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Verizon to Join ‘Virtual MSO’ Fray in Mid-2015 with Wireless TV Service

Verizon Communications expects to launch a wireless TV service late in the first half of 2015, which would combine broadcast networks and an a-la-carte collection of cable and digital media channels, topper Lowell McAdam said at an investor conference Thursday.

According to McAdam, among cable programmers, there’s been an attitude shift among cable programmers toward accepting a new over-the-top model for delivering pay TV.

“It’s moved from almost a stiff-arm to much more of an embrace,” the Verizon chairman and CEO said, speaking at Goldman Sachs’ Communacopia conference in New York.

Verizon’s wireless TV bundle will include “the Big Four for sure” — a reference to ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC — which would be delivered via multicast technology over wireless, McAdam said. The rest of the lineup, McAdam said, would be delivered via unicast and could include “very targeted” digital content such as DreamWorks Animation’s AwesomenessTV. The service will be separate from the Verizon FiOS TV service, he emphasized.

SEE ALSO: Verizon Paying About $200 Mil for Intel’s Internet TV Group: Sources

“No one wants to have 300 channels on your wireless device,” McAdam said. “I think everyone understands it will go to a la carte. The question is, what does that transition look like.”

Verizon has not announced deals with any TV programmers for such a service to date.

In January, Verizon paid about $200 million to acquire Intel’s OnCue OTT division. Intel, before it decided to bail on the plan, had been developing technology and a service offering to compete with pay-TV services.

Others cooking up OTT services aimed at offering an alternative to traditional cable or satellite TV include Sony — which on Tuesday announced a distribution pact with Viacom — and Dish Network, which has deals with Disney/ESPN and A+E Networks.

McAdam said he wasn’t worried that OTT services would eat into Verizon’s pay-TV biz. “Nobody at this point makes much money, if any, on content, distributing content,” McAdam said. “Where you make your money is in the transport.”

If the pay-TV model went to a “customized” 20-channel package, delivered over FiOS broadband, “that’s terrific,” he said.

Meanwhile, Verizon Wireless is a major NFL partner, with exclusive distribution rights to the league’s games for smartphones. McAdam addressed the ongoing controversy over former Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice, who was suspended by the NFL after video surfaced of him assaulting a woman who was at the time his fiancee (and is now his wife).

“Verizon has a long track record of taking a very strong stand on domestic violence,” McAdam said. Alluding to a report that the NFL had been made aware of the video in question in April, he said, “I know [NFL commissioner] Roger Goodell quite well and he is a man of very high integrity, and I will not believe there is some conspiracy to cover this up.”

Added McAdam, “At this point, I’m satisfied with the actions (the NFL has) taken.”

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