Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Verizon Won’t Talk About Its Talks to Build a Netflix-Style Service. But It Is Definitely Talking.

Those stories about Verizon launching its own Netflix-style video service? Ignore them, says Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam. Those are “all just speculation by people who like to write blogs.”

So congrats to Reuters’ Yinka Adegoke and Sinead Carew, along with The Wall Street Journal’s Sam Schechner, Anton Troianovski and Spencer Ante on their new gigs! If you guys ever want to get together and trade tips (Google Analytics or Chartbeat? etc.) I’m totally down for a Meetup. It would be good to get out of my pajamas …

Meanwhile, this blogger can also report that Verizon has been talking to programmers about a Netflix-style video service. There don’t appear to be any signed deals, and there may not be anything formal on the table yet, so don’t expect to see anything until next spring at the earliest.

But the idea of offering packages of video programming, delivered over the Web, is a fairly straightforward one. Which is why it has also appealed to satellite TV provider Dish Networks, which has also had grown-up conversations about the idea. And to Microsoft, and Google, and Apple, whose discussions about it over the years haven’t progressed very far.

And, of course, to Hulu and Amazon, who are already doing it.

So we’re certain to see more “over the top” video from big brand names down the line. “Shame on those [Netflix] competitors for not being in the market years ago,” says a TV executive — who would be happy to sell any of them some programming when/if they do get into the market.

So if that’s the case, what does that mean for companies like Verizon, which sell traditional pay TV services right now?

Here McAdam, speaking at the UBS media/telco conference this morning, doesn’t just disagree with professional typers. He’s also butting rhetorical heads with Ivan Seidenberg, whose last job was … CEO of Verizon.

A year ago, Seidenberg told investors that “over the top” video — stuff that comes from the Web instead of a cable subscription — was going to be a big problem for pay TV services: “Young people are pretty smart. They’re not going to pay for something they don’t need to … Over the top is going to be a pretty big issue for cable.”

Nah, says the new guy, who takes the conventional line that over the top is a complement to his business, not a threat. Or at least not anytime soon. “We have a tendency to see trends like this in the industry and extrapolate it to become the majority. I think it will be many years before it is,” he said.

Still! McAdam did allow that Verizon was interested in offering stuff that sounds a whole lot like the “over the top” options that Reuters and the Journal reported about yesterday (and I am reporting this morning! From my basement!).

He acknowledged, as we reported earlier this year, that the company had kicked the tires on Hulu this summer. “We kind of  looked at that,” he said. “And we’ll continue to look at alternatives.”

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik