AT&T gung-ho on TV expansion


Despite delays, AT&T remains committed to its broadband U-verse competitor to cable and CEO Randall Stephenson told analysts yesterday that AT&T’s target is to have U-verse available to 30 million customers by 2010. The AT&T CEO said that new target number includes putting the broadband service into markets formerly served by BellSouth, which AT&T acquired last year. The renewed public commitment seems to counter recent Wall Street speculation that the company was disappointed in subscriber acceptance of U-verse and was looking at a possible acquisition of EchoStar’s Dish Network satellite TV service as a way to expand more rapidly in TV. U-verse is still in a start-up phase, with AT&T projecting that it will surpass one million subscribers by the end of 2008.

AT&T’s stock, by the way, jumped yesterday as the company announced its biggest dividend increase ever, a 12.7% increase that boosted the annual dividend payout by 18 cents to a buck-60 per share. AT&T also announced that its board had approved a new share buyback authorization for 400 million shares. AT&T bought back more than 13 billion bucks worth of its own shares under the previous buyback authorization announced in 2006.