SBC Communications Inc., one of the world’s largest phone companies, wants to launch a TV service in November. Currently, SBC has zero subscribers, no agreements signed with companies that own TV channels and a host of regulatory hurdles to overcome. SBC plans to use a technology untested on this scale. It opened offices in Hollywood only a week ago and one executive on the project has no TV-industry experience.
SBC wants to fulfill an age-old dream of offering a bundle of consumer services through one high-speed pipe, something that some cable companies are already doing. To catch up, SBC plans to bundle its TV offering with phone, wireless and Internet services in a package that could end up costing about $100 a month. Competing with cable and satellite television, SBC wants to offer viewers the chance to watch TV on demand, rather than at scheduled times, as well as hundreds of channels, many geared to niche audiences.
SBC’s project depends on its ability to deliver television pictures over a private network that works much like the Internet. Traditional cable operators give subscribers all available channels all the time, a process that sucks up most of their available bandwidth. Television based on Internet technology, by contrast, delivers only the channel that customers are watching at that moment. Other content can be stored on SBC’s servers and downloaded on demand, freeing up space to offer a huge array of films, concerts, sporting events and specialized programming, as well as traditional television channels.