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Verizon racks up more TV deals

Company will offer A&E programming as part of its digital TV service over high-speed Fios fiber network.

Verizon Communications will offer programming from A&E Television Networks as part of its new TV service, expected to roll out later this year, the company announced Friday.

Earlier this week, Verizon announced content distribution deals with NBC Universal Cable and Movielink, which will provide on-demand movie downloads to customers. Verizon previously announced agreements with Starz Entertainment Group and Discovery Networks, and is close to finalizing discussions with several other major content partners, the company said.

The agreement with A&E will allow Verizon to broadcast programming from the A&E channel, the History Channel, the Biography Channel, History International, Military History Channel, the History Channel en espanol, and Crime & Investigation Network. Also included in the deal is access to video-on-demand content from all of A&E Television Network services.

Verizon, the largest of the Baby Bell phone companies, is racking up deals with entertainment companies in an effort to break into the paid television market. The phone company plans to offer the TV service over its new Fios fiber network as part of its "triple play" offering, which will include voice, video and data services.

Fios is being built in half the states where Verizon's landline telephone service is available. It will provide more bandwidth than is available today over Verizon's existing copper-based network, according to the company.

Verizon's move into the TV market is in response to increased competition from regional cable operators such as Time Warner and Comcast, which have added telephony and data services to their networks. Securing rights to entertainment content is crucial to fulfilling Verizon's strategy, analysts have said.

SBC Communications, the second-largest Baby Bell, also plans to offer television service. But unlike Verizon, it is only building fiber to neighborhood "nodes". It will use existing copper lines to offer video service into homes using the Internet Protocol.

Securing content is only one hurdle the phone companies must deal with as they enter the TV market. A political battle has erupted in Washington, D.C., between the phone companies and cable companies over regulatory issues.

The cable companies say that Congress should prohibit SBC and Verizon from offering digital TV unless the companies follow an extensive list of government regulations. Meanwhile, the phone companies argue they should not be forced to pay franchise fees in local markets.