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Comcast attacks Verizon’s HD claims

Philly HD wars.

Philly HD wars.

Facing a threat from Verizon Communications Inc. for pay-TV customers in its home city, Comcast Corp. is attacking some of Verizon's pay-TV claims as misleading and irrelevant to consumers.

More than 250 of Verizon's high-definition programming channels or other choices - out of a total of 1,057 - aren't real entertainment but program fillers on blow-drying hair, kissing, grilling a hamburger, folding a pillowcase, chopping garlic, and other mundane topics, Comcast says.

Verizon spokesman Harry Mitchell said today that the how-to programs were popular with customers and "this has the whiff of desperation about it. Verizon solidly beats Comcast in the number of HD channels."

The Philadelphia cable giant's jabs come as Verizon is seeking a 15-year agreement to offer its FiOS pay-TV services in Philadelphia. Mayor Nutter's administration disclosed the proposed Verizon agreement Nov. 13.

About a week later, Nov. 19, Verizon said in a news release that it would expand HD channels and choices to offer Philadelphia-area customers "far more HD content than Comcast."

Comcast says not true and has released comparative data on HD programming.

The data state that Comcast offers 1,304 HD choices overall and Verizon 1,057. In HD categories, Comcast says it has 224 HD movies, compared with 112 for Verizon; 423 HD music clips, compared with 197 for Verizon; 288 HD television shows, compared with 144 for Verizon, and so on.

Then there is the category listed as "HD Empty How To Choices." Comcast said it had zero and Verizon 268.

Not listed in the data are HD channels, in which Verizon is a clear leader. It has 104 to Comcast's 37. "We kick them in the teeth," Mitchell said.

Comcast snorts that 20 of the Verizon HD channels are so marginal that they're not rated by Nielsen.

"It's not just about statistics," Derek Harrar, a senior vice president at Comcast, said today. Comcast does not typically respond to individual claims by competitors, but felt it had to "set the record straight," Harrar said.

The proposed Verizon agreement to offer pay-TV services in Philadelphia did not prompt the action, Harrar said.

Earlier this year, Comcast launched its Project Infinity to offer more HD entertainment to compete with satellite services and emerging competitors, such as Verizon.

Verizon says it will invest $1 billion into Philadelphia for the FiOS service, which includes high-speed Internet, and would like a deal by the end of the year. City Council is considering the Verizon agreement. A second public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for Thursday in City Hall.