ESPN Sues Verizon Over FiOS’ New Custom TV bundle

'Consumers have spoken... they want choice,' Verizon argues

ESPN isn't wasting any time in challenging Verizon's new, slimmer cable bundles as part of its FiOS service. The sports network behemoth filed suit Monday in New York Supreme Court, alleging breach of contract and seeking damages related to FiOS' new Custom TV package, while claiming it seeks to stop Verizon from "unfairly depriving" it of "the benefits of its bargain."

"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," ESPN said in a statement. "We simply ask that Verizon abide by the terms of our contracts."

Verizon, however, isn't backing down. "Consumers have spoken loud and clear that they want choice, and the industry should be focused on giving consumers what they want," Verizon spokesman Alberto Canal said. "We are well within our rights under our agreements to offer our customers these choices."

Verizon has maintained that argument since announcing its Custom TV bundles on April 17. Starting at $55 per month, Custom TV allows customers to pay for a basic channel package of more than 35 networks, including CNN, AMC, HGTV and QVC. Bundles of other channels, comprised of at least 10 channels each, are offered in seven themed tiers: Lifestyle (including Lifetime, TLC, Bravo), Entertainment (TBS, FX, USA), Pop Culture (Comedy Central, E!, MTV), Sports (ESPN, ESPN2), Kids (Nickelodeon, Disney), News & Info (Fox News, MSNBC) and Sports Plus (ESPN News, NFL Network, MLB Network). Customers can choose two channel packs for no additional costs; other packs will be $10 each.

ESPN immediately objected to Verizon's packages, claiming it "would not be authorized by our existing agreements. Among other issues, our contracts clearly provide that neither ESPN nor ESPN2 may be distributed in a separate sports package." Verizon said that its new configurations are in line with its existing contracts with ESPN and other networks.

With both companies firmly entrenched, ESPN's lawsuit appears to be the first salvo fired in what will be a bloody battle for slimmer cable packages as pay TV providers fight to keep consumers from cutting the cord.