Verizon Launches Video Service

IPTV's opening shot was fired in Keller, Texas this week as Verizon finally launched its FiOS TV service in the small town just 30 miles west of Dallas.

Designed to compete with broadcast, cable and satellite TV, Verizon's fiber to the premises service will include a collection of all-digital programming, more than 20 HD channels, nearly 600 VOD titles, channels grouped by genre, interactive programming and more.

Verizon's launch, soon to be followed by the rollout of a similar IPTV venture from SBC Communications, represents the largest telcoTV effort yet. The two companies are lobbying state, local and federal legislators to revise regulations to allow franchises on a state level--rather than local levels--as applied to the cable industry. They succeeded in Texas, where Gov. Rick Perry signed a bill into law earlier this month that enables them to obtain such statewide video franchise agreements.

Verizon's FiOS-based ("Fiber Optic Services") Internet service, launched in 2004, is now in 30 percent of eligible households, according to Verizon. FiOS will soon be available to neighboring areas in Texas, including Wylie, Sachse and Westlake, later in the year. Verizon also plans to expand its service to cities in Florida, Virginia and California where it has video franchises.

Services include Basic--with access to 15-35 local broadcast, weather and community channel, Expand Basic--with more than 180 video and music channel and access to 600 on-demand titles and La Conexion--for bilingual consumers who watch TV in English and Spanish.

Verizon also announced it has inked a long-term programming agreement for multiple Disney and ESPN networks and services. As part of the deal, Verizon FiOS TV will offer 12 Disney and ESPN networks and on expanded basic, including ABC Family, ABC News Now, Disney Channel, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Classic, ESPNEWS, ESPNU, ESPN HD, ESPN2 HD, Toon Disney and SOAPnet. Verizon will also get retransmission consent of ABC's O&O stations.

Verizon will carry major Disney and ESPN programming and broadband services including:

  • A Disney and ESPN broadband product portfolio including ABC News Now, Disney Connection, ESPN360, and a newly launched broadband soap opera product

  • ESPN Deportes, the ESPN 24-hour Spanish-language sports network, and Toon Disney en Espanol on Verizon's Hispanic expanded basic and tier packages

  • A VOD content portfolio including On Demand services from ABC Family, ABC News Now, Disney Channel, ESPN, ESPN Deportes, ESPNU, Jetix, Radio Disney TV, SOAPnet and Toon Disney

  • Buena Vista Pay Television

  • ESPN Pay-Per-View

In addition, the two companies have agreed to help protect digital content by following the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Right Act. As part of the agreement Verizon will forward and track notices to subs who engage in what is considered "unauthorized distribution" of Disney copyrighted works, according to Verizon. If copyright materials are distributed illegally, Verizon reports that it will identify subscribers to Disney and possibly terminate its Internet service to those subscribers.