ESPN Sues Verizon Over Custom TV

Says Skinny Package Violates Carriage Agreements

ESPN has filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court in New York against Verizon Communications over its controversial “skinny” TV package, Custom TV.

"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,” the sports programming giant said in a statement.

ESPN was the first programmer to come out against Verizon's Custom TV package after it was first announced on April 17.  Other programmers – NBC Universal and Fox Sports – also objected to the package, saying that it flew in the face of their existing agreements.

In its own statement, Verizon said it believes it is well within its rights.

"Consumers have spoken loud and clear that they want choice, and the industry should be focused on giving consumers what they want," Verizon said in a statement. " We are well within our rights under our agreements to offer our customers these choices." 

Verizon has been touting Custom TV as a near-ala carte offering, giving customers the channels they want, not what the distributor chooses for them. For $54.99, customers would get a base package of 35 channels – including the four broadcast channels and cable networks AMC, CNN, HGTV and Food Network – plus the ability to pick two of seven genre packages, including Lifestyle, Entertainment, News & Info, Pop Culture, Kids, Sports and Sports Plus. Customers could buy additional packages for $10 per month.

While the suit was filed in state Supreme Court in New York on Monday morning, it isn’t quite public yet. According to people familiar with the filing, because it contains potentially sensitive contractual information, Verizon, which has a copy of the suit, has the right to look over it and redact any material it finds too sensitive before the suit is available to the public.