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Verizon Strikes Deal to Carry Public TV Stations

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By Jeremy Pelofsky

Verizon Communications said on Friday it has struck a multiyear deal for its new subscription television service to carry a wide range of programming from public television stations.

The deal is the latest for the No. 2 U.S. telephone company as it expands into the lucrative subscription TV business and tries to lure customers to buy its bundle of communications and video services.

"Verizon is excited to add this programming, as well as public television's new offerings available through its digital multicasts," said Kathryn Brown, Verizon's senior vice president for public policy development.

Television stations are switching to digital broadcasts, and with new technology they will be able to offer additional channels beyond their primary station, known as multicasting.

Under the agreement with the Public Broadcasting Service and the Association of Public Television Stations, Verizon will carry up to three digital public television stations in a market, as well their multicast stations.

The company, which offers its subscription television service Fios in parts of seven states and plans to expand, said it would also carry other non-commercial stations in a market as long as it did not duplicate programming of other stations in the market.

"As more Americans take advantage of the wonders of technology, it is crucial they have access to the trusted, valuable content that PBS and its member stations provide," said PBS President and Chief Executive Officer Paula Kerger.

In early 2005, public television reached a 10-year agreement with cable operators to carry up to four digital channels of non-commercial programming offered by each public television station in a market.

The Federal Communications Commission next week is scheduled to vote on a proposal that would require cable companies like Comcast Corp. to carry the extra channels broadcasters are launching.

Some of the stations have already launched additional channels offering news, weather and home shopping services.

Some deals to carry those extra channels have been struck between broadcasters and cable operators. However, the cable industry opposes an FCC mandate.

AT&T Inc., the largest U.S. telephone carrier, which is also rolling out a video service, has said it backs the FCC effort to require carriage of the multicasts. The company has yet to announce any TV content deals.

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