Verizon, ESPN clash as FiOS TV goes la carte

DetailsMichelle Clancy | 21 April 2015

Verizon FiOS has become the first major pay-TV provider in the United States to launch a 'skinny' TV option in a traditional subscription model.

The IPTV provider's Custom TV offering begins with a core package of 35 networks, including CNN, AMC, HGTV and the Food Network. From there, subscribers can add any of seven thematic channel bundles. Any two of them are included in the package, with additional bundles available for $10 per month each.

One sports package offers ESPN and Fox Sports 1, while another has the NFL Network, the MLB Network and 18 regional sports networks. An entertainment package will carry popular cable networks such as TBS, TNT and USA; a news package will carry Fox News, MSNBC and CNBC; a kids' package will include the Disney Network, Nickelodeon and the Cartoon Network; a pop culture package includes Comedy Central, E! and MTV; and a lifestyle package includes Animal Planet, Bravo and Lifetime.

DISH Network is also going the skinny TV route with its over-the-top (OTT) Sling TV offering. It includes a $20 core package dubbed the 'Best of Live TV,' and a variety of add-on packages of live channels for $5 more per month, oriented around sports, lifestyle, kids and news.

Yet even before the packages became available, sports giant ESPN has threatened action into what it regards as unauthorised breaking up of a profitable bundle. An ESPN spokesperson was quoted by US news source re/code as saying: "Media reports about Verizon's new contemplated bundles describe packages that would not be authorised by our existing agreements. Among other issues, our contracts clearly provide that neither ESPN nor ESPN2 may be distributed in a separate sports package."