Live TV on your cell phone? Ready or not, here it comes.
Verizon wowed attendees at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas with a sneak preview of the next generation of cell phone technology that will deliver live network TV to a cell phone.
Other cell phone carriers already offer prerecorded or buffered TV content on cell phones.
But Verizon will be using a new technology called MediaFLO from Qualcomm that puts technology in the phone and broadcasts the content live and not buffered.
The service has been dubbed "V Cast Mobile TV," and will be available sometime in the first quarter of this year.
"This is a real transformation of the American media market," Verizon's new president and COO Denny Strigl told reporters and analysts who were driven to an off-site location at the ultratrendy Palms Hotel and Casino where a TV studio had been set up.
"We feel that we are offering a service that people will want, and we want to be able to offer it to them now," Strigl said.
"The service has something for everyone. It will be available on hot new handsets, and is presented in a programming format that's familiar to any TV viewer," he said.
Verizon says in the future, the phones will include a recording option for time-shifted viewing and broadcasts of local newscasts instead of a single West Coast and single East Coast network feed.
The content will be restricted to certain partners that include CBS, NBC, MTV, Fox and Comedy Central. ESPN was shown on demo units, but is not yet signed up for the launch.
The channels will be programmed specifically for the service and will evolve based on user feedback and licensing deals.
Pricing and availability was not announced.
"There will be an additional fee for this service on top of V Cast, but we want to price the service to sell, not to be admired. If we charge $500 a month, nobody will pay for it," said John Stratton, Verizon's chief marketing officer.
"We'll be pricing this service competitively. Somewhere between there [$500] and free [to the sounds of laughter]," he said.
The launch will require one of two new phones from Samsung or LG. The phones demonstrated displayed a pleasant broadcast quality picture in a wide-screen format. Changing channels showed little lag time, and the program guide was intuitive and easy to read.
With more than 2,700 exhibitors vying for the public's attention this week at the annual Consumer Electronics Show, Verizon knows how to get its message out.
This former Baby Bell has diversified its interests and has chosen the last three annual electronic shows to announce major programming initiatives.
In 2005, Verizon Wireless announced a service called V Cast where subscribers could play multimedia content on their phones for the first time. In 2006, consumers were introduced to the V Cast Music Store, which offered tunes for download over the air and onto their phones.
As the attendees grabbed their boxed lunch and boarded the buses to return to the convention center, many who had wondered when they might be able to access live TV where they lived, realized the time had come.