Verizon Wireless to Launch Live TV

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Verizon Wireless will announce its long-awaited live TV service for mobile phones Jan. 7, although it will launch with fewer than one-dozen channels, according to executives at companies involved in the launch.

The announcement is expected at a press conference Sunday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Executives scheduled to speak are Denny Strigl, president and chief operating officer of Verizon Communications; John Stratton, Verizon's executive vice president and chief marketing officer; and Bob Ingalls, executive VP and CMO of the Verizon Telecom business unit.

The live-TV service, provided through Qualcomm’s MediaFLO USA subsidiary, will have channels provided by at least three broadcast networks, according to an executive familiar with the announcement. Until now, Verizon Wireless’ V CAST video service has consisted of only on-demand clips.

Verizon Wireless, ABC, CBS, NBC and MediaFLO declined to comment. Fox Mobile Entertainment referred an inquiry to Verizon Wireless.

At least at first, cable programmers may be in short supply on the live-TV service. Representatives for ESPN, The Weather Channel and Turner Broadcasting System, whose networks include CNN and TBS, said they were not participating in the mobile carrier’s announcement at CES.

Verizon Wireless will need to play catch-up to the other major provider of live mobile television, MobiTV, which provides 35 channels to carrier partners including Sprint Nextel and Cingular Wireless. Channels available on MobiTV include MSNBC, ABC News Now, CNN, Fox News Channel, ESPN 3GTV, NBC Mobile, Discovery Channel and TWC.

But Verizon Wireless is betting that its video quality will be better. Whereas MobiTV’s service is typically available at 15 frames per second over existing carrier networks depending on signal quality, the MediaFLO-provided video network will hit 24-30 frames per second. MediaFLO’s network, which uses the 700-megahertz spectrum, will be available in 20-30 markets in the first quarter of 2007, the company has said.

“The video and the resolution look incredible,” said one media executive who has seen the Verizon Wireless service.

Verizon Wireless’ live-TV service will carry a separate monthly subscription fee and require subscribers to purchase new phones; one model has a screen that swivels onto its side to allow a program to be viewed in 4:3 aspect ratio. The service also will provide a “TV” button on the main screen to allow users to instantly access channels.

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