Verizon (NYSE:VZ) became a kind of cable TV provider when it introduced the FiOS fiber-optic network service. Though the Redbox Instant co-op project with CoinStar (NASDAQ:OUTR), the giant telecom moves into the realm of digital on-demand media distribution, too.
But Big Red is still hungry for more, more, more media exposure.
At this week's Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas, Verizon CEO Lowell McAdams unveiled his next video-market move: LTE Broadcast.
By adding technical wrinkles to its high-speed 4G LTE wireless network, Verizon will broadcast video content to very large and very specialized audiences. Verizon's examples include college professors delivering lectures to students across the country, or sports leagues streaming channels of extra information to fans at the stadium.
The biggest showcase on Earth
Oh, and McAdams promised to bring this service to Super Bowl XLVIII in February 2014. That showcase should give us a much better idea of how McAdams plans to exploit the new technology -- will he simply blanket MetLife Stadium with bonus content for a premium experience in the Jersey stands, or is he looking at a nationwide media blast? I'm betting on the former, but only time will tell. The executive did pair this announcement with his plans to reach "nearly 100%" of American consumers with 4G LTE signals by the end of 2013, so you never know.
Mobile data connectivity has traditionally been a problem for large events like the Super Bowl. Every phone in the venue needs an exclusive connection to the network tower, and the infrastructure can only handle so many individual links You'd think that another incentive for fans to whip out their smartphones on the sidelines would only magnify this problem.
But this technology isn't an intense two-way connection. Instead, your phone (or laptop, set-top box, or smart TV, and other stuff I haven't imagined yet) logs in to the central station once, and will then be able to tap into a single video broadcast. Kind of like setting up a dish antenna to capture satellite TV signals, paired with a set-top box to decode it all.
How Verizon's new trick compares to satellite TV
You can think of Verizon's platform as a highly personal satellite service. Video signals from DISH Network (NASDAQ:DISH) and DIRECTV(NYSE:DTV.DL) don't stutter and choke if you multiply the listening antennas by 10 or 100 -- neither should Verizon's proposed LTE Broadcast network. Verizon is applying broadcast techniques to wireless data streams. This way, existing LTE infrastructure can be used to dole out exclusive content in a highly efficient manner, covering large areas and audiences with pinpoint precision. Neat trick, right?
Demonstrations at the CES were powered by broadcasting equipment from Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC), in turn built around chips and technology from Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM). I think we're looking at an emerging industry standard here, with Verizon simply going first out of the gate.
Media consumers are about to start drowning in choices and competition. The winners will be whoever figures out how to make it all available in a user-friendly and manageable way. I think I've seen at least two potential giants emerging early in the brand-new field of consumer-grade media management, and I own both of them myself. This is a big, big deal.
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