On the day that the chief executive of Verizon addressed a national convention of broadcasters, the phone company announced that it had signed its first deal with a television network in the run up to the launch of its new broadband video service, as William Cooper reports from Las Vegas.
Ivan Seidenberg, the chairman and chief executive of Verizon Communications opened the first day of the National Association of Broadcasters annual convention.
It seemed significant that a telephone guy was addressing a broadcasting convention in a keynote speech, and it even seemed something of a surprise to the man who has worked his way to the top of the telephone industry in a career that began as a cable splicer’s assistant.
Verizon is planning to offer video services through an ambitious fibre optic-backed FiOS-TV internet protocol television service which it plans to launch later this year.
“For more than a decade,” he said, “we’ve been talking about ‘convergence’: the idea that what used to be separate domains – phone calls, photos, music, movies, games, video – would be united in a continuous stream of bits and bytes.” That day, it seems, has now arrived. “A new generation of technologies and a new generation of consumers have thrown all of our tidy definitions and old ideas into a giant multimedia Mixmaster to turn America into a broadband nation.”
“After many years of predictions and a couple of false starts along the way, these new broadband networks are launching us – once and for all – into the world of television and entertainment.”
The Verizon chairman said that the new fibre network would deliver data at up to 30Mb/s downstream and 5Mb/s upstream, with video at 100Mb/s downstream and up to 15Mb/s upstream.
“We’re signing deals with broadcasters, programmers, software and hardware companies to assemble a video package that will deliver the best possible customer experience,” he said.
He argued that the abundant bandwidth of fibre meant that the company was well positioned to deal with some of the issues that have faced cable companies, such as “must carry” and the retransmission of additional digital terrestrial channels.
He also appealed to the broadcasters present to support a “compelling competitive alternative to cable”. He later told reporters he was open to compensating broadcasters for their channels.
Following the conference keynote, Marilyn O’Connell, senior vice president for broadband solutions at Verizon, revealed that they had just signed their first deal with a broadcast network, NBC, and had other distribution deals with other providers, including Discovery and Starz Encore.