ESPN is pushing back on Verizon's (NYSE: VZ) new strategy to create smaller, more customized programming bundles for its FiOS pay-TV service.
"Media reports about Verizon's new contemplated bundles describe packages that would not be authorized by our existing agreements," reads an ESPN statement. "Among other issues, our contracts clearly provide that neither ESPN nor ESPN2 may be distributed in a separate sports package."
On Sunday, Verizon started marketing its "Custom HD TV" package, which includes 45 channels, including broadcast networks, plus two additional genre-based "channel packs" of 10-17 networks, based on seven categories--"Sports," "Sports Plus," "Lifestyle," "Kids," "Pop Culture," "Entertainment" and "News and info," all for $54.99.
As the Verizon product page reveals, ESPN and ESPN 2 are, in fact, bundled together in the "Sports" package. However, save for ABC, no other Disney-owned channel is in the "Custom HD" base package.
So, a subscriber can acquire ESPN without also subscribing to Disney Channel, ABC Family, Disney XD and the rest of the Disney cable channel portfolio.
Likewise, a subscriber paying for the "Kids" channel pack could get Nickelodeon, but eschew Spike TV, MTV, BET, Comedy Central and several other Viacom channels available in "Pop Culture."
For its part, Re/code--which first reported about Disney/ESPN's dissent over the new Verizon packaging--spoke to at least one other programming conglomerate, which said it didn't consent to the plan, either.
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