At first blush, Terry Denson’s past career as a high school English teacher might not appear to have much to do with his current job as Verizon Communications’ VP of programming and marketing and his charge to deploy the phone giant’s new video product.
But in a lot of ways, what Mr. Denson learned about educating teenagers fits nicely with his current job.
Just as a teacher often faces an uphill battle when trying to drum up enthusiasm among students for reading “Moby-Dick,” Mr. Denson faces challenges as he takes the lead in building Verizon’s video product, FiOS TV. His chief task: convincing cable customers that the video product is compelling enough for them to make the switch.
For Verizon and Mr. Denson, the stakes are high. Not only does FiOS TV set the stage for Verizon to transform itself from a ho-hum phone company into a media concern, many observers believe Verizon has to make the FiOS TV venture work to ensure the company’s long-term survival.
Like most traditional phone companies, Verizon is seeing its core land-line business shrink as customers dump their phone lines in favor of lower-cost alternatives from wireless providers, Internet phone companies and, most recently, cable companies. The response of the country’s biggest phone companies has been to get into the video distribution business.
But that brings challenges with it. The phone companies have made several attempts over the years to offer video service, only to see those efforts fall flat due to missteps. Also, this latest attempt has a huge price tag attached to it: Verizon said it alone could spend up to $15 billion over the next decade upgrading its networks to allow for the delivery of video content to households. And cable operators are ramping up their own array of services and waging a legislative battle to thwart any attempts by the phone companies to simplify how they obtain municipal franchises to offer video.
For his part, Mr. Denson said he recognizes what’s at stake, but he believes Verizon is well positioned to make the grade.
“Previously, video was peripheral to the corporate culture, but here today it’s core to the culture,” he said. “Another component is that the marketplace has changed so that now it’s about winning a household and getting the entire business of a household.” Mr. Denson added that now that Verizon has video, it can market it alongside its high-speed data, voice and wireless offerings.
Also working in Verizon’s favor is Mr. Denson himself, who after his brief stint in education got into cable programming both on the network side and operator side. He joined Verizon in August 2004 after serving as director of business development for the affiliate sales and marketing department at MTV Networks.
That background has come in handy as Mr. Denson negotiates carriage agreements with programmers. He said he has been able strike relationships with content owners by explaining to them that FiOS’s network allows programmers to bring to market more products and services than they might with a cable operator.
“We understand what content providers want. We understand what consumers want, and we have a network that can satisfy both,” he said, adding that FiOS offers subscribers of a basic expanded package some 200 channels for around $40 a month.
At A Glance
Title: VP, programming and marketing, Verizon Communications’ FiOS TV product
How long in current position: 1.5 years
Year of birth: 1965
Place of birth: Washington; raised in Webster, N.Y.
What to watch for: Mr. Denson is leading Verizon’s closely watched foray into video, which has the potential to alter the distribution landscape by adding a third competitor to the ongoing cable-versus-satellite battle.
Who knew? Mr. Denson is an opera aficionado.