Verizon FiOS TV Rolls Out HD VOD

Making good on its promise to deliver HD titles on-demand before year’s end, Verizon Communications announced its availability in several of its FiOS TV systems Wednesday.

The telco launched HD VOD over its FIOS TV video service in five regions: Richmond and Virginia Beach, Va.; Tampa, Fla.; Fort Wayne, Ind.; and Pittsburgh. The company will roll the service out next year in its remaining FiOS TV markets, including Washington, D.C., Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

The HD VOD slate will include 75 titles that are a mix of free programming and pay-per-view movie titles, but the company expects to offer 1,000 HD choices by the end of 2008.

"Whether they're buying their first HDTV or their fourth this holiday season, HD customers always want more HD programming," Verizon vice president of video solutions Shawn Strickland said in a statement.

The telco has become an aggressive competitor for incumbent cable and satellite operators. Verizon is going head-to-head with cable operators by offering a triple-play alternative (video, voice and data) to cable offerings. Last month, the company announced that by the end of 2008, it would offer over its fiber-to-the-premises network 150 linear HD channels, a direct challenge to satellite-TV provider DirecTV’s claim of HD superiority.

While Verizon’s FiOS network marginally overlaps the footprint of most cable operators, its consistency in adding subscribers has become a concern. The telco currently has about 15% penetration of its TV service in its footprint, and it is targeting 20%-25%. In the third quarter, the company added 202,000 FiOS TV subscribers to bring its total base to 717,000 while cable operators saw their subscriber rolls decline.

Speaking at the UBS Global Media and Communications conference in New York Wednesday morning, Comcast co-chief financial officer Michael Angelakis addressed how increased competition from companies such as Verizon is impacting the cable business.

“Competition is increased, and we have to respond,” he said, “We will fight in the streets and do everything we can for retention, but I think the expectation that I have is that over the next couple years, we will lose some share on the video side.”