AT&T Offers Year of Free HD to Fight Cable

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The nation’s largest telephone company will offer new video customers one year of free HD programming -- an attempt to convert cable subscribers to its U-Verse TV service or the satellite services it resells from DirecTV and EchoStar Communications.

In a promotion scheduled to run for a few months, AT&T said it will provide more than 25 channels of HD programming, including those of local broadcast affiliates, free to new U-verse TV subscribers.

AT&T regularly charges $10 per month for HD service with U-verse TV, which is now available in parts of 15 metro areas. Most cable operators also charge an additional monthly fee, about $10 to $15, for a tier of HD channels.

"Free access to HD programming for a year gives consumers yet another reason to select AT&T over the competition," AT&T chief marketing officer for consumer marketing Rick Welday said in announcing the deal.

In areas where U-verse TV is unavailable, AT&T will offer free HD service -- up to 31 channels -- to customers who sign up for direct-broadcast satellite service from DirecTV or EchoStar’s Dish Network.

AT&T said the free-HD offer through Dish will be available until May 31 and through DirecTV until June 26. The U-verse TV offer is available through June 30.

Also Tuesday, AT&T announced that U-verse services are available to more than 200,000 Dallas-Fort Worth households, expanding from its initial limited launch in the market last month. Overall, the telco at last count reported about 10,000 customers for the Internet-protocol-TV service, up from 3,000 at the end of 2006.

Meanwhile, California last week granted AT&T a statewide video franchise, although the telco would not specify new areas in the state where it plans to roll out U-verse.

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