Verizon will replace its FiOS1 News channel with a new local television news channel this fall, a company official said Monday afternoon.
"We understand this content is important to our customers and plan to continue to offer hyperlocal news, traffic, weather, high school sports and other fan-favorite local content," said company spokesman Tony McNary. "Those plans will be announced shortly."
McNary's comments came hours after he sent an email Monday morning saying Verizon was shutting down FiOS1. He did not mention any plans for a successor channel at that time.
On Saturday RNN News LLC, the company that has produced news for FiOS1 for 10 years, told employees its contract with Verizon is not being renewed.
The closure of FiOS1 sparked controversy in the journalism and business communities, with the developers' group Association for a Better Long Island calling for state and local governments to require local news coverage by television operators.
McNary said Monday afternoon, "What will not go away is the hyperlocal news that those in the community and our customers value. The transition will be seamless from RNN to the new provider."
He declined to identify RNN's successor, but said it will provide reports from Long Island, the Hudson Valley and New Jersey as RNN has done.
RNN said it would eliminate150 jobs, including 30 on Long Island.
Richard French III, RNN's president of news, said, “Verizon Corporate Services Group Inc. has told us that it will not renew its contract with RNN News when our current agreement expires” at midnight on Nov. 15.
RNN, also known as Regional News Network, has provided content to FiOS1 News since the channel launched in June 2009 as Verizon stepped up its competition with then-Cablevision Systems Corp. in Bethpage for subscribers in the metro area.
Cablevision created News 12 Long Island, the industry’s first 24-hour local news channel, in 1986, later adding additional News 12 channels focused on other parts of the metro area. FiOS1 eventually became a 24-hour channel as well.
Verizon, which has its headquarters in Manhattan, and RNN have been negotiating a contract renewal for about a year. “We were not able to reach an agreement,” French wrote in a Saturday letter to employees that was provided to Newsday.
“RNN remains open to discussions with Verizon and will continue to make the case that original local news is critical. … We believe a vibrant and competitive press is essential to our society and our democracy,” he said.
Asked if financial reasons were behind the decision not to renew RNN's contract, McNary, the Verizon spokesman, said, "I'm not going to get into that, but it has nothing to do with the content" provided by RNN.
ABLI, the developers' group, took a wait-and-see approach to news of Verizon's proposed replacement for FiOS1.
The group's executive director, Kyle Strober, said, "While we wait to see how, or whether, they will replace their FiOS coverage with something equally comprehensive, the question among those municipalities that grant Verizon franchise agreements to operate should be whether future contracts mandate that they provide locally originated news."