Verizon goes for the local in first FiOS

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WASHINGTON -- Verizon thinks that deploying "hyper-local" programming will set its own local channel FiOS1 apart from traditional rivals in cable and broadcast TV.

The channel is the first of a series in major markets on which the phone company is attempting to develop its own programming. Verizon executives plan to focus on hometown traffic, weather and sports that are ignored by most outlets, as well as on attracting programming from viewers.

"Viewers will find the local information and feature stories that matter most to them on FiOS1," FiOS1 executive producer Michelle Webb.

The company already has deals to televise the games of Georgetown University and George Mason University and the Northern Virginia high-school football and baseball association members. Both universities have a significant number of high-income local alumni. The Washington suburbs that make up Northern Virginia are among the most prosperous in the region.

Whether Verizon's strategy is successful will depend on a number of often conflicting factors. Keeping labor costs down while creating new content always is a vexing matter. It is especially daunting when the content has to compete with shows that have costly high production values.

Still the success of Internet ventures like YouTube shows that there is a market for often crudely produced content produced by viewers. A channel with the comparatively deep pockets of Verizon has the potential to take viewers away from conventional cable, broadcast and other media.

"We know that our viewers' time is valuable," said Webb, a former ABC News producer. "Our goal is to make FiOS1 the channel that our subscribers want to leave on."
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