Verizon's skinny bundle porks up fast with add-ons, Consumer Reports finds

Count Consumer Reports as not impressed by Verizon's (NYSE: VZ) attempt to create smaller, more flexible pay-TV bundles for customers.

In a post published Wednesday, columnist Eileen McCoy described a frustrating scenario in which she paid more than she expected while missing out on channels that she regularly watches.

"I give props to Verizon for making it easy to configure a package online, and for providing a detailed, itemized breakout of the monthly bill so you know what you're in for," McCoy wrote. "But this is clearly a case of buyer beware: All those extra charges do add up. That's not unique to Verizon by any means. No matter what TV provider's bundle you're considering, be sure to check the bottom line before you sign on the dotted line."

Last month, Verizon began offering FiOS customers the ability to purchase 44 basic channels, plus two genre-themed "add-on" channel packages, for $55. Besides generating a lawsuit from Disney/ESPN, which claims the strategy violates its program licensing agreement with Verizon, the company's so-called "Custom TV" bundle has stirred lots of talk in the pay-TV business. 

McCoy added the 18-channel "Lifestyle" add-on pack and 10-channel "Entertainment Pack," then added a third pack, "News & Information," for an additional $10.

By the time she was through, she didn't have the "Sports" pack and ESPN, risking what she described as a "war at home." She was also missing other channels.

"Even with the 88-channel lineup I assembled, I'm still not getting a bunch of channels I currently watch, such as ABC Family, Comedy Central, and IFC (part of the 14-channel Pop/Culture Pack) and TV Land and Disney (12-channel Kids Pack)," McCoy wrote. 

She also griped about the monthly price for her triple play, which came to around $140. 

"That's a lot pricier than I expected," McCoy added. "Just for kicks, I checked out a standard FiOS triple-play package with Preferred TV, which has 290-plus channels, according to Verizon. It also has 50 Mbps Internet, twice as fast as the Custom TV package. This plan was more expensive, $171 a month, but it would provide faster Internet service, which is increasingly important to our home, and a ton more channels, many of which I like. The $30 a month I'd save with FiOS Custom TV is nothing to sneeze at, but I'm not sure I'd be willing to give up so much in exchange."

For more:
- read this Consumer Reports column

Related articles:
Top cable execs: Programming agreements allow operators to experiment with skinny bundles
Shrinking cable bundles may entice users, but operators and programmers remain concerned
ESPN sues Verizon over 'Custom HD' bundle

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