Verizon, Comcast targeting younger customers -- Gazette.Net







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This report was updated on Jan. 17, 2012.

The competition between telecom giants Verizon and Comcast for Maryland consumers is spilling over into social media and targeting younger adults in apartments.

Verizon recently rolled out a marketing campaign in the Washington, D.C., region, which includes suburban Maryland, targeting adults ages 25 to 39 who live in apartments with its FiOS television and Internet services.

“We are continually developing marketing campaigns,” said Erik Hawkins, group marketing manager for Verizon who works with small-business customers in Maryland, Washington and Virginia. “We believe this is a new, innovative approach.”

The “FiOS 50” campaign employs Twitter and foursquare, a social networking website mostly for mobile users, to identify 50 of the hottest restaurants, bars and health clubs in the region where younger adults congregate. Participants get discounts at those places when they mention FiOS and on Verizon’s products if they post messages on Twitter containing links to the New York company’s site.

The 50 hottest venues include not just famous spots such as Ben’s Chili Bowl in the District, but local favorites such as Black’s Bar & Kitchen in Bethesda and Cava Mezze Rockville.

“We’re doing it differently, meeting people where they are,” Hawkins said, noting younger adults frequently use Smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices to access the Internet and TV for work and entertainment.

Comcast is constantly responding to customers’ desires to access services on the go, including through social media, said Alisha Martin, a spokeswoman for the Philadelphia company.

“We’re responding to that demand and redefining an industry with cutting-edge technologies and an unprecedented pipeline of innovation that is bringing our customers more choices, features and integrated services,” she said.

For instance, Comcast is integrating its Xfinity TV with Facebook to make it easier for people to share their television viewing with friends. Xfinity is the “first experience of its kind,” Martin said.

Xfinity users can access movies, videos and more all in one place, as well as manage digital video recorders from smartphones or computers. Applications allow customers to stream on-demand videos to mobile devices.

Comcast also gives customers new and easier ways to do business with the company, increasingly leveraging social media such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook and online question-and-answer sessions, Martin said.

Last fall, Comcast also unveiled Internet Essentials, a program in which families whose students qualify for federal free lunches can receive Internet service for $9.95 per month.

More services for businesses

Verizon continues to build its small-business segment in Maryland, Hawkins said.

“We have tens of thousands of business customers in Maryland,” he said. “They are in all industries — health care, architectural, engineering, retail, restaurants and more.”

Meanwhile, Comcast counters with its Business Class program with high-speed Internet, TV and phone services. Those services in Maryland include a 100 megabits per second high-speed Internet service that is among the fastest broadband services available nationwide, Martin said.

The business program has largely targeted smaller companies, but last year, Comcast rolled out Metro Ethernet for larger businesses, Martin said.

Metro Ethernet offers a significant performance increase — often at less cost — over T1 lines and other technologies, and is delivered using Comcast’s own fiber optic network, which is separate from conventional phone networks.

“We continue to see success with our Business Class services,” Martin said. “We are excited to expand upon that success to mid-sized and larger businesses.”

The bundled services, with a lower price for Internet, TV and phone, have been popular with residential and business customers, both Martin and Hawkins said.

The competition between Verizon, Comcast and other TV, phone and Internet providers in Maryland “has remained consistent,” Hawkins said.

“We are confident that our solutions and bundles in the marketplace are the most compelling ones out there,” Hawkins said. “We are so confident in our products and services that we don’t need to lock customers into multiyear terms with early termination penalties.”

Neither Verizon nor Comcast provided subscriber numbers for Maryland, as officials cited competitive reasons. As of Sept. 30, Verizon Communications, of New York City, reported a total of 4.6 million FiOS Internet subscribers, up 19 percent from a year earlier. The business had 4.0 million FiOS TV subscribers, an increase of 21 percent from the previous year.

Comcast did not have overall subscriber figures in its latest quarterly report.

Verizon is one of the largest employers in the state with almost 10,000 workers late last year, according to a Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development survey. That is down from a little more than 11,000 employees in 2010.