Video services

FiOS: Look, Ma, No Set-Top!

A new deal will let Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) stream a bunch of video-on-demand (VoD) titles and a limited number of live TV channels to LG Electronics Inc. (London: LGLD; Korea: 6657.KS) 's Smart TVs and Blu-ray players later this year -- all without a set-top box.

Verizon's FiOS TV app for the LG environment will start off with access to 26 live HD channels (ESPNews, Cinemax, HBO, MTV, TNT, TBS and Nickelodeon, among them), along with more than 10,000 VoD titles that the telco currently offers through Flex View, Verizon's TV Everywhere platform. Verizon subscribers will be able to navigate using LG's just-launched Magic Remote, which supports gesture and text input and, for some TV models, voice input. (See Verizon Launches 'Flex View'.)

The content is close to the number of VoD titles and the stripped-down, live TV lineup that FiOS TV is already delivering to Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)'s broadband-fed Xbox 360 gaming console.

Verizon expects to launch the FiOS TV app on LG TVs and Blu-ray players in the first half of 2012. Verizon also intends to make live TV streaming available on the iPad, but a spokeswoman wouldn't tell us when that capability will be introduced.

Why this matters
Even with just 26 live TV channels, this is an important step toward offering the FiOS TV service without a set-top, a trend that is starting to take hold across the entire pay-TV category.

The partnership also comes into play as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decides whether to launch a formal rulemaking proposal for AllVid, a potential successor to the current CableCARD rules. MSOs and other pay-TV service providers have argued that such a mandate is unnecessary, urging the FCC to let the market for retail video devices evolve without more government interference.

For more
Read more about AllVid and pay-TV's recent consumer-electronics plays.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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msilbey 12/5/2012 | 5:46:03 PM
re: FiOS: Look, Ma, No Set-Top!

If you're only going to get a subset of the full set of channels you pay for, that seems like a significant limitation. Perhaps on a secondary TV set that works, but otherwise you're looking at wasting a major chunk of that massive monthly cable bill. What about USA? FX? Discovery? Some stuff is available on demand, but far from all. (Not to mention the lack of a DVR)

Plus, you'll note there's an interesting comment thread over on Zatz Not Funny about TV hardware updates to support the evolution of streaming services. Will LG push updates to its TVs for the ten years buyers expect to keep them? That's a big question mark. 


craigleddy 12/5/2012 | 5:45:58 PM
re: FiOS: Look, Ma, No Set-Top!

Wow-wee, 26 channels! Well, obviously it's not easy to get TV programmers to agree to live streaming.

When you break down the FiOS list of participating networks by their parent programming company, it gives you some indication of who's on board with the streaming concept at this stage (under the right circumstances): Viacom's MTV Networks, Time Warner Inc.'s HBO Networks, Scripps Networks and Turner Networks.

Here's who's missing from the list of participants, at least in the Verizon FiOS plan so far: Disney ESPN (ESPNews is just a token), NBCU, News Corp. (Fox), CBS Corp. and Showtime Networks, Discovery Communications, A&E Networks, AMC Networks and Starz Encore, plus home shopping and multicultural networks.

Seems like a lot of people need some convincing.






DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 5:45:57 PM
re: FiOS: Look, Ma, No Set-Top!

What about USA? What are you, 80?

Look, content makers are dragging ass here and they aren't letting Verizon, AT&T and other pay TV providers exploit all the ways they can provide content to their paying customers.

I applaud the move even if it has limitations. They're trying and they don't want to sit by quietly and have a valuable pay TV business eroded by Apple and other device makers who only care about OTT.

craigleddy 12/5/2012 | 5:45:55 PM
re: FiOS: Look, Ma, No Set-Top!

Now, Phil, let's not denigrate USA Network, one of America's most popular and venerable networks. It's full of diverse programming for everyone.

To prove it, I'm sitting in front of my TV right now, so let me just check the USA lineup here. At 8 pm I see they're showing NCIS. Then at 9 it's....NCIS. And that's followed at 10 by...um, NCIS. Oh, then there's Out-Character at 11, whatever that is, followed by...NCIS. Well, at 1 am there's something different: CSI. 

But don't forget tomorrow night, when you can watch 5 straight hours of NCIS. 

Gee, I guess the FiOS folks knew how to choose their networks. Or they don't like NCIS.


jijeshd 12/5/2012 | 5:45:54 PM
re: FiOS: Look, Ma, No Set-Top!

Hey Jeff, I agree with your point - we are heading in the right direction though at just the 'keep FCC regulation out' speed. I think TV mfgs. like Samsung, LG, Sony etc are begining to see this as more of a platform to own rather than as just smart/dumb screens.

I believe the continuing appification in the entire IP-connected device ecosystem will continue to drive this trend where set-top boxs will become irrelevant. I sure hope so. Personally, I find them to be ugly with poor UX. 


Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 5:45:51 PM
re: FiOS: Look, Ma, No Set-Top!

Thanks, I appreciate that. Despite the string of recent deals, I still don't buy all the death-of-the-set-top box ideas that are being pushed.  The old cable digital boxes with their crummy navigation interfaces  have set expectations pretty low, and I think the faster those devices fade out of existence the better it will be for cable, but I am very interested in seeing how the new line of hybrid QAM gateways fare with customers.

Everything I've seen so far in that area (ie Xcalibur) looks pretty slick and I won't be surprised if they get a favorable response, though I'm curious to see how truly "open" this new breed of boxes will be. Early on Xcalibur's trial is very limited in terms of the number of 3rd party apps it supports. I'm sure Comcast is going to bang on the system pretty hard before they open the gates wider, but it would be great if they can achieve a way to blend traditional TV with all the OTT stuff and apps that makes devices like the Roku and Boxee interesting without having to require someone to toggle to input 2, 3, etc.  I like my Roku alot but i honestly don't use it all that frequently.. i tend to get my apps fix with my ipad when i'm watching the TV.

Back to the death of the set-top box. I don't think it's far-fetched to suggest that they'll be around forever, but these new TV apps could at least give consumers an option to not have a set-top if that's their wish.  The CableCARD TV days demonstrated that there's very little interest in that idea, but I think the limitations of those implementations (unidirectional, no VoD, and the limited nav) may be the biggest contributor to the poor showing and may not represent a  fair judgement in terms of what the true consumer demand is for a set-top-free experience. JB

msilbey 12/5/2012 | 5:45:49 PM
re: FiOS: Look, Ma, No Set-Top!

Oh come on, Phil! White Collar, Suits, and hell, even Covert Affairs. Good mindless trash TV. (Nothing fabulous, mind you, but good trash)

Separate from that - I applaud the move too. We need these steps forward, and only the big guys can make them happen. That said, I agree with Jeff's comment that we're still not looking at the end of the set-top. New options, sure, but the damn set-top is too convenient and useful.

And speaking of the box, I've always been a little puzzled by how much people hate STBs. (Not the navigation- I get that.) But just the idea of putting a box under your TV? It doesn't bother me at all. I have several boxes in my entertainment center neatly tucked away behind attractive doors. They're there. They don't bother me. They give me my TV. 

craigleddy 12/5/2012 | 5:45:49 PM
re: FiOS: Look, Ma, No Set-Top!

I agree, Jeff, it's too early to declare the death of the set-top box, even though so many of us would agree with jijeshd that it would be great to put a bullet in 'em.

All the OTT device, smart TV and iPad activity for TV programming might reduce reliance on STBs eventually, but at this point the TV apps market is discombobulated.

Meanwhile, MSOs continue to explore hybrid gateways that marry modem and STB functionality into one device. Gateways can serve multiple video devices and provide a platform for cloud-based UIs and apps that will improve user experience.  

Duh! 12/5/2012 | 5:45:48 PM
re: FiOS: Look, Ma, No Set-Top!

Why do I hate my set-tops?  Let me count the ways:

I'm paying $6 and change to Verizon every month for three SD-STBs.  No doubt long since amortized.  Haven't gotten around to swapping one of them for the HD-DVR, which if I recall is $16 or $18 a month. 

The one in the entertainment center really doesn't fit anywhere, unless I do cabinet work that I don't feel like doing.  It's jammed awkwardly under the flat screen TV.

The one in my wife's office is precariously balanced on the top of an old CRT TV.  Sony must have had a thing for rounded surfaces at the time.  Fortunately, the wiring keeps the damn thing from falling on the floor.

I've got a cable outlet on the wall in the kitchen.  One of these years, I'd like to hang a flat screen up on that wall... but what to do with the damn STB?  

The universal remotes are a royal pain.  The simple act of turning everything on to watch broadcast TV takes a minimum of 4 key presses (admittedly, two of them are to turn on the separate audio receiver, which has nothing to do with the STB).  The problem is if the ON/OFF on the remote loses synch between the STB and display.   Not a big deal for me (modulo a few cuss words)... for the technologically challenged, highly confusing.  And getting the damn things set up in the first place took more time and effort than I really wanted to spend.

Let us say that any barriers to integration between display and STB functions are not technogical ones.


DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 5:45:46 PM
re: FiOS: Look, Ma, No Set-Top!

NCIS. Well played, sir.

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