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Verizon’s video service makes Big Apple debut

Mon, 07/28/2008 - 8:45am
Mike Robuck

After clearing the final regulatory hurdle earlier this month, Verizon didn’t waste any time when it said today that its FiOS video service would be available in parts of all five boroughs in New York City.

Specifically, the video service will be available in 108 neighborhoods across the city, and Verizon is boasting that the 100 high-definition (HD) channel lineup that it’s offering has more HD content than Cablevision and Time Warner Cable (TWC), New York City’s two cable operators (story here). Time Warner Cable provides services in the boroughs of Staten Island, Manhattan, Queens and one-third of Brooklyn. Cablevision offers its video services in the Bronx and the remaining area of Brooklyn, as well as in areas outside of New York City such as Westchester County, where it competes directly with Verizon.

Cablevision announced today that it has added 15 new HD channels (story here),  which brings its total to 60. A Cablevision spokesperson also pointed out that his company doesn’t charge extra for HD set-top boxes, while Verizon charges more for its HD set-top box than for its standard-definition (SD) box.

“If you look at Verizon's list, at least 42 of their 100 channels are premium movie channels or premium movie multiplexes (they have a dozen Cinemax channels on there, for example), and the vast majority of our 60 channels are included in expanded basic, so they are available to customers whether they have premium movie channel subscriptions or not,” the spokesperson wrote to CED in an e-mail.

Verizon, which is headquartered in New York City, will start installing the service – which can be bundled with its wireline and wireless phone and broadband services – in customers’ homes on Wednesday.

The first phase of the FiOS TV launch will pass roughly 300,000 homes. Verizon said it expects to reach half a million homes by the end of the year.

Over the past few weeks, the telco has been advertising in local newspapers while mailing and placing promotional materials in the neighborhoods where the service will first be launched. Verizon said a mass media advertising campaign is underway, and today employees will take orders and schedule installations outside of Grand Central Station.

“These advance orders blew past all of our projections,” said Maura Breen, Verizon’s GM for New York. “We’ve had great success in the suburban areas around the city. Now it's time to put the Verizon FiOS TV show on Broadway – and eventually every other street, avenue and boulevard in the city – so New Yorkers can kiss old-fashioned cable good bye."

In order to help launch FiOS TV, Verizon has come up with several bundles of service, including one for $94.99 per month that “will knock out cable,” according to a Verizon Webcast this morning. The features for the $94.99 tier include: broadband with 20 Mbps downstream and 5 Mbps upstream, Verizon’s “Freedom Essentials” phone service with unlimited local and long-distance calling, and FiOS TV with 54 free HD channels.

Verizon, which is building out the new fiber optic system to reach all of New York City's estimated 3.1 million homes, has previously said that 30 percent of its new network would be built by the end of this year, 50 percent by the end of 2010, and all of it by 2014.

Verizon has also been busy installing its fiber optics in multiple-dwelling units (MDUs) in all five boroughs. In this morning’s Webcast, Verizon touted the fiber installs that have already been completed in Peter Cooper Village in New York. Verizon claims that the bendable fiber gives it an advantage on MDU installs, although cable operators can install their own fiber in the same environment.

“Our engineering and installation teams have been able to wire some 800 MDUs already,” Breen said. “Using this innovative technology has really given us a boost in designing build plans for these buildings. And we're in discussions with hundreds of other building and property owners to bring FiOS to their properties. It's a huge marketing advantage to have apartments that are FiOS-ready."

During this morning’s Webcast, Verizon’s Virginia Ruesterholz said the company would reach its goal of 150 HD channels that was stated in January of this year, although there is work to do in the other markets.

On July 16, the New York State Public Service Commission signed off on the agreement between Verizon and the city of New York that let the telco offer video services.

New York City will receive 5 percent of the fees from Verizon’s video service, which is the maximum amount allowed by federal law and the same amount Time Warner Cable and Cablevision pay.

Time Warner Cable and Cablevision’s franchise agreements are set to expire this year, but after preliminary hearings in January, the two cable operators are working on renewing their agreements with the city.

More Broadband Direct:

• Verizon's video service makes Big Apple debut

• Verizon boosts sub count in Q2

• LG Electronics, Funai Electric ink tru2way MOU

• FCC rebuffs Qwest on deregulation request

• Verizon revamps HD lineup for NYC launch

• Blog on Verizon FiOS launch: Can you hear me now?

• New Comcast triple-play subs to receive free Wii

• Cisco leads funding round for Celeno Communications

• Motorola splits previously combo'd divisions

• Broadband Briefs for 7/28/08

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