Verizon & ESPN Settle Lawsuit Over FiOS “Skinny Bundles”

More than a year after Disney-owned ESPN sued Verizon FiOS for not including the expensive sports network in the core channels of its so-called “skinny bundles” — and three months after Verizon brought ESPN back into the fold (while also reducing the number of skinny bundle options available to FiOS subscribers), the two companies have made nice and settled their lawsuit.

When FiOS launched the skinny bundle model in early 2015, it offered pay-TV customers something almost resembling a build-your-own cable package: pay $55 for a core package of a few dozen basic cable channels (but no ESPN), then pick and choose from niche-targeted add-on bundles of around 10 channels each. The $55 base price included two add-on bundles at no extra charge, so in theory customers who wanted ESPN did not have to pay extra for it.

Regardless, ESPN contended that by omitting the channel — which is estimated to represent at least $5/month of your basic cable bill — from the mandatory core that every subscriber receives, Verizon was in violation of its contract with the sports network.

Rumors of an apparent truce began to pop up earlier this year when Verizon once again drastically restructured its FiOS offerings.

Rather than market the DIY skinny bundle model, Verizon simplified everything into two options: The Custom TV Essentials package that included cable-TV mainstays like Discovery Channel, Lifetime, History, Bravo, Fox News, but not ESPN, and the Custom TV Sports & More package that included ESPN along with other sports programming.

At the time, Verizon denied that this shift had anything to do with the ESPN lawsuit, saying instead that it was about simplifying things for customers.

A rep for Verizon confirms to Consumerist that FiOS will continue to offer the ESPN-less Custom TV Essentials package for those who don’t want their money to go to a sports channel they don’t watch.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.