AT&T and Verizon both broadened their service baskets last month.
AT&T began selling its U-verse IP-based TV service (IPTV) through some 600 Circuit City and Wal-Mart stores, while Verizon began offering an extended-service program that provides repairs, equipment replacement and technical support for PCs and TVs in addition to phone equipment.
AT&T's agreements are the first with national retailers for its fiber-optic broadband service, which also includes VoIP phone and high-speed Internet. The carrier already sells its phone and Internet services through the two chains, where it is sold on sales floors and through in-store kiosks.
U-verse is currently available in Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas and Wisconsin, with additional markets to follow.
The carrier expects to have more than 1 million U-verse TV customers in service by the end of this year.
Verizon's extended-service program, called Expert Care, consists of three levels of service, including an onsite option that is provided by Circuit City's Firedog operation.
Verizon is the second major carrier to extend its support services to CE products. In August AT&T introduced a program called ConnecTech that provides custom home theater installation, PC repairs and wireless home network setup. The company's consumer marketing operations senior VP, Carmen Nava, acknowledged that AT&T launched the program to tap into a home services marketplace valued at $1 billion.
Verizon's three tiers of Expert Care service include:
- "device protection," which provides repair or replacement of multiple computers, TVs and telephones for $5 to $20 a month;
- "premium technical support," which features a 10-month subscription plan, priced at $15 a month, which includes around-the-clock telephone and online support for PC-related issues, and;
- "premium onsite support," outsourced to Circuit City's Firedog unit, for issues ranging from operating system installations to full PC and home network setups, billed on a per-use basis.
"Because customers trust us for their home entertainment and communications needs, they also want us to help them resolve problems with the growing number of sophisticated consumer electronics devices throughout their homes," said Peter Castleton, Verizon corporate marketing executive director. "We developed Expert Care to give customers the kind of support they need to keep their digital home networks humming."