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Verizon Enters New York With 100 HD Channels

Some 300,000 households in New York City are now able to sign up for Verizon FiOS service following the company’s final approval July 16 by the New York State Public Service Commission.

It’s also promising 100 HD channels—which takes the lead (at least for the moment) in HD services among the two other, already-established cablers.

Verizon FiOS said its century of channels will be offered in parts of New York’s five boroughs and sections of northern New Jersey, where the former phone company’s chief cable competition is Time Warner Cable and Cablevision. Its other competitors, DBS firms DirecTV and Dish, are well ahead of cable (and about par now with Verizon) for the number of HD channels offered.

Cablevision, for its part, announced this week it will add 15 HD outlets to its NYC coverage area—bringing its total HD lineup to about 60.

In the skies, Dish said it expects to have 100 national HD channels by Aug. 1, and local HD in 100 markets by year’s end. DirecTV says it offers 90 national HD channels now and will have the power to beam 200 national HD channels after the launch of DirecTV 12 in 2009. It is also launching local HD in 44 markets in August, bringing local HD in 121 markets by year’s end.

Included in Verizon’s new 100 total are a dozen HBO channels (including West Coast time-zone channels), and at least five Showtime channels (also including West Coast channels)—thus providing virtually identical content across several channels, but at different viewing times.

In addition to the 100 HD outlets, Verizon FiOS said it’s also offering its new HD sign-ups about 400 HD VOD titles each month (about the same quantity the other cablers are providing). For marketing purposes, Verizon is combining its 100 HD channels and 400 HD on-demand titles and touting its service as one with “500 HD choices.”

FiOS was designed by Verizon as a “strategy to bolster [Verizon’s] home phone business and compete with cable companies’ all-in-one phone, video and Internet offerings,” CNBC said on July 28. But, the business channel warned, “Analysts said [second quarter] results showed the company’s massive investment in FiOS was failing to stem a loss in traditional phone subscribers amid a weak economy.”

The company lists 108 neighborhoods from Bronxdale to Far Rockaway for its initial launch. Installations were expected to begin July 30. The company promised to hit every street in the city, reaching all 3.1 million households, “in the next few years,” although the company’s contract with the city mandates complete penetration only if certain goals are met.

To help get the word out about FiOS, a full ensemble of actors hit Grand Central Station to recreate the follow-you-everywhere “network” technicians from Verizon’s TV commercials.

The company said it has already wired 800 multiple-dwelling units (apartment buildings and condos) in the city.