Telco TV

Verizon Wireless Gives Peek of Live TV

1/12/2007 7:00 PM Eastern

Las Vegas — Last week Verizon Wireless sketched out details of its V Cast Mobile TV service, but didn’t say how much it will charge — a key factor, analysts said, in helping determine whether it takes off. Nor did the carrier say where it will be available except that it will launch in “most major U.S. markets” in the first quarter.

V Cast Mobile TV initially will feature seven live channels from CBS, NBC Universal, Fox and MTV Networks. The service will require subscribers to use one of two new phones: Samsung’s SCH-u620 or LG Electronics’ VX9400.

John Stratton, Verizon’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer, said if the phones were $1,000 apiece and the service was $200 per month, “nobody would buy it. Somewhere between free and that is where we’re looking,” he quipped.

“Our expectation is to price it to sell, not to admire,” he added.

The carrier spent more than a year developing V Cast Mobile TV with Qualcomm’s MediaFLO USA subsidiary, which provides the infrastructure to broadcast the TV programming over its own dedicated, multicast network.

MediaFLO has also signed licensing agreements with the TV programmers, and sells that content wholesale to Verizon Wireless. MediaFLO USA president Gina Lombardi said the company is also trialing the wireless TV service with Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile and Alltel.

MediaFLO uses a dedicated 6 Megahertz of wireless spectrum in the 700-MHz band, giving it enough bandwidth to deliver up to 20 live channels. But Lombardi said the current plan is to mix live channels and up to 50 other services, such as a “datacasting” application that streams live stock prices.

Lombardi said MediaFLO does plan to add “a few more” channels to the basic lineup, including possibly a movie channel. “We’re already trialing with several movie channels,” she said. Turner Broadcasting System, for one, said it’s in talks to license content from several Turner networks to MediaFLO USA.

MOBITV ON SPRINT JV

Meanwhile, looking to keep its name in the arena, MobiTV — MediaFLO’s primary competitor — last week announced that the Sprint-Cable joint venture on mobile phone service will provide live and on-demand TV content to the services offered by the four cable operators in the deal. Sprint’s live TV service is currently provided by MobiTV.

Comcast and Time Warner Cable commercially launched Sprint-supplied wireless phone service last fall; Cox Communications and Advance/Newhouse Communications were set to begin offering service in some of their markets in early 2007.

What’s on the Phone?
Sample of programming to be available through V Cast Mobile TV:
Source: MediaFLO USA and company reports
MTV Networks: MTV’s The Real World, Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants, Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
NBC: Today, The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, select CNBC and MSNBC programming; some primetime and daytime shows.
CBS: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,Survivor, Big Brother;CBS Evening News With Katie Couric, The Early Show
Fox: 24 and Prison Break; sports programming through Fox Sports on MSN, a unit of Fox Interactive Media

September