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AT&T Wireless Looks To Hook Up Hoops Fans

3/12/2009 1:48 PM Eastern

AT&T Wireless, through a deal with CBS Sports, will make all 63 games of the 2009 NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament available to customers that subscribe to one of its Mobile TV packages for no extra charge.

AT&T provides live TV through Qualcomm's MediaFLO subsidiary, which is continuing to build out its dedicated nationwide network for broadcast video

"People go mad to watch TV during March Madness," said AT&T Wireless spokesman Mark Siegel. "We're letting them watch it wherever they are."

The carrier will have four live TV channels dedicated to the tourney, ensuring subs can catch the live action of every game at any given time. The MediaFLO service is available in more than 50 metro markets.

Verizon Wireless, which also offers MediaFLO's live TV service, will carry a single March Madness channel from CBS during the tournament. Depending on market, Verizon's mobile TV customers will receive either the East Coast or West Coast feed.

CBS's deal with AT&T is more expansive, with the carrier providing highlights and clips through its mobile VOD service and a companion application that will let viewers track their bracket picks from CBSSports.com.

"We're providing multiple ways to experience the content," said Jeff Sellinger, CBS Mobile executive vice president and general manager.

AT&T's Mobile TV service, priced starting at $15 per month, is available on four handsets: LG Electronics' Vu and Invision, and Samsung Electronics' Eternity and Access.  The telco is running a promotion tied to March Madness offering two months free mobile TV service.

The telco is the biggest wireless operator in the U.S. with 77 million mobile voice and data subscribers. However, the company does not break out how many of those have opted for one of the live TV packages.

In a separate deal with Apple, CBS also is selling an application for Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch devices that will provide live streaming of the same 63 games.

The iPhone app uses MobiTV's streaming infrastructure to deliver live video over a Wi-Fi connection -- and only a Wi-Fi connection.

While AT&T is currently the exclusive telecom provider for iPhone voice and data service, Siegel pointed out that only the carrier's mobile TV subs will be able to access the games wirelessly without a Wi-Fi hookup. AT&T had activated more than 4 million iPhone 3G customers as of the end of 2008.

September