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AT&T CruiseCast Gets Hard Launch

Dallas — AT&T CruiseCast officially launched its car satellite service offering 22 channels of video and 20 channels of audio, revealing its final channel lineup for the first time. It also said Crutchfield will carry the product.

The $1,299 satellite-video system, first announced last November, will carry the USA Network, CNN Mobile, SciFi, Adult Swim, Discovery, Lifetime, Animal Planet, ESPN Mobile, Cartoon Network Mobile Disney, AccuWeather and other channels, plus five additional channels aimed at tweens and teenagers.

The technology is reaching the market at a time when growth in other key car electronics technologies, such as satellite radio and portable GPS, has slowed. RaySat Broadcasting president Winston Guillory calls new satellite systems for the car “the next major trend in consumer electronics.”
AT&T CruiseCast is a collaboration between RaySat Broadcasting and AT&T.  It uses a technology that helps overcome the line-of-sight obstacles in delivering TV programming to the car, such as interference from overpasses, building and trees, by buffering the video for several minutes. The system includes a black box the size of a book that hides under the seat of a car and connects to most rear-seat entertainment systems. It has an antenna the size and shape of a child’s bicycle helmet that attaches to the roof by a magnetic mount or a roof rack mount. The unit must be professionally installed and carries a $28/month service fee.

The product received a soft launch earlier this spring through a few retailers including Al & Ed’s Autosound.  About 600 retailers have signed up to carry the product and CruiseCast plans to offer its product through expeditors and new car dealers.  It is also in talks with car makers to provide the system as a factory option in new cars.

On a conference call Wednesday Guillory said Best Buy and Car Toys have expressed interest in the product.

But the CruiseCast service will have competition. Audiovox plans to offer a MediaFLO DTV tuner, at a target price of $599 to $699 (installed), in late September or early October through car dealers with car stereo specialists to follow early next year.

ICO Global Communications is also planning a car-TV satellite, and a new mobile DTV standard permitting simulcasts of standard TV shows on mobile devices could reach the market next year by suppliers including Kenwood. Guillory claimed that the AT&T CruiseCast service might also add DTV programming in the future.

Guillory notes that the product will benefit from its partnership with AT&T in marketing and access to content partners and in possibly allowing Internet or two-way communication in the future.

While Guillory would like to see AT&T CruiseCast offered as part of AT&T U-verse bill, that is not currently an option.   

Guillory also said CruiseCast is working on reducing the size of the antenna and the cost of the system.