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Set-top search engine, ETV among the items on Verizon's video docket

Thu, 10/05/2006 - 8:47am
Jeff Baumgartner, CED

LAS VEGAS -- Verizon has jotted down a lengthy video to-do list as the telco looks to enhance its FiOS product lineup in 2007.

Complementing its existing slate of MoCA-powered multi-room DVRs and "TV Widgets" applications (real-time local weather and traffic updates), Verizon has a 2007 video roadmap that will sprinkle in a "FiOS TV portal," enhanced television applications, local VOD content, on-demand advertising, and personalized play list capabilities.

On the latter, the telco will employ a new set-top-based search, according to Robert Ingalls, Verizon's chief marketing officer, who was here Wednesday morning to keynote the fifth annual FTTH Conference & Expo.

On the VOD front, Verizon also expects to offer extras that are typically found on retail DVDs. SeaChange International, Verizon's primary VOD partner, has a "DVD on Demand" application, which is also available to the vendor's cable MSO customers.

While conceding Comcast Corp. as the VOD leader in terms of titles offered, Ingalls also paid the largest U.S. MSO somewhat of a backhanded compliment.

"It's not the number of titles; it's the quality of the content," he said, noting that Verizon today offers about 2,800 titles on-demand. Comcast of late has claimed to have a VOD library of more than 7,500 programs.

In a separate discussion with reporters and analysts, Ingalls addressed TV "place-shifting," a concept made popular by the Sling Media Slingbox. While it's clearly possible on a technical level, Verizon does not plan to offer such a service without proper DRM safeguards and agreements from its programming partners, Ingalls said.

In terms of high-speed data, Ingalls reiterated that Verizon's current BPON-based platform is capable of delivering high-speed Internet services on the order of 100 Mbps downstream, though the company presently markets a tier that only reaches as high as 50 Mbps. In FiOS pockets, cable operators such as Cablevision Systems Corp. have countered with 50 Mbps Internet services of their own. Competitive pressures in some of these markets could push cable operators to enlist DOCSIS channel bonding techniques to increase speeds even higher.

"We know we have to deliver a superior product," Ingalls said, adding later that Verizon, in what looks like a page from cable's PacketCable Multimedia (PCMM) playbook, is looking to offer bandwidth-on-demand services as well, to customers who want a speed boost for activities such as movie downloads.

At the end of the second quarter of 2006, Verizon's fiber-fed FiOS network passed 4.4 million homes and businesses. The company already supplies FiOS-based Internet services to 725,000 customers. Verizon hopes to have 175,000 video subs by year-end.

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