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Verizon Wireless Gets HBO Now as Wireline Ponders Strike

28 Jul, 2015 By: Erik Gruenwedel

On the surface, Verizon’s July 28 announcement that HBO Now is now available to about 100 million of the telecom’s wireless subscribers, appears notable since the premium channel’s nascent standalone subscription service heretofore was only available on Apple devices and Cablevision.

HBO Now is now available to non-FiOS TV customers for a monthly subscription of $14.99. FiOS TV customers can continue to purchase HBO, which includes access to the HBO GO app and access to HBO content on FiOS Mobile, through existing sales channels, including by using their FiOS TV remote control.

The separation from FiOS TV is important because the HBO Now announcement comes just four days before Verizon’s union contracts with 39,000 wireline employees expire on Aug. 1. The telecom’s wireline business includes FiOS, Internet, telephone and television.

Currently, nearly 90% of wireline employees reportedly have authorized going on strike if management doesn’t backtrack on select mandated concessions.

"Our members are clear and they are determined — they reject management's harsh concessionary demands, including the elimination of job security, sharp increases in workers' health care costs, and slashing retirement security," said David Trainer, VP for Communications Workers of America, one of the unions representing workers.

At issue are Verizon’s reported efforts to curb healthcare and pension-related benefits over a three-year period.

"Union rallies and strike authorization votes are useless distractions that achieve nothing," Verizon spokesman Rich Young told Reuters. "We believe their time would be far more beneficial focusing on the important contractual issues that need to be resolved."

Meanwhile, with industry wide efforts transitioning digital entertainment to hundreds of millions of mobile subscribers, Verizon remains at the forefront. It has exclusive mobile streaming rights to the Super Bowl. Its pending Go90 online TV service is targeting mobile — not wired — subscribers.

In recent fiscal calls, analysts have questioned the long-term merits of Verizon holding on to the wireline business — a stance underscored by the pending labor strife. CFO Fran Shammo dismissed the conjecture.

“We intend to work through the [contract] process until we achieve a new agreement that addresses the needs of our business and preserves the high quality of our jobs for our employees,” Shammo said July 21.

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