than less open – I don’t want to be in the business of picking app winners, but in the future we will probably curate a bit more,” said Weber.

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