Verizon FiOS: To Beat 'em, First Join 'em

 @ibtimes on January 12 2012 8:00 PM
FiOS TV
Verizon Chief Information Officer Shaygan Kheradpir shows new technologies for Verizon FiOS TV customers in New York. Verizon has been asked to pay up to $11 million a month in royalties to ActiveVideo Networks after FiOS TV's video-on-demand was found to infringe on ActiveVideo patents. Reuters

(Reuters) -- Verizon Communications Inc is pushing hard to move its FiOS TV service beyond the set-top box and onto the latest gadgets - from TVs and tablets to gaming consoles - to fend off competition from online video services such as Netflix Inc, Amazon Inc and Apple's Inc iTunes.

Verizon plans to extend its service to dozens and dozens of devices in the next 12 to 24 months, Joe Ambeault, director of product management for FiOS TV, told Reuters in an interview at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

The company announced deals this week to get its service onto smart TVs from LG Electronics and Samsung Electronics Co, as well as on Microsoft Corp's Xbox gaming console. Unlike traditional televisions, these sets - which Verizon is testing - have Internet connections that let users stream Web video alongside FiOS content.

Such partnerships could encourage cost-conscious consumers to end their FiOS TV subscriptions, but Ambeault noted he had no choice, but to compete with Web-based services.

I've a whole new set of competitors, Ambeault said, adding that his embrace of these devices is proactive. It's too late after people are already fleeing.

Another big source of competition could be iTunes. Apple is widely expected to launch a living-room television as soon as this year. Ambeault does not know if or when that might happen, but if it does, he hopes to make sure FiOS content is available on such a product.

We would love to integrate our content onto the Apple TV, he said. My alternative is to do nothing and ignore the device, and you go there anyway as a consumer ... or be on that device and have a fighting chance and keep your business.

Ambeault also noted that, if FiOS is associated with innovative hardware, it can help keep consumers interested. He cited a feature on the upcoming LG TV, which allows the user to control the TV by waving a magic wand remote control instead of using traditional controls.

To help ensure FiOS is the service consumers associate with such innovation, Ambeault is planning joint advertising with LG, similar to the way Verizon Wireless features its latest phones in advertisements for its wireless service.

If I'm there first, I've a higher likelihood of winning. If I'm not on that device, I'm out of here, he added.

(Reporting By Sinead Carew; editing by Andre Grenon)

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