What If Verizon FiOS TV Was an App?

Mari Silbey —  January 7, 2011 — 30 Comments

Verizon FiOS TV CES 2011 3

When Verizon launched FiOS TV, it launched it as a hybrid QAM/IP service – using QAM for broadcast television, and IP for VOD services and widgets. That’s about to change. Quietly, and very much behind the scenes, Verizon has been running an overhaul of its infrastructure in order to be able to deliver everything over IP. This is not IP as in the free-and-clear Internet, but IP as in a managed IP network used to deliver both multicast and interactive content.

In a meeting with Verizon exec Joe Ambeault here at CES, I learned that the company is very much committed to moving everything to its new IP platform. Consumers watching traditional FiOS TV should never see a difference, but by transitioning to IP, Verizon will have an opportunity to deliver its television service to a wide range of web-connected gadgets in the form of an app. In other words, FiOS TV will become just another service you buy in an app store – accessible across multiple screens and delivery platforms. In theory, consumers could even bring their own broadband to the table (FiOS or otherwise) and just layer FiOS TV on top.

The implications for this paradigm shift are a bit overwhelming, but in the short term, we can think of it just as a way to get access to content on more devices. If FiOS TV is an app, there’s no reason subscribers can’t access their shows from a tablet, smartphone, or laptop. The content doesn’t get delivered as part of a parallel TV-Everywhere system, but as a single IP solution that goes across every screen that consumers might want to use. We’ve seen hints of this in the new FlexView brand, but the model goes much further than anything we’ve seen deployed yet. As far as Verizon is concerned, the technical challenges have pretty much been solved. Again, in theory, consumers who don’t have access to FiOS Internet could get the television service added on to an existing non-Verizon ISP contract. That won’t happen any time soon, but the reasons are purely commercial, not technological. And the commercial situation is changing all the time.

If you’re a FiOS TV subscriber today, be very happy. We’ll likely see a number of announcements this year showing how FiOS TV can be accessed on an iPad, or a smartphone, or one of the top game consoles. Want to take your programming with you? No problem. With an IP platform, there’s no reasons the TV you pay for can’t go anywhere you want.

30 responses to What If Verizon FiOS TV Was an App?

  1. I would love to have Fios, but Verizon is not committed to upgrading the area where I live. Bring your own access is a neat way to get service you want, when they don’t have a physical system in your neighborhood. However my 10mbps cable internet has 60GB monthly cap (peak times 5pm-1am). HD Video would surely bust through that…. even Comcast’s generous 250GB cap would be at risk.

    I think if Verizon can perfect LTE and deliver 16mbps+, they can send Fios content on their own network. Though you would be very limited on simultaneous tuners, more so than AT&T U-Verse at a 16mbps connection. Maybe someday when LTE evolves a little bit more and in 10 years when it’s pushing 1gbps, wireless subscription TV will be a whole new arena.

  2. While there is some noticeable upside via multiple devices/mobility with an IP platform (IPTV), would not this presumed transition eliminate options for their consumer base, such as Tivo subscribers?? I have several HD Tivos and it is my understanding IPTV is not compatible with Tivo (i.e. AT&T Uverse) and/or other Cablecard devices, such as Windows Media Centers.

    Therefore, does Verizon Fios intend to continue to support legacy connectivity of Cablecard devices or abandon this option and force all of their current customers to swap them out to drive additional revenue via FIOS STBs??? I would hope not as this is not progressive in terms of providing their customers multiple options….

  3. Yeah for me if FiOS TV didn’t work with a HTPC or TiVo then I would quickly cancel the TV portion of my subscription.

  4. No doubt! I had to take one of their STB’s and it isn’t bad, but I MUCH prefer my Tivo, so my only option would be to either go back to Comcrap or hold on until the impending new Tivo unit for DirecTV is released, which doesn’t appear to be any time soon as it never surfaced at CES!!!

  5. Dave-
    Hopefully this will end their year-long capacity drought to add new HD channels.

  6. Tivo is basically an embedded computer running flexible code. If they go IPTV, I don’t see why it technically wouldn’t be possible for Verizon to have an app that allows Tivo, or an HTPC to still continue to work. After all, these devices are normally broadband connected anyway. The data should be available to them in an IP world. Were talking IP, not IPX/SPX to IP or some other proprietary protocol in which no software stack is available.

    Also IMG 1.9 may improve the Verizon issued DVR’s to the extent that Tivo is made obsolete. Tivo is pretty much stagnant on their development. How long now has the Tivo Premiere been left out there sitting unfinished? Verizon’s new IMG looks nicer anyway, and with eSATA support, why get a Tivo? Web connected video’s? So what, I can run Netflix on a slew of other devices (Boxee, xbox 360, roku, many blue ray players or new internet connected TV’s, etc…)

  7. I have FiOS (TV, Internet, Phone) and really like it. I am thinking of buying a Silicon Dust HD Home Run Prime when it comes out so I can watch FiOS TV on my Windows 7 Laptops. But, with IPTV, this would not be needed. Hmmm, I guess if the HD Home Run Prime comes out before IPTV and costs less than $400 I will get one. My guess is that they will not switch everything all at once but rather migrate over time. We will see.

  8. Where and how we watch “FiOS” will be largely dependent on what deals they broker with content providers… AT&T Uverse has had some of these capabilities via Microsoft Mediaroom technologies, but if you flip the switch without a deal, there will be trouble (and alienation).

  9. “What If Verizon FiOS TV Was an App?”

    Excellent question, one I have been asking for nearly a decade. Better yet…

    What if ALL content were just [software] apps? Why does proprietary STB hardware even exist at all?

    I should be able to turn on my TV ( with its CAT5 plugged into the back of it, see a nice 12×12 tile menu with stuff like…

    NFL TV Ravens at St. Loius $9.99 ( All day pass $29.99 )

    etc.

  10. A FiOS TV plugin for Windows Media Center would be awesome.

  11. Or for Roku or Boxee? Like Todd said, why do we need the set top boxes anymore?

  12. although i have slingbox on my ipad, it would be great to have true fios on my ipad locally since changing channels would be so much faster than my slingbox app. slingbox has some serious lag, at least for me, which i’ve come to accept when changing channels and now having a chance to play with my spawn labs box for a week to sling my xbox remotely, i can see that slingbox needs to really step up its game to be able to change channels quickly since spwan labs is very little latency when playing games. i’m looking forward to the new fios app!

  13. I’m a FiOS subscriber and I DON’T like the idea. Have you seen Verizon’s apps? Their Internet and HD quality is top notch, but their software? Not so much.

    Give me the Internet and and the data, leave apps.

  14. I agree with you, Ben. But I am hopeful. Also, they could open up app development to 3rd parties. We can wish for the best and expect the worst.

  15. Yeah also the HD quality would be dependent on your connection speed. The way they have written and supported MediaManager makes me think VZ better just stick to what they do best.

  16. What a horrible idea! I have no interest in FiOS TV except that I’d happily take it along with FiOS Internet, and that’s unlikely ever to be available to me, since Verizon stopped their expansion. I also have no interest in using their set-top box any more than I want to use Time Warner’s, and I’m sure that’s true for my parents, as well. They have FiOS TV hooked to a TiVo HD, and love it. If they couldn’t use FiOS with their TiVo, I’m betting they’d dump Verizon in a heartbeat and go back to the antenna.

  17. FIOS TV on PS3 sounds perfect.

  18. I’m confused by Verizon. Their FIOS service seems great, but since they stopped expanding their footprint, selling off service to Frontier in many areas (which Frontier appears to now be abandoning), it seems unlikely to be coming to my area (west coast) any time soon. Plus of course their stance on things like Net Neutrality is horrid. But this technology stance is certainly interesting.

    The media streams you have to send out for general internet consumption though are quite different from what Verizon is sending out over QAM today. Certainly no way you can send a 15Mbps HD MPEG-2 transport stream out over the internet and expect many people to be able to receive it reliably. One of the ABR solutions using h.264 and variable bit rates would seem to be required, which requires a completely different back end than what Verizon has now. And of course each stream you send out is unique where right now they’re basically sending out a continuous multicast (via QAM) so they don’t need much of any server hardware. I’m not sure things are as simple as they are being portrayed here.

  19. Glenn- there’s more to it than I’ve posted here. VZ has something I believe they coined as graceful downgrade— the right level of video stream depending on the connection and device you have plus ongoing adaptive streaming. Verizon has apparently made some big back-end changes in the last year.

  20. Imagine that the US had already deployed a 100Mbps to “every” household National Broadband Initiative like in Australia will be doing. The major TV providers would, at some point in the future, be competing with each other in a massive, countrywide, singular market for customers. Individuals would be able to choose their TV providers, because the “Delivered Entertainment Information” wouldn’t be finitely coupled to their geographical location, unlike the lack of choice they have in their Power Company. The one who develops the highest quality app for TV viewing that a customer could install on their choice of display devices might potentially become the next Google of media content. Even with all Big Media’s current anti Net-Neutrality stances, I’d bet they’d be salivating at that scenario. Potential for $400/share, Google-like common stock values would go a long way to “alzheimering” Big Media’s anti Net-Neutrality.

  21. Didn’t they say they were releasing a Verizon FiOS TV app?

  22. Dave -

    Where does this leave Tivo cablecard. I am about to move from TW to Fios and this is crucial to me.

    Bob

  23. Robert, CableCARD on FiOS should be OK. I just asked that very question on Twitter this morning and the FiOS TV account replied:

    http://twitter.com/FiOSTV/status/24467963717361664

  24. Dave -
    Thanks very much for that!

    Bob

  25. This could nest well with the FCC’s AllVid proposal. Let the carrier use whatever technology they want on the backhall (QAM and/or IP) but use all IP inside of the home. The AllVid gateway can also provide the FiOS interface and let any AllVid ready TV (or TiVo or HTPC) in the house bring up the screen.

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