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Verizon Creates Local Channels For NY, NJ

Telco Verizon, which is competing vigorously for market share in New York and New Jersey with incumbent cable operators Cablevision, Comcast and Time Warner Cable, launched Monday two local program channels featuring a mix of hard news, community features and high school sports.

The new channels, FiOS1 Long island and FiOS1 New Jersey, appear to be aimed squarely at matching the existing “News 12” offerings from Cablevision in those markets. They will have 10 hours of live news each day, including regular traffic and weather reports, says Terry Denson, VP of content strategy and acquisition for Verizon. The Regional News Network (RNN), which owns TV stations in New York and Philadelphia, is providing news and production functions. Newspaper Website The Star Ledger/ and NJN Public Television will also be contributing content.

The new channels will also include reports from mobile journalists, or “MoJos,” as Denson calls them, focused on community events and activities. There will also be weekly coverage of high school sports including football, lacrosse and baseball.

“We’ve always had sports, weather and traffic widgets,” said Denson in a conference call Monday morning. “We’re now bringing communities to life. The most important notion of the channel is that everyone will see themselves in a positive light.”

Denson clarified that the FiOS1 channels will still report hard news stories, but that they will also cover topics which he believes are underserved by existing local news coverage.

“The stations that do hyper-local news tend to focus on the sensational,” said Denson. “We’ll focus on the positive.”

Verizon also announced that it is boosting the speed of its broadband service on a national basis, and in particular doubling-to-quadrupling the upstream connection speeds. Verizon has raised the speed of its entry-level FiOS Internet service from 10/2 (downstream/upstream) megabits per second (Mbps) to 15/5 Mbps and has raised the speed of its mid-tier offering from 20/5 Mbps to 25/15 Mbps.

The company is offering even faster entry service in New York City, on Long Island and in other New York City suburbs, with FiOS Internet’s new entry-level speed at 25/15 Mbps, and a new mid-tier offering of 35/20 Mbps, available only in bundles. Verizon is also offering bundles that include consumer electronics hardware, including Compaq Mini netbooks or Flip Ultra camcorders, that are available for free or at a heavily discounted price.

For example, new customers who sign up for a triple bundle that consists of FiOS Internet with a connection speed of 25/15 Mbps or higher, FiOS TV Extreme HD service and FiOS Essentials voice service will receive a choice of a free Compaq Mini netbook valued at $299.99 or a free Flip Ultra camcorder, valued at $149.99. New customers who order a triple bundle that consists of FiOS Internet with a connection speed of 15/5 Mbps or higher, FiOS TV Essentials service and Freedom Essentials voice service will receive a free Flip Ultra camcorder, or can purchase a Compaq Mini netbook for $99.99.

For its part, Cablevision said it isn't worried about Verizon's new competition for its local news and traffic/weather channels.

"Cablevision's News 12 is the local news leader for Long Island and across the New York metropolitan area, with an award-winning history that began in 1986 as the nation's first 24-hour local news channel," said the company in a statement. "We don't believe a phone company news channel will be in any way comparable to the authoritative information available from News 12 and News 12 Traffic & Weather, and think the most interesting thing about today's phone company announcement is that it includes a significant entry level price increase for new customers."