In Midst Of Disney Lawsuit, Verizon Creates FiOS “Custom TV” Package That Includes ESPN

ESPN is easily the most expensive single channel in any basic cable lineup, accounting for around $5 of the average cable bill just on its own. Cable companies are also contractually barred from putting the all-sports network on any sort of premium tier, which is why it was big news last year when Verizon FiOS announced a new “Custom TV” pricing model that made ESPN completely optional for everyone. That’s also why ESPN’s parent company Disney sued Verizon, alleging breach of contract. Now, Verizon has revised Custom TV to include ESPN and other sports channels for customers who want them.

In fact, Verizon’s update to Custom TV makes the whole idea significantly less customizable.

The concept announced last spring was that customers would pay $55 for a core package of a few dozen basic cable channels. Everything else, including ESPN, could be added on by selecting niche-targeted bundles of 10 or so stations each. At the time, the $55 price included two of these add-on bundles, meaning a FiOS subscriber could mix and match as they saw fit.

But the new model for Custom TV, which Verizon will officially begin offering Sunday, limits customization to choosing between two packages.

As its name implies, the new Custom TV Sports & More package piles on ESPN, FOX Sports 1, NBSCN, and other sports channels that had been relegated to sports-themed add-on bundles under the initial Custom TV offering.

The full lineup for the Sports & More option includes the broadcast networks, whatever regional sports station(s) FiOs carries in your area, and: AccuWeather, AMC, ASPiRE, AWE, Big Ten 1, Big Ten 2, Big Ten Network, Bloomberg TV, Blue Highways TV, Cartoon Network, CBS Sports Network, CCTV News, CNBC, CNBC World, CNN, Comedy Central, C-SPAN, C-SPAN 2, C-SPAN 3, Daystar, Disney Channel, ESPN, ESPNU, ESPN2, EVINE Live, Family Net, Food Network, Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports 2, FX, FXX, GSN, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, HGTV, HSN, Longhorn Network (TX only), Liquidation Channel, Mnet, MTV, Music Choice, NBCSN, NFL Network, Nick Jr., Nick Toons, Nickelodeon, POP, QVC, QVC Plus, RLTV, Rocks TV, SEC Network (TX and FL only), Syfy, TBS, TeenNick, TNT, truTV, USA, Velocity, and VH1

Custom TV Essentials adds on a bunch of big-name basic TV favorites (Discovery Channel, Lifetime, History, Bravo, Fox News) to what had been the core channels in the current Custom TV plan.

So in addition to the local broadcast TV networks, this package includes: A&E, ABC Family, AccuWeather, AMC, American Heroes Channel, Animal Planet, ASPIRE, BET, Bloomberg TV, Blue Highways TV, Bravo, CCTV News, Centric, CMT, CNBC World, CNN, CNN HLN, Comedy Central, C-SPAN, C-SPAN2, C-SPAN3, Daystar, Discovery Channel, Discovery Family Channel, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD, E!, Esquire Network, EVINE Live, Family Net, Food Network, Fox Business Network, Fox News, FX, FXM, FXX, GSN, Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, HGTV, History, HSN, IFC, Investigation Discovery, Lifetime, Liquidation Channel, LMN, Mnet, MSNBC, MTV, MTV2, Music Choice, National Geographic, National Geo Wild, Nick Jr., Nick Toons, Nickelodeon, One America News, Oxygen, POP, QVC, QVC Plus, RLTV, Rocks TV, Spike, Sprout, TeenNick, TLC, Travel Channel, Turner Classic Movies, TV Land, UP, USA, Velocity, VH1, VH1 Classic, and We TV

Both of these packages go for the same $55/month rate that Custom TV subscribers already pay. As you can see by comparing the two full lineups, the Essentials option provides about 20 more total channels than the Sports option. That should give you some idea of just how expensive sports programming is for pay-TV companies to carry.

A rep for the company tells Consumerist that the idea is to present customers with a “simpler choice than the first version of Custom TV,” but that these new packages maintain the spirit of the original idea.

In spite of the high-profile pending legal action from Disney, Verizon maintains that the change to Custom TV is not a response to the ESPN lawsuit.

Whether or not this shift placates Disney remains to be seen. According to the contracts that ESPN has with pay-TV providers, the channel must be included as part of the basic programming package. By only including ESPN on one of two Custom TV options, customers still have the choice of whether or not to pay for the channel.

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