Verizon's FiOS TV, which in February began charging a $2.42 surcharge for regional sports networks, has introduced a new $9.99 "Sports Pass" add-on tier that includes networks currently available in the most expensive programming package (Ultimate HD) and some services that are slated to be removed from a less-inclusive package (Extreme HD) that Verizon advertises as its most popular.
The new tier has: beIN SPORT HD, CBS Sports Network, ESPN Buzzer Beater/Goal Line HD, ESPN Classic, HRTV, Longhorn Network, Outdoor Channel, Sportsman Channel, TVG and World Fishing Network.
BeIN SPORT HD was recently added to FiOS TV but only in the Ultimate HD package, which also includes all premium channels. The ESPN Buzzer Beater and Goal Line HD services and ESPN Classic recently were dropped from the Extreme HD package (which remained at the same price as before). Sports Pass can be added to FiOS TV Local, FiOS TV Select HD, Prime HD, Extreme HD and La Conexion. Verizon said in a blog post it might add other channels to the Sports Pass tier.
Verizon has been attempting to off-load sports programming costs onto subscribers more willing to pay the freight than viewers who don't watch much sports on TV, partly via the RSN surcharge and by introducing, in January, a sports-free $49.99 package called Select HD.
Terry Denson, Verizon's vice president of content strategy and acquisition, said in a recent Multichannel News Q&A (subscription required), when asked if charging more for sports tiers is the FiOS TV solution to rising sports costs: "I'm not sure I would call that the answer. We certainly don't want to put more cost pressure on the consumer. But I do think our Select HD offering, which effectively is a sports-free offering, provides economic value to a customer who is looking for that. I think that's helpful. There are plenty of people out there who just aren't interested in sports. We have a content offering that addresses that customer base and we'll see how that resonates. But in terms of a macro solution, I don't have one. I'd love to hear anyone who does."
Correction: The ESPN Buzzer Beater and Goal Line HD services and ESPN Classic are going to be removed from the Extreme HD package, Verizon has notified customers, but they have not yet been removed, according to Verizon.