Verizon Deal with Promises to Bring Home-Made Video to FiOS TV (April 2007)

Verizon deals
Verizon Deal with Promises to Bring Home-Made Video to FiOS TV

Verizon is buttressing its ambitious effort to make Web-based video a significant component of TV viewing options in a deal with that aims to deliver user-generated content into the FiOS TV domain as well as to FiOS Broadband and VCast mobile customers.

Revver is providing to Verizon select, popular Editor’s Picks, Viral Video Classics, Extreme Sports, Laughs, Animation and Cute Overdose videos produced by Revver uploaders. Currently the content is featured on the FiOS Broadband portal, but later this year Verizon will format the video for living room TV viewing in an arrangement similar to one reached in February between Comcast and (see March issue, p. 27). 

Verizon also is negotiating with a wide range of television networks and other providers to deliver commercial Web video, Internet radio, podcast, game and other Internet content to its living room set-top boxes, all searchable through the FiOS Interactive Media Guide (IMG). The idea, says Joe Ambeault, FiOS director of interactive TV applications, is to deliver narrow-interest content of every type for every imaginable demographic.

Comcast, too, is moving in the direction of expanding Web video options for the TV (see story, p. 1). Now the race is on to see who can win early market recognition as the leading provider on this front.

Verizon was quick out of the box with introduction of its new IMG in its New Jersey territories earlier this year (see February issue, p. 10). Now the carrier is pushing to make the IMG available in all FiOS TV markets in conjunction with installing the underlying network functionalities that made the ambitious Web-to-TV strategy possible.

Verizon’s play with Revver offers some innovative wrinkles not seen in other user-generated content venues. According to Verizon officials, when users access other videos of interest on Verizon’s Surround broadband entertainment portal, they will be presented with related content from Revver.

For example, when a customer browses through movie downloads, the service will display Revver videos that relate to those movies.  Similarly, someone watching sports, accessing games or listening to music will see Revver videos related to that content.

Revver also brings a commercial twist to user-generated content that could be an interesting incentive to consumers as the service migrates to the TV. The company, which does not accept copyright-infringing content, is the first online video service to compensate users for sharing content online by splitting net advertising revenues 50/50. Revver says it will share revenue with users who have agreed to allow their content to be featured via Verizon FiOS TV and broadband services.

Revver’s approach to generating advertising revenues is similar to the content association it is supporting on Verizon’s portal. The company matches each video with relevant advertising and tracks videos as they are viewed.

“Our content strategy is something for everyone,” Ambeault says. “Typically, if someone asks, ‘Why do you offer that? It seems unlikely to attract a mass audience,’ I ask, ‘What’s your favorite content?’”

Tapping the Web for TV content assures everyone will get what they want, he adds. “Revver is certainly attracting a great following, so they make a great partner among the new, independent producers. Our theme is ‘All content across all cultures’.”

Asked what other categories of Web content Verizon plans to deliver to FiOS TV, Ambeault replies, “All of it: pop culture, international, demographics specific to children. We have one of the largest offerings of music videos on demand. There are lots of independently produced podcasts to which people are very loyal.” Another new option is streaming of favorite radio stations. “As a Boston refugee I look forward to hearing stations I heard for decades,” Ambeault says.

Verizon also is seeking Web video from its linear TV channel partners. “The notion here is that NBC, Discovery, ESPN – all these channels are aggregators” in the same vein as AOL, MobiTV or other aggregators on the Internet, he says. “We’d be looking for them to do very similar things on the Internet – take control of editorial, build brand equity – and then our job is to present it for consumers” through the IMG.

In embracing video, music and radio from the Web, “we’re very much extending our VOD strategy,” augmenting the existing MPEG-2 VOD service that is delivered over standard digital RF cable channels to the set-top box, he says. “We’ve done three-screen deals,” in negotiating content rights, he adds.

“But there’s a distinction in that Internet video options tend to be low resolution, more like 500- or 700-kilobyte files,” he notes. “We see it as an opportunity to open up TV beyond traditional providers. But picture quality remains top priority. User-generated content is not being delivered in 10- or 19-megabit HD. If we can’t acquire a piece of content in high resolution, we would still seek it, to support our all content across all cultures goal.”

Verizon believes that the all-content, all-cultures objective is a monetary winner, he says. “The advertising community has been really receptive to our bringing all this to one screen.”

First demonstrated in January at the Consumer Electronics Show 2007, Verizon’s IMG offers 360-degree search and maximum two-click access to TV channels, VOD, Internet video and music, interactive games and a subscriber’s personal, locally stored media through a single user interface across multiple fixed and wireless devices.

In addition to traditional linear channels, VOD and personal media, the IMG offers three broad areas: video, podcasts and Internet radio. “We’re also providing hyper-local weather and traffic that we reformat for TV navigation and near-zero latency and other information services,” Ambeault says.

As to Verizon’s efforts to bring content like Revver to FiOS TV, FiOS Broadband (through its Surround portal) and VCast mobile subscribers, Ambeault suggests that, although the company has not reached all-out fixed/mobile convergence in the sense of a single video server sending out content to all three networks, it is rapidly creating a converged fixed/mobile experience for its subscribers.

“From the consumer’s point of view, it’s one bill for all your services, including pass-through billing on broadband with third parties,” he says, noting FiOS TV subscribers already can access a showcase of VCast video services available to Verizon Wireless subscribers.

“Systems are getting more integrated every day,” he adds. “The notion of one magic video server [is] mostly up to engineers and their decisions about efficiency. My notion is consumers don’t buy protocols. As long as they get a unified experience, it’s a little immaterial.”  


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