By Kate Kinane
Cablevision, look out.
Verizon, the cable provider’s chief competitor on Long Island, introduced its new local news channel, FiOS1, to LI and northern New Jersey Verizon FiOS (Fiber Optic Service) TV subscribers on June 22.
FiOS1 offers customers news programming focused on the local communities in which it broadcasts, says Verizon, airing high school sports, traffic, local news stories, weather and local human interest stories. It is located on channel one.
The news channel is the latest attempt in a broader initiative by the telecommunications giant to attract customers away from Cablevision, the largest cable provider in the LI market, owner of the Island’s lone daily newspaper Newsday and local news channel News 12 Long Island.
“We want to be the source for information, sports and innovative programming,” says Terry Denson, vice president of content strategy and acquisition for Verizon. “We’re looking to bring them the news, events and issues that matter most in their city or town.”
News 12 Long Island spokeswoman Deborah Koller-Feeney did not appear too concerned, however, when asked by the Press about FiOS1’s potential threat, citing News 12’s 20-plus years of “exclusive, award-winning coverage of their communities.”
“With our history as the first channel of its kind, and our staff of long-standing Long Island residents who understand the issues, Long Islanders know to turn to News 12 for unmatched local information,” she said.
Yet FiOS1 has been successful in other markets. First broadcast in Washington, D.C. in March 2007 to Verizon FiOS subscribers, Verizon spokesman John Bonomo says FiOS1 is currently one of the top channels for customers in the District. “Not only for viewers but advertisers as well,” said Bonomo.
Verizon’s mobile journalists, nicknamed “Mo-Jos,” report from their respective local communities using high-tech laptops and equipment, allowing them to record and edit quickly from the field. Denson explained that FiOS1 also encourages viewers to contribute to the channel by submitting local news content themselves.
“Here the community is the star,” he said on a June 22 conference call with reporters. “Everyone in the community will see themselves in a positive light.”
“It’s more about the community than it is about the news,” added Bonamo.
Christian French, chief operating officer for the Regional News Network (RNN), an independent television broadcast station headquartered in Rye Brook, NY, told reporters it was partnering with Verizon in the FiOS1 venture and that he hoped it brought more choices in local news to Long Islanders.
FiOS1 is part of Verizon’s ongoing campaign across the Tri-State area to persuade cable customers to jump on the FiOS bandwagon. The company hopes FiOS1 will be an added draw for them to make the switch.
“We are rolling out some highly aggressive marketing campaigns to encourage customers to dump cable and come on over to FiOS,” said Eric Rabe, director of corporate media relations for Verizon.
Verizon does, of course, recognize the challenge. There will be some learning curves.
“We’re not going to be the MSNBC of Long Island and we’re not going to compare ourselves to News 12,” Bonomo said. However, he added, “We’ve got a good crew, enough to handle the important goings-on on Long Island.”