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Verizon's new TV channel

Thursday, Verizon plans to unveil its first stab at TV programming -- well, the first since Tele-TV, an ill-fated TV programming and delivery venture that two of Verizon's predecessors, Bell Atlantic and NYNEX, launched in the mid-1990s. This time the product is a channel that Verizon plans to offer through FiOS TV, its fiber-optic alternative to cable, to customers in the Washington, D.C. area. It will be devoted to local topics, including news, sports, traffic and high-definition videos shot by "citizen video journalists" (dubbed VJ's -- how original). The sports programming alone (which includes some Georgetown and George Mason University games and Major League Baseball but not, apparently, the Redskins) could generate a substantial audience for the channel, depending on which games Verizon can obtain the rights to carry. Not many details are available yet, but it sounds as if Verizon is falling into the trap of using advanced technology to deliver something based on yesterday's programming model. Instead of a linear channel, a la local broadcasters, why not make the material available on demand? Let users put up windows showing news, traffic and weather simultaneously, and let them pick which segments to watch in the order they want to watch them. FiOS doesn't have to be just an alternative to cable; it can create a whole new value proposition for viewers. And the easiest place for Verizon to start is with programming it owns.

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Times editorial writer Jon Healey pens opinion pieces about a variety of business issues, and blogs about technologies that are changing the entertainment industry's business model.

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