Verizon Targets 150 HD Channels in 2008

Verizon Communications said its FiOS TV service will deliver a high-definition lineup of 150 channels by the end of 2008 -- as well as 1,000 HD on-demand titles -- and that it plans to launch “a major expansion of sports and multicultural programming” next year.

In the spring of 2008, Verizon said, it will initially double the current number of HD channels, on a market-by-market basis, to more than 60, including additional sports channels. Currently, FiOS TV offers 20 national HD channels, including premium movie channels.

Verizon is not ready to announce which HD channels it will add, director of media relations Sharon Cohen-Hagar said. The company also declined to provide details about how it expects to deliver the expanded lineup.

In addition, Verizon said it will begin offering HD video-on-demand programming. Before the end of 2007, Verizon expects to introduce “a limited number of HD on-demand titles,” which will increase to more than 1,000 HD titles in 2008.

The company also plans to update its whole-home digital video recorder service to let customers record HD shows and watch them from any room in the house with an HDTV and an HD set-top box.

Verizon claimed it does not currently compress HD signals it receives from programmers, a practice it said it will maintain in expanding to 150 HD channels, and that therefore FiOS TV delivers better HD picture quality than competitors. Some cable and satellite operators “rate shape” or re-encode HD signals to gain efficiencies in distributing them over their networks.

"Unlike some other service providers, Verizon doesn't compromise quality by compressing programming into limited bandwidth,” Verizon vice president of video solutions Shawn Strickland said, in a statement.

FiOS TV currently offers the following HD national channels: TNT HD, ESPN HD, ESPN2 HD, NFL Network HD, HD Net, HD Net Movies, Universal HD, Discovery HD Theater, Wealth TV HD, National Geographic Channel HD, MHD, Food Network HD, HGTV HD, Lifetime Movie Network HD and A&E HD. The service also offers local broadcast channels in HD as well as premium movie channels, including HBO HD, Cinemax HD, Showtime HD, TMC HD and Starz HD.

As of Sept. 30, Verizon said it had 717,000 FiOS TV customers in 12 states, an increase of 39% from the prior quarter. The service was available to 4.7 million households, with an average penetration of 15.2% across all markets.