AT&T May Drop Dish, But Still Has U-verse

AT&T has decided not to renew its contract to resell television services provided by Dish Networks. The announcement, made last night in a filing from Dish with the SEC, have sent shares of the satellite company tumbling and analysts rushing to point out that this may not be the end for Dish and AT&T. My question is, why not? Where the heck is AT&T’s belated IPTV service?

Several analysts said that AT&T’s refusal to automatically renew the five-year-old contract means the telco will try to negotiate a better deal by bringing Dish rival DirectTV to the table. Others say this kills any hope that AT&T might buy Dish. But Dish has been a stopgap measure to give AT&T a triple play of voice, data and video as the cable guys encroached on the voice business. AT&T has always wanted to offer its own video service.

Six years ago I sat through demos of AT&T’s Project Lightspeed (now Homezone) and marveled at the coming television service options ahead. By that measure I’ve spent a fifth of my life waiting for U-verse as it worked through technical hurdles and issues with the Microsoft platform. And only now is the service getting widely rolled out. Dare I hope that AT&T is actually getting close to owning its own triple play?

Right now, according to an emailed response from an AT&T spokesman, “U-verse TV is our primary offering in the areas where it is available, but AT&T | DISH is available across our footprint.” As U-verse expands, losing the AT&T contract may not be such a blow.