Like the old saying goes, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. AT&T, parent company of television provider U-verse, has developed AT&T Entertainment, a new online destination for streaming media. Like Hulu, the site features content from the major broadcast networks as well as popular cable channels like USA Network, MTV and Syfy. The best part? That content is provided courtesy of Hulu. Hit the jump to find out why AT&T felt the need to clone Hulu, why Hulu agreed, and what repercussions these decisions might cause.
The Hollywood Reporter is calling AT&T Entertainment “Hulu 2” and, after taking a closer look at the site, I am inclined to agree. Television and movies are differentiated by name, genre and network (studio in the case of movies), making the site easy to navigate. Movies are age restricted so you have to sign up for a free verified account if you want the good stuff. Be aware, some movies are only a two minute clip that ends with a link to Amazon. Since AT&T Entertainment does not appear to be hands down superior to Hulu (if anything it is touch inferior) why was it launched in the first place?
Thanks to sites like Hulu, television sets have slowly but surely been losing their status as a necessity for American consumers. Now, whether legally or illegally, anyone with a computer and an ounce of internet savvy can access much, if not all, of the same content that previously the sole domain of televison. In fact, user-generated content has become so sophisticated that there are now television shows like Comedy Central’s “Tosh.0” which are dedicated to satirizing entertainment unique to the internet for a television grounded audience.
As Techgeist’s Michael Klurfield notes, the cable industry could see losses of up to $300 billion if television programs are offered online for free. To try and keep their customers and also in response to Comcast Corp.’s own Fancast website, AT&T has decided to see the Hulu side of things. This is where it gets really interesting.
AT&T’s long-term plan is to make AT&T Entertainment accessible by mobile users. Conveniently enough, AT&T has an exclusivity deal with Apple’s iPhone, an enormously popular product in its own regard. The endgame would have AT&T developing an iPhone app that will allow users to stream live television over 3G. In order to avoid any anti-trust legal issues, Apple will have to allow Hulu and others to create their own apps for the App Store.
What does this mean for you? Within a year or so it will be as normal to watch live programming on your phone as it is for you to watch it on your computer or TV set now. What is more, like all online media, it will be available for only a nominal fee. Now that’s what I’m talking about.