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Verizon Communications, sued by Walt Disney Co. for excluding ESPN from a basic TV package, says it will offer customers two low-cost bundles -- one that includes sports channels and one without them, according to a statement.
Starting Sunday, Verizon Fios TV subscribers can choose the Custom TV Essentials plan featuring channels such as Bravo, Animal Planet and Fox News but no sports; or Custom TV Sports & More, which has ESPN, Fox Sports, and TNT and TBS. Both options cost $55 a month and both offer channels including CNN, Nickelodeon and MTV.
The dual offer is a step back for Verizon, which upset the pay-TV power balance in April when it introduced Fios Custom TV, a basic package that didn't include any sports programming. The offer was aimed at customers who complained about being forced to pay for sports whether they wanted it or not. The moves also highlight the growing appeal of so-called skinny bundles that threaten to undercut the lucrative, full-package TV offerings by cable, satellite and phone companies.
"This had nothing to do with Disney," said Ray McConville, a Verizon spokesman. The new offer was based on subscriber preferences, he said. "Customers still do not have to purchase sports channels if they don't want them."
Karen Hobson, a spokeswoman for Disney/ABC Television Group, didn't immediately respond to an e-mail and voicemail seeking comment.
-- Bloomberg News