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AT&T Starts Live Broadband TV Experiment

Reuters reports that AT&T is launching an Internet TV service where subscribers can watch live cable channels such as Fox News on any computer with a broadband connection for $20 per month.

The AT&T Broadband TV service features about 20 channels of live and made-for-broadband content. The channel lineup includes the History Channel, the Weather Channel, the Food Network, Bloomberg and Oxygen. Additional channels will be added soon, the company said without elaborating.

The content is being provided by MobiTV Inc., a company that has specialized in delivering live cable channels to cell phones through wireless carriers such as Sprint Nextel Corp. and Cingular Wireless, which is majority owned by AT&T.

As compared with many Internet-based video services, where the viewing window is considerably smaller than most computer monitors, the new AT&T offering will allow users to expand the picture to full screen. However, the service requires Microsoft Windows Media Player for playback.

Viewers will see whatever commercials are being shown on the live broadcast, but no advertisements are planned for the browser window and control panel that frame the TV picture. It's unclear if MobiTV's approach will be more successful when connected to a PC, since consumer adoption of their offering on mobile phones has apparently been very low to date.

Moreover, research from several sources indicates that most consumers prefer the type of short-form video that is provided by YouTube, and other similar platforms. Therefore, we shall have to wait an see if AT&T's experiment points to a new trend in consumer demand.

Clearly, the launch could be an acknowledgement that over-the-top video distribution will attract some consumers away from AT&T's U-verse IPTV offerings, and therefore it's prudent to cannibalize your own business model before competitiors do it -- hint, think companies such as Apple.

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