During two days in early January I counted more than 4,000 VOD titles offered by FiOS TV. Like cable VOD, FiOS VOD changes constantly, so a subsequent count could produce a different result.* Still, the following breakdown of FiOS VOD provides a reference point on an important basis of competition between FiOS TV service and cable.

Roughly 40% of the VOD titles were full-length movies and episodes from TV series, under the categories of Movies (213 titles), Subscription (452), Adult (89) and Kids Free (424), as well as subcategories of All Free. At the other extreme were short video clips, especially under the All Free category, including Music videos (936), and much of VCast Showcase (327), which is also available to Verizon Wireless customers.

A FiOS TV brochure from late 2006 trumpets a "massive On Demand library, with instant access to over 2,700 movies and shows." Although it turned out that FiOS offers more VOD titles than advertised, access is often less than "instant" because many of these titles are buried within a multilevel VOD menu.

For some categories, like Subscriptions or Movies, finding what you want is relatively easy. In other categories, the only way to identify and locate VOD titles of possible interest is to navigate down mine shafts of FiOS’ VOD subcategories. This process is most tedious in the largest VOD category, All Free, with its 2,866 titles. For example, to get to a particular Comedy Channel title required six clicks on the remote: VOD > All Free > VCast Showcase > Comedy Channel > Daily Show/Colbert > Dustin Hoffman interview. After watching Colbert’s seven-minute interaction with his guest, to identify and select another Daily Show/Colbert episode required returning all the way back to "VOD" and then repeating the same number of steps.

For its linear TV content, FiOS offers a useful search capability that includes keyword searching of titles. For example, Menu > Search > Title brings up an alphanumeric grid on the TV screen; clicking the letters of a title on this grid quickly identifies the channel, dates and times for the desired upcoming program or movie. Verizon says it is testing a searchable, interactive media guide that for the first time will encompass VOD content, as well as stored DVR content. It will be rolled out later this year. This, plus the addition of more on-demand content that is worth searching for, will enhance FiOS VOD as a FiOS TV selling point.

* Editors Note: Comcast says it offers approximately 8,000 titles over the course of a month to subscribers across its footprint.

Peter D. Shapiro is an industry veteran and principal at PDS Consulting, a cable & telecoms consultancy (www.pdsconsulting.net). He can be reached at: peter@pdsconsulting.net.

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