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NEW YORK (Reuters) - AT&T Inc is gearing up to bring connected car users exclusive content such as videos and games that can be streamed onto personal mobile devices later this year, AT&T's senior vice president of emerging devices Chris Penrose said.
"It's no different than being able to hook onto a Wi-Fi hotspot anywhere and get access to content you already subscribe to and get unique content that you could only get in the back of the vehicle," Penrose said.
AT&T has signed up eight automaker partners, including General Motors Co, Audi AG and Ford Motor Co, to hook up cars with Internet access. The goal is to offer free or paid content exclusively for connected car users and sell more data, Penrose said in a recent interview.
AT&T is talking to its auto industry partners and content companies to bring new content like "special" shows or gaming levels on phones and tablets in connected cars, Penrose said. This would be in addition to subscription services such as Hulu and Netflix that users can already stream on mobile devices.
Most Americans already own a mobile phone, and the $1.7 trillion U.S. wireless industry is turning to connected cars and devices for growth. Besides being the essential pipes that deliver data, telecom players such as AT&T are looking to extract revenue from content.
GM has begun testing new content on its OnStar in-vehicle service best known for connecting drivers to live operators for directions or emergency help.
The subscription-based service, which also sells data to drivers, has special offers and some exclusive content on apps such as Famigo, an educational app for kids, and TumblebooksTV, a children's digital books app. It also has retail partnerships with Dunkin' Donuts and travel booking site Priceline.com for location-based deals.
AT&T is exploring business models that include revenue share for data, content and advertising with automakers, content and retail partners, Penrose said without sharing specific details.
AT&T is working with automakers to design a landing page or a portal for users to log in to access content, get vehicle service updates and buy data, he said.
"A lot of (content and offers) can be targeted to the make and models of the vehicles. (AT&T's auto partners) have got a lot demographic information knowing who's buying what type of vehicle, which type of content that is going to be most relevant."
Reporting by Malathi Nayak; Editing by Richard Chang