Verizon exec: Telcos can reinvent video viewing

Thu, 11/13/2008 - 7:40am
Mike Robuck

ANAHEIM, Calif. – According to a Verizon executive, TV viewing isn’t dead, but it is in serious need of a makeover.

John Harrobin

During his TelcoTV keynote address yesterday, Verizon’s John Harrobin, senior vice president of marketing and digital media, said that the current model of watching linear broadcast TV “lacks intimacy and control” for the viewers.While the number of linear channels has increased dramatically, the TV audience is more fragmented. Not surprisingly, Harrobin said telcos have the best opportunity to reinvent the video-viewing experience.

Harrobin talked about Verizon’s ability to offer video content across the three screens of TVs, PCs and mobile devices. For example, both Verizon and AT&T had distribution deals in place for the Summer Olympics in Beijing that allowed them to present live event coverage on linear TV, broadband Internet and mobile device platforms.

In short, Harrobin said the telcos can do a better job of delivering content where viewers want it and when they want it.

“Our job is to determine the right technology for the right trends,” he said.

Platform assets, data and mobile services, and direct billing relationships with customers also make AT&T and Verizon the best partners for content providers, according to Harrobin.

On the data side, Harrobin said downstream speeds of 100 Mbps are within the realm of possibility, which Verizon will need now that cable operators such as Comcast are starting to offer DOCSIS 3.0-enabled wideband data speeds of 50 Mbps, which is Verizon’s current download speed.

Verizon’s fiber-optic network has also allowed it to do three software upgrades to set-top boxes this year.

On the video side, Harrobin claimed that Verizon’s 100 HD channels and VOD library were both larger than what cable can offer in competing markets.

In addition to the widgets, such as real-time sports scores and weather updates, that are already deployed, Verizon is working on a social networking widget that will allow Facebook users to share information with friends. Harrobin also pointed out that the widgets use cable’s Enhanced Binary Interchange Format (EBIF) standard, and that Verizon deployed EBIF ahead of cable operators (story here).

For wireless, Harrobin touted the rollout of LTE technology and fourth-generation mobile services as another platform advantage for his company.

“The magic happens when we connect all of those platforms, and the customers decide how they use it,” he said. “TV is far from dead, but it’s in desperate need of revitalization. No one is in a better position to reinvent television than telcos.”

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