Verizon Communications has become the latest pay TV provider to respond to the pinch of high sports-programming costs.
Starting next month, the telco will begin charging FiOS TV customers a $2.42 monthly fee for regional sports networks, while it also offers a new sports-free programming package.
“Verizon has chosen a fee of $2.42 per month (as opposed to increased TV package charges) to address the skyrocketing incremental sports content costs associated with this popular programming,” spokeswoman Heather Wilner said in an email message.
The fee will first take effect in February for FiOS TV customers in California, Texas and Florida, and in all remaining states in March, except Maryland and Virginia, where the fee will go into effect in April.
The move comes after DirecTV instituted a $3 monthly RSN surcharge in August 2012 for new customers in markets with multiple RSNs, such as Los Angeles and New York. At an investment conference this month, Direc-TV CEO Mike White said the operator will expand the surcharge in 2013 to markets with high-priced sports networks.
Last week, Verizon announced the FiOS TV Select HD package, which excludes RSNs and sports networks like ESPN, as well as some other popular channels such as Fox News Channel and TNT, priced $15 less per month than its previous entry-level HD tier. To avoid the new RSN surcharge, customers can downgrade to Select HD before the fee takes effect on their bills, Wilner said. “We believe in giving our customers choice,” she said.
SIMILAR CABLE PACKAGES
Comcast and Time Warner Cable have introduced similar stripped-down TV packages that exclude sports programming. Comcast’s MyTV Choice, launched in late 2011, provides local TV channels plus 32 cable networks starting at $24.95 per month, but omits RSNs and sports networks. TWC’s TV Essentials, around $30 per month, also leaves out ESPN and other sports networks.
Initially, Verizon’s RSN fee will be applied to all new and month-to-month customers. Subscribers in a contract will not be subject to the charge until they make a change to their existing package or their contract rolls off .