For AT&T, the IPTV game right now is about engagement. Customers who interact with their TVs churn at a much lower rate. And 65 to 70 percent of its viewers use a mobile device while they are watching TV several times a week.

“We’re watching churn and retention – churn is significantly lower with customers that are engaged,” said Maria Dillard, vice president of U-verse and video products at AT&T, during her keynote address at TelcoTV yesterday. “The other thing is ARPU. It’s about $170 with U-verse,” and even more than that with customers who are engaged.

So the company is putting resources into apps. She pointed to the Easy Remote app introduced late last month, developed specifically for hearing- and visually-impaired users. The app lets viewers use their tablets or smartphones as a remote to dramatically increase the size of buttons, to change the colors on the remote, in addition to accepting voice input commands.

From U-verse’s outset, AT&T has had TV apps, starting with remote access to DVRs. The company now has several dozen apps, including several for social networking, including one for Facebook.

“I was skeptical, but we’re seeing good engagement,” Dillard said.

The Santa Tracker gets great involvement year after year, and this year, the company’s app that allowed people to watch specific sports at the Olympics and call up associated information exceeded the Santa Tracker in terms of usage.

AT&T has been sharing APIs with developers, hoping to encourage the development of more apps that can pair or sync any device to any other with a U-verse receiver attached to it.

One example Dillard referred to in her keynote is Twonky-beam, “an app that lets you go to Internet, grab video, maybe from YouTube, hit the “beam” button, and now it’s on the big screen,” she said.

In an earlier interview with CED, Dillard was asked about any possible changes that might be on the horizon for U-verse equipment or the service’s DSL-based support network.

In terms of expanding the U-verse footprint, she said that with 30 million homes passed and 18 percent penetration, the company is planning on continuing to increase its penetration rate.

In terms of network speed, U-verse’s fastest tier – at 24 Mbps – has been more than adequate for its customers.

“We still have plenty of capability,” Dillard said.

When asked about AT&T Wireless collaborating with other service providers outside of the company’s geographical wireline footprint, as Verizon Wireless is doing with cable operators, she referred to the fact that AT&T already has a co-marketing relationship with DirecTV.