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Verizon (s VZ) is taking a big step toward making its FiOS TV service available through connected devices, with the launch of a new app for Microsoft’s Xbox Live next month. But viewers who are excited about getting rid of their old set-top boxes and streaming directly to the game console will likely be disappointed, as the Verizon app will be missing a lot of the most popular networks and shows.
Verizon was one of the first TV operators to join Xbox Live, and its app is expected to become available when the next update of the service goes live on December 6. And, at least in the US, it’s the first to deliver live TV to the Xbox game console. Comcast, (s CMCSA) which will also have an app, is only giving its subscribers access to its video-on-demand service, not its live channels.
The operator announced Tuesday that its app will have 26 live TV channels available, which is a far cry from its entire channel lineup. Channels available at launch include BET, Boomerang (whatever that is), Cartoon Network, Cinemax, CNN, Comedy Central, DIY, ESPNews, Food Network, Hallmark Channel, HBO, HBO 2, HGTV, HLN, MTV, MTV2, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr, Spike, TBS, TCM, TNT, Travel Channel, truTV, TV Land and VH1. For those keeping track, that means Verizon has secured deals with Viacom, HBO, Scripps and Turner.
But the app won’t include broadcast networks ABC, (s DIS) CBS, (s CBS) Fox (s NWS) or NBC at launch. That means viewers who watch the most popular channels and shows will be left out in the cold. Also missing are some cable networks like AMC, (s AMC) USA and FX, which have come into their own with original scripted programming.
While it will only have 26 channels at launch, Verizon expects to add more content as time goes by. A Verizon spokesperson wrote via email that the company is working with content partners to make additional channels available on the Xbox. But the lack of some of the most popular programming underscores a common issue that is cropping up between content owners and distributors, as they negotiate rights for the next generation of TV screens.
As more and more content is available to stream via IP, cable, satellite and IPTV providers argue that when distributing live channels to a device like the Xbox or the iPad, (s AAPL) the delivery method and the viewer’s device shouldn’t matter. But content owners are trying to get paid more for access on these new devices.
I have to side with the operators on this one: At the end of the day, how video gets to the consumer’s house — whether it be over the traditional cable plant or streamed over the Internet — won’t matter. Nor will the screen it’s watched on. It’ll all just be video. Which is why these skirmishes over rights for certain devices or delivery methods seem short-sighted.