RealTime IT News

Verizon, PBS Toast IPTV Bid

Verizon Communications   announced a multi-year agreement with PBS to broadcast public television stations via its FiOS   Internet TV service.

Starting today, local public television stations will appear throughout the country where Verizon's fiber-based IPTV service is available, according to the Association of Public Television Stations (APTS).

Under the agreement, Verizon FiOS systems, available in parts of California, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Virginia and Texas, will carry up to three local public television stations.

Along with multicasting PBS series such as "PBS Kids Go!," "Viva TV," and "World," Verizon will also offer public alerts and warning bulletins.

Verizon will also carry HDTV PBS content, as well as digital multicasts for PBS, whose network includes 348 television stations with an on-air and online audience of 90 million.

Verizon –- now in 50 communities –- aims this year to sign up more than one million subscribers in nine states.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, and the IPTV stations will be completely up and running by the end of the year.

The new content is an example of the digital programming Verizon can offer, said Kathryn Brown, Verizon senior vice president, in a statement.

"When Congress enacts television choice legislation this year, we hope to make quality content like this available more quickly to consumers," Brown said, referencing the COPE Act now in the U.S. Senate.

Cope would allow telephone companies to offer video services and avoid the local franchise process now required of cable providers.

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to remove from the proposed COPE Act language that would require broadband providers to treat all Internet traffic in a neutral manner.

Today's announcement is a "vital step" enabling Verizon to compete with cable companies such as ComCast, according to Joe Laszlo, analyst with JupiterResearch.

The analyst called PBS "one of those must-have brands that is critical." Without PBS Verizon's FiOS service would lose credibility, he said.

Verizon's pact could also boost rival AT&T's IPTV effort, according to Laszlo.

AT&T, which has set a goal to have IPTV placement in 19 million homes by 2008, can use Verizon's deal as a stepping stone for its own deal with PBS.

However, as IPTV becomes more common, content will become the deciding factor when consumers pick a provider, according to the analyst.