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Verizon herded a group of press into the Palms this afternoon to talk about its mobile and broadband-based TV strategy, which it has been spending billions on to compete with cable and the other phone companies on the video front.
True to speculation, Verizon Wireless announced some details of its broadcast mobile TV efforts, powered by Qualcomm’s MediaFLO, including content deals with the likes of CBS, Comedy Central, FOX, NBC, and MTV, as well as two launch handsets made by LG and Samsung.
MediaFLO is supposed to launch in the first quarter of this year, reportedly in 20 to 30 markets, but today’s release just says in “many major U.S. markets.” The service worked well at the Palms, thanks perhaps to what some were speculating was a makeshift MediaFLO tower right outside. Verizon Wireless is the first carrier to sell the service, which will be under its VCast brand, but didn’t reveal any pricing. Who wants to pay much more than the already $15 VCast service? Sprint and T-Mobile have conducted MediaFLO trials but have not outlined their plans to launch it commercially.
In the Q&A session, Verizon President and COO Denny Strigl admitted he could spend only 15 to 20 minutes watching the service every day, but thought his customers would probably watch more. Uh, let’s hope so, as the whole idea behind MediaFLO is that customers will want to watch long-form content on mobile devices. Of course these days anything longer than YouTube video is deemed long form.
Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs was in the audience, and afterward chatted with us for a minute. I was curious how a broadcast technology like MediaFLO would ever be able to incorporate user generated content. He said they were interested in user generated content, but it wouldn’t be Internet-style — it would be more like America’s Funniest Home Videos. Phone companies as taste makers? I shuddered.
All the press folks got a chance to play with the LG VX9400, which we talked about yesterday, and the Samsung SCH-u620. We found that the service was pretty good with about a two-second pause between channel changes. We’re going to test them out more in the real world and see if that stays the same and if we really take to watching long form content — I watch TV shows on my video iPod sometimes, so I probably will.
Verizon also talked about its fiber TV service, and discussed a “second generation” (new middleware) that would make FiOS TV more interactive and include other media sharing capabilties — ooh, they’re learning from the Internet. Search, widgets, and even an interactive ranking/rating service are words not often heard from the mouths of phone company execs.
They’ve got to start thinking out of the Bellhead box if they are going to successfully compete against cable companies who have their own plans. Comcast has partnered with Sprint and MobiTV. And Sprint is planning on WiMAX for the next step in its mobile video plans. We’ll check out that demo on the floor tomorrow, and the rest of the goods as the convention booths open for the first time tomorrow.