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AT&T tests streaming waters

The telecommunications giant is testing ways to help companies run pay-per-view or subscription services online.

AT&T said Tuesday that it is testing ways to help media and entertainment companies deliver streaming video over the Web.

The telecommunications company said the trials will focus on providing pay-per-view and subscription-based services using AT&T Broadband's Digital Media Center. AT&T said the center manages hundreds of pay-per-view events and more than 50,000 live sports events for cable TV and satellite distribution.

AT&T also said it has launched a new Media Network Operations Center that will offer monitoring and management services for the distribution of broadcast video.

With the trials, AT&T is pushing into the streaming-media market already crowded by leaders such as Microsoft and RealNetworks. For instance, RealNetworks' content-subscription service has drawn hundreds of thousands of paying customers in the past year. Companies from AOL Time Warner to Yahoo hope to replicate that service's early success with their own paid offerings.

"What's different with all these big companies is they tend to have the potential of much more business relationships--they're a much stronger partner," said Peter Christy, co-founder of Los Altos, Calif.-based NetsEdgeResearch Group. "Having somebody like AT&T is a different category than dealing with a dot-com start-up."

AT&T said it is testing services to let people view a Webcast at their convenience rather than a scheduled time. The company said it would tap into its own resources to host content, provide payment services, locate and access purchased content, and track customer use. In addition, AT&T said it would provide security against unauthorized access to the content.