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AT&T’s U-verse Adds Over 30 HD Nets

AT&T is adding as many as 30 new HD networks to its lineup this week and will launch an HD Premium package that includes three additional HD channels next week.

The move pushes the telco’s total HD network count to over 75 channels across the U-verse footprint and dramatically strengthens its competitive position against both cable and satellite.

“We are now beating cable in every U-verse market by a lot,” said Dan York, executive vice president of content and programming at AT&T Converged Services. Over the last year AT&T has tripled its HD offering and York expects the telco to continue to expand its high-def content both with linear channels and HD on demand.

On Nov. 3, the telco launched about 30 HD channels that will be available for free as part of the U-verse subscription. Next week, on Nov. 10, the telco will launch an HD Premium package will initially include Universal HD, MGM HD and Smithsonian Channel HD for an additional $5 a month. AT&T plans to add additional channels to the HD Premium package in the future.

Later this year, AT&T will also be launching an HD-ready Total Home DVR across all of the U-verse markets.

“Total Home DVR is a great differentiator for AT&T U-verse over cable,” York said. “Any program that you record or pause on the set-top box in, say the living room, can then be accessed and watched in on any other connected set in the den, or bedroom or other room.”

AT&T’s HD VOD efforts are “still in their infancy” York said, but he added that the company has plans to ramp up the amount of HD content available on demand.

York declined to set specific targets for the amount of titles in high-def on demand, but noted the offering would be large.

Besides being ahead of cable in the number of linear channels, the recent moves put AT&T close to satellite, York said.

“I wouldn’t say there is much of a difference,” he said. “What people consider to be an HD network is sometimes a very loose definition. What we count as an HD network is a legitimate HD network.”

York stressed that the operator’s IPTV platform allows it to continue to expand its HD offerings without facing many of the bandwidth constraints faced by cable.

“The typical bandwidth capacity constraints are not a factor with the U-verse IP platform,” he said. “Theoretically we can have a much broader array of content available to us than any other distributor. It is just a matter of having to balance our standard definition, high definition, linear and VOD offerings against our cost constraints.”