Cablevision, long the dominant subscription TV operator in the lucrative New York suburbs, frequently plays up its local News 12 channels as a key point of differentiation with Verizon’s FiOS service making inroads in the submarkets. “Not on phone company TV,” goes the slogan, with what sounds like a bit of a sneer smeared across “phone company.”
But FiOS is offering news product of its own, most recently with a launch of FiOS1 News Lower Hudson Valley serving Westchester County and other regions just north of New York City.
“This is great news for Verizon, but more importantly for our Lower Hudson Valley subscribers,” said Michelle Webb, FiOS1 News general manager, in a statement. “Verizon FiOS1 News is the most continually updated hyper-local news channel in the area. Like our channels in the other markets, we have news, weather and traffic, and feature stories that spotlight local communities, residents and businesses.”
The debut of FiOS1 News Lower Hudson Valley follows similar launches on Long Island and New Jersey five years ago. The latest one has been fairly quiet: a press release went out June 12, announcing that the Lower Hudson Valley channel had launched May 28.
FiOS did not make Webb or other news execs available for comment.
News 12 has a serious head start in the suburbs, but can no longer claim exclusivity north of NYC.
In a statement, Janine Rose, general manager, new director and anchor at News 12 Westchester, said:
“For nearly 20 years, News 12 Westchester has provided residents with award-winning, 24/7 news coverage of their own towns and neighborhoods. We remain the only hyper-local news network focused exclusively on the Westchester and Hudson Valley area. Our viewers know and trust us, which is why we’re confident they will stay with News 12 over any new and less experienced competitor.”
FiOS1 News Lower Hudson Valley is the product of a partnership with RNN (Regional News Network) in Rye Brook, New York, which produces the newscasts. Industry watchers say the newest FiOS product in Westchester features seasoned journalists, but more of a regional outlook, the Lower Hudson Valley channel supplemented with Long Island and New Jersey stories that may be of lower interest to residents of Westchester, Rockland and other northern suburbs.
Nonetheless, “they’re making every effort to be competitive,” says a veteran of the local news scene.
As local cable news channels—whether they’re part of Cablevision, FiOS or Time Warner—feast on local politics, Westchester has a hot story on its hands until November. The county, with a population of a little under a million, is home to both the incumbent governor, Andrew Cuomo, and the challenger, Republican Rob Astorino. The two live around 10 miles apart and have been sparring bitterly in public appearances and in commercials.
Rose says she’s accustomed to an increasingly competitive news scene in the seemingly sleepy suburbs. “We deal with competition every day,” she says. “2, 4 and 7 (WCBS, WNBC and WABC) have crews in the Hudson Valley every day. That was not the case 10-12 years ago.”
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