AT&T CruiseCast: $1300 for BYOS (Bring Your Own Screen) Back-Seat TV for Your Car

cruisecast_logoI don’t have kids and I rarely go on long road trips, so I’m probably the last person in the country who would blow $1299 to put an AT&T CruiseCast antenna on top of my aging Honda Accord. But if you’ve got the money (and a preinstalled rear-seat entertainment system to hook the antenna signal into), the system and its $28-a-month service are now available.

Announced late last year, CruiseCast delivers 22 channels of broadcast-like satellite TV and 20 more of music via an antenna “the size of a child’s bicycle helmet,” RaySat Broadcasting Corp. CEO Winston Guillory Jr. told a web conference this morning. RaySat, AT&T’s partner in the service, developed much of the technology involved.

Cruisecast antenna on top of a Blazer SUV.

Cruisecast antenna on top of a Blazer SUV.

You can buy the antenna and have it installed through a network of resellers, including the big Crutchfield audio-video chain. Guillory says it is either bolted on to a roof rack if your vehicle has one, or attached via a mechanical mount.

The channel lineup includes some names you’d expect for the type of passenger that typically sits in a back seat: Disney, Discovery and Cartoon Network for the kids, ESPN and a couple of other sports channels for the older kids. Also on board are CNN, MSNBC and Fox (for center, left and right-oriented news); Adult Swim, USA and Sci-Fi networks (which I actually would watch); and AccuWeather (I have no idea who watches weather programming on a regular basis, do you?).

You won’t necessarily be getting the same versions of these networks as you would from your regular TV carrier. Several are the mobile versions created for cell phones.

I’m curious as to how well this system will work — and how it will compare to the less expensive MediaFlo-based competition coming from Audiovox. Guillory said one big advantage of CruiseCast is buffering technology RaySat developed that is supposed to keep your programming going even when you’re out of satellite signal range (like in a tunnel or forest).

I’m thinking this means that the programming-even the news or sports-isn’t exactly live, or how could it be buffered?

I’m also thinking that this isn’t the best of times to be launching such a high-end service. I mean, who travels so much that they need a $28-a-month service to sedate, er, entertain the kiddies?

It’s telling that today’s web conference was originally set for Monday-and rescheduled because the organizers realized that most reporters who normally cover these things would be busy covering GM’s bankruptcy.

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