Did AT&T Pass on Baseball Bonanza?

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Coulda, woulda, shoulda?

When AT&T was developing the U-verse IPTV service, 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.

“You think about what could have been done, [IPTV] 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 EVP 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 Will Richmond in New York Tuesday night.

MLBAM, of course, 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 8-10 cameras. And it’s integrated with Twitter so you can watch a live stream of tweets about the game.

AT&T and MLBAM declined to comment on Kliavkoff’s version of events.

Needless to say, though, AT&T would dispute the characterization of U-verse TV as a “me-too” service. It does offer some features not typically available with cable TV today, such as whole-home DVR and interactive features like on-screen news and weather and MultiView, which lets you watch four channels on one screen, grouped by genre.

Also: U-verse TV won the West and South regions on the 2009 J.D. Power television satisfaction survey, although as we note in this week’s cover story, new entrants tend to do better on such metrics.

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