October 13, 2005 10:14 AM PDT
Verizon's TV dreams
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is that customers definitely want interactivity," said David Philbin, a senior member of Verizon's technical staff. "But they don't want to work for it. The second thing is that some content is best left to the PC."
For example, fantasy sports players don't want to scroll through pages of drafting information during a Sunday afternoon game. They just want to follow players, compare them to other teams and keep track of how many points they're getting.
Verizon believes that Web interaction won't end with fantasy sports leagues. People may want to integrate other Web-based content into their TV-viewing. In the kitchen, for example, someone watching Jamie Oliver's "The Naked Chef" on The Food Network may want to pull up the recipe on the TV screen as they cook along with the program.
Verizon also sees future TVs as more than just appliances for watching movies, sports and sitcoms. Remember the days when the family would gather in the living room to see Uncle Bob's vacation slides? Well forget the slide projector and setting up the screen. Verizon believes people will be sharing their photos on their television screens. The company is developing an application that automatically downloads and serves up pictures from incoming e-mails directly onto a TV set in the living room.
"People love to share pictures," Philbin said. "But no one wants to stand crowded around the PC in the home office to see them. They'd rather be on the couch."
The company is also testing an interactive gaming application that will allow users to access games hosted in the Verizon network over the Fios TV network and play them with other players throughout the region and even the world.
Whether any of these new features and products make it into the market is still unknown. Executives here said they're still discovering new ways to make the TV viewing experience more interactive.
With roughly 80 percent of the U.S. population already subscribing to some form of paid TV service such as cable or satellite, the TV market will not be an easy one for Verizon to break into. The task seems even more daunting considering that it took satellite providers more than a decade to penetrate 12.5 percent of the market.
So how does Verizon expect to convince customers to abandon their cable and satellite services for Fios TV? A key piece of the strategy is servicing the customer.
With more attention to details, from the design of the remote control to simple and intuitive search screens to making technicians spend a little extra time setting up the service and showing customers how to use it, Verizon believes it can win customers over by making TV easy and comfortable.
"A lot of the reason why people move to satellite is they want better customer service," said Mercedes Cutler, group manager for Verizon's video broadband solutions. "So if we have to invest a little more up front to make sure we're providing the best service, we think it's worth it. If customers churn out of the video service, they might also churn out of their phone service and broadband service. So it's important to build that loyal relationship from the beginning."
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