Verizon Planning Netflix Competitor For 2012 Debut

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Cable TV and internet giant Verizon is planning a streaming media service similar to Netflix, according to a Reuters report. The service is in the planning stages and people close to the matter, but apparently not that close, described it to Reuters variously as limited in scope, focused on movies, and focused on children’s programming. While it can’t be all three, it probably will feature on-demand movies and premium show streams, presumably delivered with that signature Verizon style.

Details are in fact few, except that Verizon is talking with content producers at the moment and is possibly going to jump on the Epix library of movies currently licensed to Netflix but soon to be available to others. And it would be offered in places that are not served by their FiOS service. Beyond that, it’s more or less all speculation.

The natural question is, of course, what exactly can Verizon offer that could possibly tempt users away from Netflix or other streaming options? I don’t want to condemn a service that hasn’t even been born yet, but Verizon isn’t exactly a popular consumer brand, at least for this kind of thing. Want signal in remote areas? Everyone will tell you “Verizon.” Want to stream a movie? Not many would make that connection.

There’s also the consideration that Reed Hastings calls to attention: the fact that both Netflix and their most feared competitor, HBO Go, spend over a billion every year on content. And as he points out, HBO is licensing more and Netflix is producing more. They’re becoming vertically integrated content delivery companies. Verizon is a series of pipes — efficient pipes, to be sure, but they’re in an awkward position from which to start. The last thing most consumers remember from them content-wise is the abysmal VCast.

If anything it will probably resemble Comcast’s on-demand Xfinity service, which works fine but isn’t winning any beauty contests (or content contests). It has some content that you can access through it, and you can access that content. Nothing wrong with that. But I doubt anyone would say it has Netflix in its sights. And to be honest, I don’t think Verizon has Netflix in its sights either, as Reuters characterizes the service: they just can’t afford to be left behind and honestly want to test the water.

The plan is currently to roll out in 2012, but that is as specific as the sources could get, apparently. By that time, it must be noted, there will likely be some serious changes in the streaming TV world, and Netflix might have even gotten its groove back. More options is always better, but let’s hope Verizon’s effort is more than half baked.