Could Verizon Fios Dump Cable TV for YouTube TV?

February 20, 2020 Topic: Technology Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: Verizon FiosTechnologyCable TVYou TubeYou Tube TV

Could Verizon Fios Dump Cable TV for YouTube TV?

It does not sound like a bad idea. Here's why. 

On a recent earnings call, Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg was apparently pressed if their Fios TV service could someday be swapped out in favor of a bundled residential broadband and YouTube TV package. According to a readout of the call, Vestberg did not directly answer the question, instead commenting that over-the-top video services like YouTube TV are “where the market is going … more and more content is coming and you need to start mixing and matching.”

While the question was clearly a valid one, and important as Verizon and YouTube TV already have a partnership, Vestberg’s non-answer was quite telling. It was essentially the equivalent of Verizon stating its cable TV product is slowly becoming more and more obsolete as time goes on, thanks to services like Netflix, Hulu and changes in how consumers watch video content. I would argue, however, that it is not just streaming services that are doing damage to Verizon’s ability to sign up new cable TV customers or at least retain the ones they have. Signing up for Fios, as I found out recently, is not exactly a fun experience. You could easily think you are signing up for one price point and get a nasty bill with a much higher rate later on unless you do your homework.

But the challenges for Fios don’t stop there. The actual user interface that powers Fios TV is horrible, old-looking, and just downright painful to use. It has not changed much in recent years while streaming services are on the cutting edge, crafting platforms that are slickly designed and engaging. Fios has tried to innovate, or at least copy what others are doing, by adding in a voice command feature on their Fios remote controls. However, in my experience using it, I find it lacking in understanding basic commands and is nowhere as easy to use as the Xfinity version. 

Considering the fact that Verizon’s cable TV business—once an industry disrupter that caused existential damage to the cable company I worked for from 2000-2011—is essentially stagnant in terms of growth, now would be the time to make a big change with an eye towards the future. A much more robust partnership with YouTube TV would make a lot of sense, or even possibly dumping its cable product and going to its own over-the-top only service. The good news is that Verizon has time to make the right choice and has some options, as they are not bleeding TV customers as fast as their competition. They also offer what I would say is the best high-speed internet in the nation: a 1 Gigabit symmetrical connection, that many high-speed internet customers would die for. Other pay-TV providers could only wish they were so lucky.

Harry J. Kazianis serves as a senior director at the Center for the National Interest and Executive Editor of their publishing arm, the National Interest. Harry enjoys writing about technology issues and products from a real-world perspective, having previously worked in the telecommunications industry from 2000-2011. You can follow him (or yell at him) on Twitter: @Grecianformula.

Image: Reuters.