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Trying Harder: Rent-a-TV

July 7, 2009 | Author: sysadmindgs

It’s hard to differentiate your company in the car rental business. Once you have a lot full of late model cars at or near major airports, what’s left? Well, Avis is teaming up with AT&T to offer mobile TV in their cars at vacation destinations in Florida. Avis adds $8.95 a day for the AT&T CruiseCast service, or $62.65 per week.

What do you get for this extra fee? The service includes 22 channels including Cartoon Network Mobile, Disney Channel, DisneyXD, Discovery Kids, USA Network, Discovery, Animal Planet, SCI FI, Lifetime Television, Adult Swim Mobile, ESPN Mobile, NFL Network, CBS College Sports Network, FOX News, CNN Mobile, MSNBC and AccuWeather. (Yup, I copied and pasted that list from the press release.) Clearly, there’s something for just about everyone there. The system is an aftermarket add-on, with LCD panels that strap onto the back of the front seat headrests, headsets for the backseat viewers, and a 12-volt power plug. A rooftop antenna receives the signals from a satellite; the programming also includes 20 additional audio channels. The system buffers up to two minutes of content and is designed to provide uninterrupted playback even when the signal is lost by going under bridges or tunnels, or it is blocked by tall buildings.

I find this interesting on a number of counts. First, it means that passengers won’t actually have to look at any of the places that they visit, which I think is probably their loss. I remember the games we’d play to entertain ourselves on long car rides when I was a kid, and I worry that watching another episode of Sponge Bob is not likely to have the same effect. On a more positive note, this service could serve as a bellweather for mobile TV services in general. If people really want the latest information from Sports Center or Weather Channel or news headlines while out and about, it may show up in the demand for these car rental units. And the Avis experiment could give people a taste of the benefits without having to make a long term commitment, which could lead to people signing up for similar service for their cell phones or other mobile devices.

If you want to try out the AT&T CruiseCast, make a reservation with Avis for a car at Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, Orlando, Tampa or West Palm Beach. (Yup, another cut-and-paste.) Let me know how it works out for you at alfred@hdtvprofessor.com.