Verizon's revamped Custom TV package pricing 'incredibly confusing,' Consumer Reports says

While Verizon's (NYSE: VZ) revised pricing strategy for its FiOS Custom TV may have provided the foundation to settling a lawsuit with ESPN, it seems to have confounded Consumer Reports.

"After sifting through all the new Verizon FiOS packages for TV, I'd hate to see what things would look like if the company were to try any harder to confuse customers," said James K. Willcox, reviewing Verizon's new packages.

Under Verizon's new plan, customers can now choose between two bundles. Custom TV - Essentials includes the broadcast networks and 78 cable channels, including Bravo, Fox News, History and Discovery Channel. Custom TV - Sports & More will feature the broadcast networks and 59 cable channels, including ESPN, ESPN 2, Fox Sports 1 and NBC Sports Network, along with all the available regional sports networks in customers' specific markets.

Willcox notes that a triple-play promotion promises Custom TV plus 50 Mbps broadband and phone service for $80 a month. But right next to the ad, he said, there's a promotion for a triple-play bundle with 100 Mbps broadband for $70.

"You have to look carefully to see that the offer for the faster-speed bundle lasts only one year, while the other stretches to two years," the reviewer added.

"After doing enough math to rival an accountant, we found that the $65-per-month TV and 100Mbps Internet Verizon FiOS TV package would cost $1,560 over two years, excluding Verizon's add-on fees. Oddly, the same plan would set you back $2,040 with the slower 50Mbps service," Willcox said.

Overall, the reviewer said Verizon's Custom TV packages are still a good value, despite the confusing promotions.

"After doing all the math, you might still find that one of the Verizon FiOS packages for TV makes sense for your family. But, frankly, we don't think it should be this hard to determine that. You have the right to know exactly how much you'll be paying each month, and Verizon seems to be going out of its way to make it hard for you to make an informed choice. It doesn't have to be this way," Willcox said.

For its part, Verizon has denied that its revised skinny bundling strategy was intended to help settle ESPN's suit against it. ESPN filed its complaint last year, after Verizon put ESPN and ESPN 2 in a Custom TV add-on tier.

For more:
- read this Consumer Reports post

Related articles:
Verizon and ESPN move closer to settling skinny bundling lawsuit
Verizon fattens up FiOS Custom TV skinny bundle
Verizon's CFO: Custom TV will 'refresh' to comply with programming contracts

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