ESPN Sues Verizon For Trying To Give Consumers What They Want

from the sisyphus dept

As we noted last week, Verizon is responding to more flexible Internet TV bundles by offering a few new options of their own. Verizon's new FiOS Custom TV broadband bundles include a core lineup of channels with the option of adding on an assortment of $10 channel add on packs. Once you get done adding the usual DVR rental costs, contracts and fees, the effort is much less revolutionary than it's being portrayed in the media. Still, Verizon's move is notable in that it's busting the biggest contributor to soaring cable costs (sports) and busting it out of the core channel lineup. No longer forcing people who don't watch sports to pay for it? Outrageous.

Comcast/NBC, Fox and Disney/ESPN have been throwing a hissy fit in the week since the new options were announced, claiming that the new offerings violate existing contracts. It's not too surprising; breaking a channel like ESPN out of the core channel bundle immediately reduces ad impressions and overall marketing footprint, even if it's unfair for consumers to pay for incredibly-expensive content they have absolutely no interest in.

ESPN has now filed suit, issuing a summons (pdf) to Verizon (the actual complaint is still being redacted and hasn't been made public yet), stating that Verizon is in breach of contract. ESPN is requesting an immediate injunction and a financial penalty of $500,000. In a statement, ESPN argues that the channel really loves "innovation," except when it doesn't:
"A statement from the network explains that “ESPN is at the forefront of embracing innovative ways to deliver high-quality content and value to consumers on multiple platforms, but that must be done in compliance with our agreements. We simply ask that Verizon abide by the terms of our contracts."
Would that be the same contract that ESPN believes prevents innovative ways of delivering high-quality content? As 2015 becomes the year that Internet video finally starts to see some interesting but imperfect new options, ESPN's swimming upstream if it hopes to sue its way toward keeping cable permanently stuck in 2003. Consumers are increasingly making it clear that soaring programming rates simple aren't tenable, and they intend to cut the cord or flee to piracy if the cable industry wants to continue stumbling drunkenly down the current path.

If ESPN wants to get out ahead of it all, the company might want to focus on actually being at the forefront of developing "innovative ways to deliver high-quality content and value to consumers," in lieu of suing the limited number of cable companies actually trying to do this. Instead, like so many legacy giants, it will sue to try to stop the disruption, push even larger rate hikes on all of the remaining sports customers in the belief that the current cable TV cash cow will live forever, then act disoriented and stupid in a few years when the company finds itself behind the sports programming innovation eight ball.
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Filed Under: bundles, contracts, fios custom tv, over the top, video
Companies: disney, espn, verizon


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  1. identicon
    Silent Bob, 28 Apr 2015 @ 8:43am

    I for one would buy the all sports all the time package

    I suspect Disney/ESPN would do just fine in an ala carte environment. Unfortunately, if I want to watch them now, I have to first sign up for an annoying base package containing the Women's Midlife Crisis channel, the Tween Coming of Age channel, the Weather Where I Don't Live channel, and the World War II UFO Bible channel (formerly the History channel). I say unbundle everything and let the market decide. As long as bros exist, cable sports will have an audience.

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