NEW YORK, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Verizon Communications Inc , which launched its pay TV plan “FiOS Custom TV” last year to let viewers choose bundles of channels they want to watch, has redesigned the offering.
The revamped Custom TV now offers a choice of one of two packages with over 100 channels and three optional genre-specific packs instead of a slim base offering of 36 channels plus numerous genre-specific add-ons.
The move to expand the offering was not in response to objections from content partners but based on customer feedback, a Verizon spokesman said.
The first package called “Essentials” has over 190 channels, including the big four U.S. networks Disney’s ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC. The package also includes Discovery Channel and AMC with no sports offerings. The second package “Sports & more” has over 160 channels, including ESPN and regional sports, plus non-sports channels, such as Cartoon Network.
In April last year, Verizon repackaged the traditional pay-TV bundle and created a stir with some programmers by moving channels traditionally prevalent in pay-TV base packages such as ESPN, a unit of Walt Disney Co and Comcast Corp division NBC Universal’s USA out of a base tier into optional genre-specific add-on packs such as sports and entertainment.
ESPN has sued Verizon alleging a breach of contract, while Twenty-First Century Fox and NBC Universal have said that the Custom TV offering violates their contractual obligations.
The offering now costs $69.99, along with FiOS Internet and digital voice services and offers three genre-specific add-on packages with movie, family and global sports channels for $6 each. The first Custom TV iteration started at $65 a month for broadband service, 36 fixed basic channels and two genre-based channel packs, from a choice of seven for $10 each.
The growing popularity of online video services such as Netflix Inc has put pressure on pay TV providers to innovate.
Last month, Verizon’s chief financial officer Fran Shammo declined to comment on the ESPN lawsuit on an earnings call with investors but said that customers “don’t want to have to pay for bundles that they never use.”
“We will refresh (Custom TV) here in the short term to be in compliance with the contractual arrangements,” he added.
Compared to pay-TV giants AT&T Inc with its DirecTV acquisition last year and Comcast, FiOS has a small market in 12 states and Washington, D.C. Verizon had 5.8 million FiOS video customers at the end of 2015. (Reporting by Malathi Nayak; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)