by Sanford Nowlin, Express-News Business Writer
Time Warner next month will flash caller ID on customers' TV screens
when they get a phone call, a sign that the cable company is taking
SBC Communications Inc.'s television aspirations seriously.
Time Warner will make the new feature available Oct. 10 to all San
Antonio customers who subscribe to both its digital phone and digital
cable service. It will be free, and customers have the option of
turning it off.
The on-screen caller ID concept is something San Antonio-based SBC has
touted as a perk of the video-over-Internet television service it
plans to launch in major markets about the end of the year.
"This just shows that where there's competition, the customer wins,"
said Jeff Kagan, an Atlanta-based telecom analyst. "When you've got
the phone company getting into the TV business, you'll see the prices
drop and the innovation start to go up."
SBC is spending $4 billion to provide video service over its broadband
Internet lines. It hopes to reach 18 million of its customers -- or
about half its service area -- by mid-2008.
All along, the company has said it wants the added features made
possible by its Internet-based system to be a prime selling point.
San Antonio will be the first of Time Warner's 31 U.S. cable divisions
to get on-screen caller ID. The rest will follow over the next two
Time Warner officials said they selected San Antonio because it's one
of the cable giant's best phone-service markets. Since launching
digital phone service here a year ago in competition with SBC, it has
signed up more than 50,000 households.
"We think SBC will notice that it's being launched here and in a big
way," Time Warner Vice President Jeff Henry said. "This is just the
tip of the iceberg."
Time Warner will introduce other high-tech features in coming months,
Henry said. Among them is a service that lets customers keep track of
their bids on the eBay online auction service via a TV set.
SBC officials said they're not surprised a major competitor wants to
introduce perks such as on-screen caller ID as the company gets closer
to breaking into the TV business.
But they questioned whether the cable company could duplicate other
planned features - from the ability to record a favorite program via
cell phone to picking your own camera angle for basketball games.
"Caller ID has been around since the '80s, and the ability to bring it
to the screen isn't necessarily new either," SBC spokesman Selim
Bingol said. "There are lots of other features of our service that
will make it stand apart."
Copyright 2005 San Antonio Express News
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