Verizon Breaks Out Of Your Living Room


Say hello to Viewdini.

Last year, Verizon (NYS: VZ) sent some pretty clear signals that it wanted to break the TV experience away from your hard-wired living room. This week, Big Red took the next logical step by announcing a mobile video portal that delivers all the couch-potato goodness you might want right to your Verizon smartphone.

The Viewdini moniker may draw smirks and remind investors of the ill-fated Netflix (NAS: NFLX) Qwikster idea. But the name is actually pretty apt: The Viewdini portal breaks free from the restraints of traditional content delivery like a modern-day Houdini getting out of his straitjacket and chains.

In many ways, this portal looks like it might deliver the central content library that Google wanted to create in its Google TV platform, or Apple (NAS: AAPL) in the Apple TV box. The difference is, Verizon takes the show on the road too. Thanks to its FiOS TV services, Verizon also has the media-industry connections that Google and Verizon never had (outside of the iTunes connection to the music industry).

The first wave of Viewdini content will include all the usual suspects: Hulu Plus, Comcast Xfinity, and Netflix. Verizon's own FiOS will join the fray "soon," with other cable operators and TV station websites to be announced later.

The idea is simple: Search or browse for whatever you're in the mood to watch and Viewdini points you to a handful of sources for that show. Some sources, like Netflix and Xfinity, require subscriptions or one-off pay-per-view charges; others, such as TV station websites, might be available for free.

This is only for Verizon's stable of 4G LTE Android devices at first, though capability for "other operating systems" (read: iPhones and maybe Windows Phone gadgets) is coming soon. No word yet on whether Viewdini is designed to work over Wi-Fi links or exclusively over data-capped LTE connections.

For content providers like Netflix and Hulu, Viewdini becomes yet another potentially useful ally. Watching long-form movies and hours of TV shows on a tiny handheld screen might not add a whole lot of value for these guys, but every little bit helps. And Verizon gains a customer-friendly feature to set the company apart from AT&T (NYS: T) and Sprint Nextel (NYS: S) . This falls a bit short of decoupling FiOS subscription plans from the fiber-optic cable snaking up to your house, but it's a start.

All things considered, I call this "progress." Smart move, Big Red.

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At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributorAnders Bylundowns shares in Google and Netflix and has created a bull call spread on Netflix, but he holds no other position in any of the companies mentioned. Check outAnders' holdings and bio, or follow him onTwitterandGoogle+. The Motley Fool owns shares of Netflix, Apple, and Google.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Apple, Google, and Netflix.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinion, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days.

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