April 27, 2015 / 4:15 PM / in 4 years

ESPN sues Verizon, escalates battle over new pay TV offering

(Reuters) - ESPN sued Verizon Communications (VZ.N) on Monday for breach of contract involving a new pay TV offering, as the cable sports network fired the latest volley in a mounting battle with the telecommunications company.

A Verizon logo is seen during the International CTIA WIRELESS Conference & Exposition in New Orleans, Louisiana May 9, 2012. REUTERS/Sean Gardner

ESPN, a unit of Walt Disney Co (DIS.N), said in a legal document sent to the Supreme Court of New York State that Verizon violated its obligations “under certain license agreements” and it wants Verizon to pay.

The dispute involves Verizon’s new pay TV plan, offering consumers a slimmer package of channels targeting genre-specific packages such as sports, kids or news. In traditional subscriptions, customers pay for a large group of networks that often include ESPN.

ESPN and other media companies with a lot of sports content say the package violates their contracts with Verizon.

A Verizon spokesman said the company is in compliance of existing agreements.

“Consumers have spoken loud and clear that they want choice and the industry should be focused on what the consumer wants and giving them what they want,” A Verizon spokesman said.

ESPN said in a statement, “ESPN is at the forefront of embracing innovative ways to deliver high-quality content and value to consumers on multiple platforms, but that must be done in compliance with our agreements. We simply ask that Verizon abide by the terms of our contracts.”

Twenty-First Century Fox (FOXA.O) and Comcast’s (CMCSA.O) NBC Universal also said last week that the new Verizon offering violated the terms of their contracts.

It was unclear whether Fox and NBC planned to follow ESPN’s lead and file suit.

A spokeswoman for NBC declined to comment. A spokesman for Fox was not immediately available to comment.

Reporting by Jennifer Saba and Malathi Nayak in New York and Subrat Patnaik in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D'Souza and David Gregorio

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