News

Passed Ball for AT&T?

10/17/2009 2:00 AM Eastern

Coulda, woulda, shoulda?When AT&T was developing the U-verse TV service a few years ago, the telco had an opportunity to create a host of new interactive services with Major League Baseball — including individual 24-hour channels for every team in the league, according to George Kliavkoff, who at the time ran business development for MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM).

“You think about what could have been done. [Internet-protocol TV] has unlimited channel capacity. … It's instant channel-change. It's complete addressability. The promise was, this was going to leapfrog what cable and the satellite guys could do,” Kliavkoff said. Among other potential features on the table was a fantasy-baseball alert that would switch U-verse subscribers to another game if one of their players was at bat.

Instead, AT&T's U-verse TV has ended up looking a whole lot like cable television, in his analysis. “At the end of the day, it's a Comcast me-too service — it's undifferentiated,” Kliavkoff said. “I understand why people get there and don't take advantage of all the technology could do. But it's frustrating.”

Kliavkoff, who is now executive vice president of Hearst's Entertainment & Syndication group and formerly NBC Universal's chief digital officer (where he helped form Hulu), made the comments at VideoSchmooze, the broadband video discussion forum hosted by industry consultant Will Richmond last week in New York.

AT&T and MLBAM declined to comment on Kliavkoff's version of events (although the telco disputed the characterization of U-verse TV as a “me-too” service, noting it offers some features not typically available with cable TV, such as whole-home DVR and the ability to watch four channels at once by genre).

Meanwhile, MLBAM has continued to develop the MLB.TV Internet-streaming service — which now offers all kinds of interactive and customizable features. The new Postseason.TV package, for example, lets subscribers watch up to four camera angles on one screen, and select from among eight-to-10 cameras. It's integrated with Twitter so you can get live tweets about the game.

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