Verizon's plans for a wireless television service separate from its FiOS offerings took a significant step closer to reality Wednesday as it secured the rights to Viacom content for the service.
As part of a standard agreement renewal to ensure its FiOS television offering continues to carry Viacom channels like MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon, the companies also agreed to a "ground-breaking national wireless distribution deal." That made Viacom, the companies said, the latest in "a growing list of major programmers" to grant Verizon the rights to distribute TV content to Verizon Wireless customers.
It also made Verizon the latest firm to jump head first into an growing pool of companies working to create "over-the-top" television services that are delivered over the Internet or wireless networks rather than the traditional cable or satellite systems.
For consumers, these experimental services could hold the potential to break TV options out of the big, costly packages that typify cable and satellite. For companies, they're a way to hedge against a maturing generation of future customers whose video habits are antithetical to paying for a giant FiOS package. However, their developers -- companies like Verizon,and -- are in uncharted territory, with no guarantees they can create a product with enough content and at a quality level and price point enticing enough to be a sustainable business.
A Viacom spokesman said the programmer couldn't discuss what content has been licensed, such as whether it meant full channels or which ones. A Verizon spokeswoman said the carrier wasn't disclosing additional details, such as other programmers that have authorized their content for a wireless service.
Though all the new "over-the-top" TV services are far from launching, Viacom has already licensed it content to two of them. Last month it agreed to contribute 22 of its networks to Sony's coming cloud-based TV service at launch.
For Verizon, the Viacom deal builds upon itsin January, when the mobile giant said it planned to use the technology to deliver video over both its FiOS fiber-optic home broadband service and its 4G wireless network service. CEO Lowell McAdam said at an investor conference in New York last month that the company was working toward creating an over-the-top TV service provided by Verizon Wireless as opposed to FiOS.