published Thursday, November 29th, 2012

No TV needed: EPB2Go pushes beyond Chattanooga customers' living rooms

Jon Hamilton, an Alcatel employee from Plano, Texas, installs CAT-5 Ethernet cabling in a newly renovated EPB building at their facilities on Oak Street and Greenwood Avenue. The system is being installed to service their fiber to home customers.
Jon Hamilton, an Alcatel employee from Plano, Texas, installs CAT-5 Ethernet cabling in a newly renovated EPB building at their facilities on Oak Street and Greenwood Avenue. The system is being installed to service their fiber to home customers.
Photo by Patrick Smith.

EPB has launched a portal that streams video content to users through their personal computers, a service that will compete with existing offerings from Comcast and AT&T.

The local effort by the Chattanooga utility comes amid maturing plans from national competitors, which already have launched similar services and mobile apps that cover nearly every aspect of the TV-watching experience.

EPB2Go will now allow news hounds, Justin Bieber fans and sports junkies alike to stream fresh video content from 13 networks without ever turning on their TV, said EPB spokeswoman Danna Bailey.

WHAT THEY OFFER

EPB:

• Offers a web portal on any PC that links to other sites that can stream live or On Demand content to EPB customers

• Customers can download third-party streaming apps and authenticate using their EPB credentials, but no native app

Comcast:

• Offers Xfinity On Demand and live TV streaming from a web portal on any PC

• Customers can download both Comcast and third-party apps to watch content

AT&T U-Verse:

• Offers On Demand and live TV streaming from a web portal on any PC

• Customers can download both U-Verse and third-party apps to watch content

"We know customers want to watch content wherever they are," Bailey said. "This is the beginning of our effort to make that possible for them."

While much of the content already is available through individual sites like CNN or HBO, the utility's effort to bring the content to one place is hoped to create a one-stop-shop, said Katie Espeseth, vice president of new products at EPB.

EPB customers can access cable news, movie and TV websites through the new EPB2Go portal, and must then use MyFi authentication to log in, Espeseth said.

As with Comcast and AT&T's offerings, customers must be EPB subscribers to stream content.

"Our goal is for our EPB site to become your home page," Espeseth said.

Though EPB doesn't have a specific mobile app, customers who download third-party broadcast apps now can log in using their EPB credentials to activate free streaming, she said.

"This is going to allow customers to come to one place to get access on the go, to see the networks they're already subscribed to through their EPB fiber optics," she said. "Much of this is already available, but we're trying to put it all in one place."

Gig city

It's the final piece of the entertainment puzzle for EPB, which has made national headlines for its one-of-a-kind gigabit fiber but has lagged others in streaming and mobile offerings.

Comcast for years has offered customers web and mobile access in excess of EPB2Go, said Jim Weigert, vice president and general manager for Comcast Chattanooga.

The cable giant currently offers mobile apps that allow customers to stream TV anywhere, record shows and manage account information. Comcast also has an enormous 95,000-title On Demand library available to stream from a laptop, tablet or cellphone.

"We have lots of options for customers and have had for a very long time, and continue to evolve and add value with new exciting features to apps all the time," Weigert said. "So some other providers are just starting to offer just part of what we have offered customers for a long time as added value to their Xfinity service."

AT&T's U-Verse has allowed customers to record and watch TV shows from their mobile device since 2010, and was the first TV provider that allowed customers to both manage their DVR and download certain shows, the company said.

Users can watch TV, share on Facebook or control their TV with an iPad, said spokeswoman Cathy Lewandowski.

It's part of a big mobile push across platforms on the part of all service providers. The idea is to give consumers access to TV and movies from any location and at any time, bundling the cost of providing access into the regular bill.

"Even when you're away from home, you can still access your favorite content with the U-verse app for your smartphone or tablet," said AT&T's Lewandowski.

For now, EPB won't be charging anything for its new service, and says there's no pressure to do so.

"Today, it's included in your tiered service with us and that's how the content sources view it as well," said Espeseth. "It's just another outlet for their customers to view their content."

about Ellis Smith...

Ellis Smith joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in January 2010 as a business reporter. His beat includes the flooring industry, Chattem, Unum, Krystal, the automobile market, real estate and technology. Ellis is from Marietta, Ga., and has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of West Georgia. He previously worked at UTV-13 News, Carrollton, Ga., as a producer; at the The West Georgian, Carrollton, Ga., as editor; and at the Times-Georgian, Carrollton, ...

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